Remember the NHL 2K video game? It’s back – and so is cover boy Ryan Kesler

Matt Larkin
After a four-year hiatus, the NHL 2K video game series returns, and it brings back Ryan Kesler as the face of the product. (Getty Images)

The video game stars have aligned this fall. The EA Sports juggernaut has enjoyed a monopoly on the NHL license for several seasons, but it picked a questionable time to release a flawed game. NHL 15 possesses amazing feel and physics, but gamers have marched their virtual torches to EA’s door, angry about a serious lack of game modes.

Quite a time, then, for the NHL 2K series to return after a four-year hiatus. The game drops any day now on iOS and Android, meaning it’s playable on virtually all phones and tablets.

Also making a comeback: 2K cover athlete Ryan Kesler. By my account, he’s the first video game athlete to grace a cover again after a four-year hiatus. He laughs when I point that out, and he seems genuinely honored to be named the face of 2K again.

“It was pretty cool, obviously,” Kesler said. “I developed a relationship over the years with 2K, working with them even before I was on the cover of 2K11. That was a dream come true. When they came to me again and gave me this opportunity, it’s something you don’t turn down.”

And NHL 2K aims to deliver something a little different than the competition, targeting the more casual gamer, maybe the type who finds hardcore simulation games like EA Sports’ NHL and Madden series, SCE’s MLB: The Show and even NBA 2K too daunting. It offers a three-season My Career Mode and has live roster updates, but its bread and butter will be a fast-paced, 3-on-3 mini rink game. It projects to have more of an arcadey feel to it.

Here’s a shot of the regular gameplay:

 

Courtesy 2K Sports

Courtesy 2K Sports

 

Kesler, 30, is grew up in the video game generation, so he knows what he wants in a game. He laments how hard sports games are to control on tablets, but he says NHL 2K breaks that mold. He’s pumped about the mini rink games. Most of all, though, he loves the shootout mode.

“Definitely something that’s going to be a competition on the planes,” Kesler said. “We’re going to be playing each other in shootouts, and it’s going to get pretty heated on the planes during road trips.”

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Bruins beat Flyers in second round – does EA stand for ‘Errors Abound’?

(Image courtesy EA Sports.)

No need to play the 2014-15 season, National Hockey League. Yes, that may cut into the $4 billion in revenues you’re expected to generate, but think of the cost savings for teams that lose money.

Really, why actually play a season when a simulated NHL season has already been played, the Stanley Cup has been awarded and all the awards winners have already been determined? That’s what EA Sports, creators of the NHL 15 video game, have done. And they’ve determined that the Los Angeles Kings will become the first back-to-back Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and ’98. Read more

Players try to guess their rating in NHL 15, Alex Ovechkin steals the show

Alex Ovechkin

So, we’re not going to recommend that you buy EA Sports’ NHL 15 this year because there are too many modes missing, but this video that shows players trying to guess their overall rating in the game is pretty neat.

Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Travis Zajac and more try and guess what their overall player rating is in this year’s NHL video game and some of them come pretty close.

The best answers out of the bunch come from Ovechkin. Oh Ovie – don’t ever leave for the KHL. Read more

NHL 15 review: Gameplay is good, but way too much is missing

NHL 15 P.K. Subban

The following is a review for EA Sports’ NHL 15 on Playstation 4 and Xbox One.

NHL 15 arrived on the next generation consoles Playstation 4 and Xbox One last week to great anticipation. The player and fan graphics took a step up, NBC’s commentary crew was added to enhance the gaming experience, and the physics engine was also upgraded.

But how you grade the game depends on how you like to play it. If you’re a casual gamer who only pops on from time to time for a 1-on-1 game online, if you’re a big fan of HUT, or if you play offline against a friend on the couch, then you’ll get what you want out of it. The look of the game has taken a big jump forward and the feel of it has moderately changed as well. The fan animations and gameplay provide a rich experience. As one user who gave a positive review on metacritic said: “I couldn’t care less about the superfluous crap that’s been jammed into these games the past few years. Focus on the game play. That’s what matters, that’s why people loved these games throughout the ’90s.”

The problem is, the ’90s have been over for a decade and a half and sports games have evolved since then. Most users have gotten used to a more comprehensive package, filled with an in-depth GM mode, an RPG-like career mode, an online “GM Connected” where you manage a team against other players from around the globe or in your neighborhood – and more. It’s here that NHL 15 takes a dive. Read more

Pixels and pucks: a history of hockey video games

Matt Larkin
NHL 94 image

Hockey video games have made an incredible journey over the past three decades, from pixelated characters to the spitting images of real players, from mindless fun to managing a salary cap, from something little kids play to something NHL players compete to represent. THN delves into the world of consoles to unearth the nuts and bolts of every 
landmark release and paradigm shift in how our great sport has appeared in game form.

 

THE 1980S: COLD, HARD STEEL

 

It is 1988. I am five years old. I kneel before a large Zenith television, encased in wood panelling, inches away from a black screen, brow furrowed in frustration. It worked yesterday. I thought Dad fixed it. I pop the hood of my Nintendo Entertainment System and yank out the cartridge. I stick my bowl-haircutted head against the console and blow inside of it until my lungs are empty. He said it was dust. I jam the game back inside, turn it on and hear the sounds I’ve giddily awaited. First the high-pitched SCHLING! Then the familiar, muffled voice: “Blades…of Steel.”

It brings Dad jogging into the room. We grab controllers, choose our teams and go head-to-head for three hours straight. He beats me 10 times in a row. I cry. His rapid puck movement reminds me of those Red Army guys he told me about. The game’s voice, which I swear has a hand covering it, haunts me: “HITS THE PASS. HITS THE PASS. HITS THE PASS.”

Mom, furious, tells Dad to let me win. “No way,” he says. “When he beats me for real, it’ll be that much better.” And he’s right.

Ice Hockey. The simplistic name implied its creator didn’t understand the material. You know who calls our sport “ice hockey”? People who don’t watch or play it.

It was thus not a huge surprise the Nintendo Entertainment System’s 1988 release Ice Hockey had four skaters per team, not five, and a few faceless nations to choose from. Colin Moriarty, senior editor for the juggernaut video game publication IGN and a classic games expert, describes it as one cog in NES’s nondescript sport series, which included such original titles as Golf and Baseball.

“The ice was a little bit more wide open and the game wasn’t a simulation at all as much as it was a very arcadey experience,” Moriarty says. “But it was still fun. It was still a classic game.”

Anyone who played Ice Hockey remembers it fondly for one fun feature. Among those gamers: Sean Ramjagsingh, producer of EA Sports’ NHL series, the pinnacle of modern hockey gaming.

“Nintendo hockey: the skinny guy, the fat guy and the medium guy,” he says. “Very basic game mechanics. The fat guy was strong and the skinny guy was quick and fast. That’s how it started. Back then it was figuring out the easiest way – the consoles weren’t anywhere close to what they are now – to get something that looked like hockey. That being a player moving on an ice surface, as opposed to all the other sports with running, and trying to make that as real as possible.”

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What’s new in NHL 15? It’s a matter of physics

Matt Larkin
NHL15

Sometimes, it’s OK to enjoy the sizzle more than the steak.

If you’re a diehard hockey video gamer, you know it’s good to temper expectations when a game debuts on a new console. An entirely new generation means new bugs to work out. It’s thus not fair to compare NHL 15, the first release on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, to the final couple releases on Xbox 360 and PS3.

Chances are, there will be some kinks to work out between NHL 15 and NHL 16. Some 13-year-old kid will discover a glitch goal and annihilate the online competition. Much fuss has been made over the lack of game modes in this year’s edition, too.

But when EA Sports officially launched its newest game at the Mastercard Centre outside Toronto on Thursday, there was no point nitpicking. It’s too early for that. Instead, it was a day for wide-eyed appreciation at the latest leaps the game has made. There are many, and most of them relate to the look and feel.

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Brad Marchand sings, Patrice Bergeron recites poetry for NHL 15

Patrice Bergeron

At the NHL Awards, Patrice Bergeron was announced as the winner of the EA cover vote and now he’s reciting poetry for the game he’s representing.

With the release of NHL 15 around the corner, the marketing for it is in full gear. Today, EA released two video promotions for the game. In one, Bergeron snaps romantic poetry and in another, teammate Brad Marchand sings about his love for the game.

Both are pretty funny. Bravo. Read more