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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that NHL 15 is a professional hockey simulation that can be mildly violent at times, such as when you bodycheck someone, crush other players against the boards, or get in a fistfight on the ice. But if you're OK with your kids watching NHL games on television or in person, then you'll likely be fine with them playing this. Just as in real-life games, be ready for lots of ads! Players also can engage in online play, which could subject them to inappropriate comments.
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What's it about?
Now available for next-generation consoles, EA Sports' NHL 15 is the most realistic hockey game to date. This is thanks to higher-resolution player models, emotional reactions, smooth animation, collision physics, "dynamic cloth" physics on players' jerseys, authentic crowds and stadiums, and a puck that behaves realistically. A partnership between EA Sports and NBC Sports also gives the game a more realistic, broadcast-like look. The sounds have been updated and include an all-new three-man commentary team, sound effects, and music. Two other features make this game stand out compared to earlier editions: a new right analog stick control scheme called Superstar Skill Stick, which gives even more control to the player, and Vision AI, an elevated level of player intelligence that has hockey players anticipating and reacting to plays. Note: Not all the features in the older consoles, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, are found in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One games, but EA Sports says they'll be added in a free download this fall.
Is it any good?
On one hand, the game looks exceptional -- especially the PlayStation 4 version -- from the player models and movement to the realistic crowds (supporting up to 9,000 individual spectator models) and broadcast-style replays. It also feels pretty good with the new control scheme, smarter AI players, and puck physics. But, although the next-generation versions benefit from added realism and presentation, the PS4 and Xbox One versions lack many of the modes found in the PS3 and Xbox 360 games, features that have been standard in previous versions.
In a blog post just before the game's release, EA Sports said that, in addition to the roster and ratings updates, free content will be added, including a Playoff Mode (allowing players to create a custom offline tournament bracket with up to 16 teams), Be A Pro - Coach Feedback (get the coach’s feedback while you're on the bench), 3 Stars of the Game (applied to every game mode), Online Team Play, GM Draft mode, and more. Hopefully bugs will be fixed, too, such as commentators saying the wrong thing and AI glitches. But, even with these shortcomings, NHL 15 surely will satiate hockey fans -- especially after the free updates are available this fall (UPDATE: EA Sports has since released two updates to address issues and add new features; details can be found here and here). It's just too bad EA Sports didn't have them ready when the game skated onto store shelves.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether it's worth it to buy an annual sports game. If the developers release a free downloadable update to account for changing team rosters, do you really need to buy one every year? Can you skip a year or two, or do the new features and better graphics justify the purchase?
Talk about how commercialized sports games are becoming. Is the pursuit of realistic gameplay worth the in-game commercials, ad placement, and messages that are constantly bombarding players, or is that just part of sports today?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.