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There is something beyond broken gameplay that has led to this series continuously disappointing

post I pulled from Reddit - wow did this guy let it all out and I 100% agree with his thoughts.

"There are clear gameplay issues with EA’s NHL 19, but that’s not what this overly long and disappointed write up is about. I can sit here and write about how the new gameplay tuners took a decent game, nerfed it to the point of looking like NHL 18’s slightly better looking cousin, and then left it drunk at the bar for it to find its own way home. I can sit here and talk about how it is so impossible at times to drop into a game, that I’d more quickly find a competitor by putting out a newspaper ad. I could scream at their social media accounts to the point of nearly getting banned about how there are parts of the game that still months later nearly always result in a crash—but they’ll just release another aesthetically horrifying digital uniform set that looks like it was designed by designers that have never seen a hockey uniform in their life other than the 2014 Canadian Olympic uniform. Here’s the thing—these are things that, if EA cared to actually fix their games, could be fixed in a patch—what I’d like to talk about is something that cannot be fixed with an update. I’d like to talk about the thing that for years now has been missing from every single NHL game since they gained the exclusive licensing rights—hockey.

Now obviously these games have been “hockey” games, there are pucks and sticks and goalies and ice—and yet they have all continuously missed the core ingredients of what makes hockey so special to those who love the sport. What I’m talking about is the flavor that hooked me on the sport since I was a kid—the missing ingredients that makes me feel like the developers assigned to NHL games have never watched a hockey game.

Firstly, there is history. The NHL’s inaugural season was in 1917, but hockey has existed well before that and it has continuously evolved year after year to become the sport it is today. The Stanley Cup is more than a trophy; it is a metal heirloom that thousands of men have worked their entire lives in order to earn the right to hoist it, to drink from it, to feed their dog from it, and then pass it onward for history to continue. The names etched into its rings are not just “legends” to spend virtual currency on—they were heroes, villians, longshots, and fabled archetypes. Each one of those players had a play style, they had superstitions, and some broke incredible records of which players are still working to break today—all aspects ignored from these games. When I’m in year 7 of my franchise and Ovechkin, who at this point in digital history is now a grizzled veteran, breaks Wayne Gretzky’s career goals record—it should at least be acknowledged. I want to hear commentary about how it was debated whether or not he was going to be able to do it. I want to hear the crowd erupt with emotion as a legend of the league has further etched his name into the Hall of Fame in what will most likely be his final season. I want to feel something—anything—that shows me that the developers even read the Wikipedia page about the NHL. Give me the ability to raise a player’s name and number to the rafters of my home rink, and dissolve into the moment with a meaningful cut scene. Let me see a celebration for the first goal of a long awaited rookie that not only acknowledges the happiness of the player, but the happiness of the fans that have been waiting years to have a star rookie that they could be proud of. If you’re going to give me a franchise mode, give me the history that surrounds the franchise I’m leading—let me truly experience what its like to watch an expansion team floor the league by making it to the Stanley Cup finals or see an original six team reclaim their original glory. What we’ve been given instead is the hint of hockey history—the equivalent of watering down an expensive aged scotch to the point of nearly removing the notes and flavors of the barrels that held it for so incredibly long.

Next, is the culture—the “ice” pop culture—the stuff that makes being a hockey fan as fun as it is. I’m a New York Rangers fan, and I’ll never forget the first game I got to see in person. I remember walking up to the stadium, blue and white jerseys flooding the streets around it. I was amongst my “tribe”. Inside the huge structure that is Madison Square Garden, the hair on the back of my neck stood up—there was excitement everywhere. The lights dimmed and blue flooded the ice, music weaved with the sounds of cheers and surrounded me as my heroes touched skate to ice. Once the game was underway, there were things I had to learn now that I was apart of this experience. How to properly chant in unison to “Heeeenn-riiik, Heeeenn-rikkk”—how to take part in the “Potvin Sucks” whistle, a rally cry that says “we are united against all that opposes the boys in blue”. Every team has their respective chants, their fan in the stands banging a drum, their dancing unofficial mascot—it is part of the fun that makes being a fan a cohesive experience—and its all missing from every NHL video game for as far as I can remember. Hell, we barely have a decent animation for the hat trick—a time honored tradition in hockey is reduced to a small celebration with the player high fiving his teammates with the slight glimpse of one of two hats at the bottom of the screen. We don’t even get new goalie masks each year; just the same exact art every single year. We get minimal fandom in the form of adding one or two animations and sounds each year—and it doesn’t acknowledge the things that make being a fan so special.

Last but not least, the drama. I’ll keep this one short, because it is pretty self-explanatory. Where is the feeling of a crowd rising in excitement as a skater approaches the goalie on a breakaway? Where is the disappointment or elation in the animation as a bit of bad puck luck ties up a game with 5 seconds left on the clock? Where, oh where, is there even any reaction from the crowd or players as a goalie preforms a save that no one believed was possible—to the point of even the shooter acknowledging how incredible it was? There aren’t any “moments” offline or online to make me feel like I’m playing one of the most exciting sports in the world—all I see are computer animations preforming pre-programed actions over and over—glorified air hockey with better graphics.

I could go on and on, from the lack of coaches and the personality that accompany them, the lack of recognizing what each type of player’s strategic role is (enforcers shouldn’t just be better at the horrible fighting mini-game), all the way to how the creative suite is still more simplistic than what was available in last gen NCAA games. There is so much wrong with this game from a gameplay standpoint, but even more wrong with it in regards to it being a broken series of games lacking all that makes hockey the favorite sport of so many. I don’t know what substantial change needs to happen, maybe some competition and a revocation of the exclusive license is needed, or maybe sales need to dip so low that the higher ups at EA put a new dev team in place—but something needs to happen. I’m not angry; I’m just tired—tired of seeing my favorite sport reduced to its decaf counterpart. Until then, I guess I’ll just keep praying for some better puck luck.



TL:DR: EA's NHL games are missing all that makes hockey special, from the history to the fandom, and I'm praying that someone at EA realizes that eventually."

Replies

  • Good rant. I feel a bit the same way.
  • All that for Franchise Mode would require a dedicated team of, I don't know, 4 or 5 guys. They have one part-time guy for offline modes, but with their stock continuing to fall...?

    (Yes, this was intended to be slightly humorous as I'm sure there are interns that help the part-time offline guy)
  • That's a very well said post. I've often wondered why they haven't implemented things like these. You have in EASHL the ability to taunt after a desperation save, or talk trash after a goal but they can't have realistic audio on that other than commentary? I've noticed small things in franchise mode that I've only noticed there. Like counting down at the end of the game if you're at home and up a few goals. Aside from that there isn't much immersion. There have been goalie chants in the past. Do they still do the Luuuuuu chants for Luongo?

    There's so many things that'd be great for immersion.

    Bronx cheers if your goalie has let in goals on consecutive shots, chants from the audience, if a puck is close to the goal line have some fans jump out of their seats, fans booing the refs for lopsided penalty minutes, cheers for big hits, more communication on the ice from players, the drama stuff OP talks about, etc.

    I thought fifa did a half decent job of setting an atmosphere in fifa 13, and then they didn't work on it much but it was the reason why I ended up purchasing that game and a few others after that. Same with NBA, they did a real good job with that a few years ago.

    They can't even change a Stanley Cup celebration from over a decade ago, so I'd be real surprised to see them try to nail any of these things.
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