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 17 is a hockey simulation that can be mildly violent at times, such as body-checking someone, crushing them against the boards, or engaging in a fistfight on the ice. Apart from the full contact that typically happens in hockey matches, there's little objectionable content. But parents should be aware that there's a lot of advertising scattered across the game, from the arenas to the players themselves. Players will also be offered the chance to use real money for advantages in some online game modes.
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What's it about?
NHL 17 is the latest installment in the long-running hockey franchise and has added new game modes, extra features for existing solo and multiplayer modes, smoother controls, faster speeds, and deeper customization options. Specifically, hockey fans can lace up and hit the ice with their favorite team or build a daunting dream team in the all-new Draft Champions mode. Also new to NHL 17 is a World Cup of Hockey mode to pit some of the world's best against one another by country. Take advantage of authentic goaltending, and if you can squeeze the puck into the net, you can also tweak your goal celebrations. Improved offense and defense artificial intelligence (AI) and control and collision physics make the game more realistic than past versions. There's some gameplay outside the rink, too, which lets players experience team management and business decisions in various GM and franchise modes.
Is it any good?
This sport simulation is great in its realism and dedication to accuracy of the sport, but don't expect it to be radically different from what came before it. While some years are better than others (this is usually the case with annual sports games), NHL 17 is a stellar hockey simulation that gets it mostly right. For one, not only does it look great, it feels good, too. The controls have been improved to be simpler and more responsive, while gameplay is faster. This makes breakaways, dekes, bodychecks, and slap shots even more fun to execute (players can even use a slider to make the game faster and more arcade-like or slower and closer to a simulation experience). Goaltending has also been revamped with a feature called the Net Battle system, giving new offense and defense moves in front of the net that are closer to the action on the ice.
Like all hockey games, it's more fun with someone beside you on the sofa (or online) and NHL 17 is no different. New modes like World Cup and Draft Champions (similar to the feature in Madden NFL 17) adds even more variety, not to mention the ability to unlock editable items such as the uniform customization. Players can also create their dream arena with the all-new Arena Creator, right down to the seats and scoreboard. You can also customize your goal celebrations in some modes. The bottom line: NHL 17 is a solid hockey game. There are a few minor beefs, like some annoying, repetitive commentary, and there's some slight user-interface issues, but at least these are better than last years problems. That said, this game is worth picking up for hockey fans.
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? Is that just part of sports today?
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