Rebuild mode: Critics batter EA Sports’ NHL 15

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It’s been two weeks since the North American release of EA Sports’ NHL 15 video game, so this seems like a fair time to take a look at how the title has been received. Considering the cacophony about the many missing features in the Xbox One and Playstation 4 versions of the game, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that critics gave the title a bit of a face-wash.

Metacritic – a review aggregation site that’s basically the video game equivalent to Rotten Tomatoes – averaged the scores for NHL 15 across the two next-gen platforms (all out of 100):

Playstation 4 – 60

Xbox One 61

Most publications didn’t fully review the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions of NHL 15, but the word of mouth on those titles have been harsh as well, prompting dreaded “just a glorified roster update” quips.

Here’s a smattering of excerpts from reviews of the game on Playstation 4 and Xbox One (note: the two versions are virtually identical):

IGN (70 out of 100):

It plays extremely well, whether online or offline, proving why EA Sports’ long-running series has been the king of the ice for over 20 years. But there needs to be a reason to keep playing, and it’s there that NHL 15 falls short and feels somewhat vacant.

Game Informer (5.5 out of 10):

With the startling amount of missing content, kneecapped modes, and uneven gameplay in NHL 15, either EA Sports isn’t giving EA Canada the same level of resources as its other sports franchises or the development team is woefully incapable of negotiating a console transition. If the publisher doesn’t care to put a winning effort into its NHL series, hockey fans have no reason to jump over the boards and buy the game. 

EGM (7 out of 10):

It feels like so much time and focus went into getting the graphics and physics systems up to snuff for new-gen that EA Canada forgot about the rest of the game. At the very least, there’s hope, though. Now that the transition’s been made—however painfully—next year’s title can bring NHL back to its former glory.

As flawed as video game review processes can be, these must be pretty tough scores for EA Sports to swallow. When you consider the fact that developers may lose significant chunks of money for review scores averaging in the high-70’s and the NHL series’ history as a well-reviewed sports title, these reactions are disturbing.

(Sports video games probably get a little more leeway in these situations than something like “Destiny,” but one can assume it still stings quite a bit.)

It’s unclear how much the controversies are hurting EA in the “wallet,” however. Sales goals are pretty difficult to suss out when you ponder the fact that a) the NHL series is a “niche” title compared to FIFA and Madden and b) the jump to new consoles can be messy even when things go well.

The title is getting content updates that might soothe some wounds, even if some modes are unlikely to come until future releases come out.

On the bright side, more than a few reviews essentially argued that the title has a strong foundation … it just sounds like the series is now in something of a “rebuild mode.”

(Screen shot via EA.)