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Next-Gen NHL 22 - What Can the Previous Next-Gen Launches Tell Us?

next-gen nhl 22

NHL 21

Next-Gen NHL 22 - What Can the Previous Next-Gen Launches Tell Us?

By now we know that the future of next-gen gaming is only a couple of weeks away. Yes, by this time next month, the lucky ones will be a few weeks into their newest console experience. However, when it comes to the NHL series from EA, we will all have to wait almost a full year to experience hockey at the next level — well, hopefully it will reach another level. In short, the first hockey release on next-gen consoles will not be until NHL 22, but that doesn’t stop us here from taking a retrospective look back at EA’s NHL series and how it transitioned during the last two next-gen life cycles.

(You can also see our look at Madden here and MLB The Show here.)

NHL 06 On PS2 And Xbox

nhl 06 on ps2

After a whole year without NHL hockey, NHL 06 was EA’s first release post NHL lockout. The game had a solid foundational core but was held back by AI issues and more than usual buggy gameplay. Having said that, fans of this brand of “hockey” will undoubtedly remember something positive when it comes to NHL 06. However, NHL 06 just didn’t do anything significant for the franchise as it just added some ancillary features that were neat to have but didn’t ultimately change the face of the game. It was a good hockey game, but certainly not great hockey game.

The inclusion of the skill stick is what stands out the most from NHL 06. Oh, that and the fact that it was the last game before turning to next-gen.

At the time, most reviews shared the same sentiment in pointing out the following:

The Good

  • The new Skill Stick controls
  • Graphics

The Bad

  • “Dynasty mode” was flawed
  • Feels same as NHL 05
  • AI Issues prevent game from feeling like NHL hockey

NHL 07 On PS2 And Xbox 360

nhl 07 on xbox 360

NHL 07 was the first game to be released on what was called the seventh generation of consoles. However, the game was not released on the PS3, making Xbox 360 the first to debut its new hardware. The Skill Stick was the prominent new change, as well as the HD graphics. Additionally, what was also a new change was how you were kind of forced to re-think how you played offense in a hockey game, thanks to the brand-new right analog Skill Stick.

Every mode that was in NHL 06 was in NHL 07. There were a couple of notable small additions as well. The Czech Elite league was added to the ever-growing list of European leagues available in the game, and there was even a European dynasty mode to take part in. As far as NHL dynasty mode goes, you were looking at a carbon copy of NHL 06‘s dynasty mode, which in turn was a copy of NHL 05‘s dynasty mode.

In short, outside of the few minor minor additions/tweaks, gameplay did not significantly change enough. Furthermore, outside of gameplay, just about everything else was practically unaltered from last year’s game. All that being said, the right-analog controls were a huge moment for the franchise and did push it on an upward trend from there.

NHL 15 On PS4 And Xbox One

NHL 15 on ps4

NHL 15 introduced integration of the NHL on NBC presentation into the game across all modes in an effort to increase the game’s realism, including on-air graphic elements. Full-motion video of commentators Mike “Doc” Emrick and Eddie Olczyk were shot, allowing them to be digitally inserted into pregame introduction scenes.

Many praised the gameplay, specifically the improved in-game physics and improved graphics, but the game was widely, and rightfully, hammered with everyone expressing major concerns and displeasure over the removal of many features compared to the previous games. Again, the game played relatively well on the ice, but off the ice the game was inexcusably empty.

Speaking of modes, Online Team Play was removed, as was EA Sports Hockey League, which were two community linchpins. Furthermore, NHL 15 didn’t even include the ability to play a season mode, which was originally introduced way back in the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis era. To play a season, you had to actually jump into Be A GM mode. However, once in the Be A GM mode, you were left to quickly discover that it had been stripped of some of its own features, including basic online functionality.

Continuing on, Be A Pro mode also took multiple hits by losing basic functions. You could no longer be drafted by an organization and work your way up through the ranks from lesser leagues and into the pros. In NHL 15, you were drafted by an organization and then immediately you made the team.

The jump to next-gen hardware inexplicably caused EA to leave behind several features and options that were in the game the previous year, and that was simply not acceptable. An abundance of head scratching modes like a bare-bones practice mode, no season mode at all, a completely gutted GM mode and Be A Pro mode, no Winter Classic, and missing online features far outweighed what was new in NHL 15 — and that was majorly troubling. NHL 15 will perhaps go down as the worst ever next-gen debut.

Honorable Mention The NHL 2K Series

Having said all of that, I just feel like I have to also touch on the 2K hockey series briefly. The NHL 2K6 hockey game was the first, at the time, “next-gen” game to be released on an advanced gaming console, and I remember this game really setting the bar. Furthermore, the Xbox 360 console in its totality was really an exceptional console in my opinion — minus, of course, the dreaded and unavoidable red rings of death.

Unfortunately, for the development team at 2K, NHL 2K7 the following year would be the pinnacle for the series because, as a company, they started to back skate their way into a steady decline of obscurity. The presentation and graphics of NHL 2K7 were the best of any sports game at the time (in my mind). Also, the AI was realistic as it featured players pinching in along the boards or trying to break out on a rush, and it was just an overall enjoyable game. It even holds up today.

In short, what is in the past is in the past, but EA’s right-stick controls ended up really carrying the series back into the spotlight even though I still felt 2K had the better all-around game. That being said, hopefully one day we get the NHL 2K series back so we have multiple options once more.

Next-Gen NHL 22 – Bottom Line

There is no doubt that for, perhaps, the last two generations of gaming the NHL series has been like a mediocre NHL franchise. No longer are they in a position to contend for a championship but they also will not allow themselves to take on a full rebuild. EA’s last jump to next-gen was an absolute disaster and EA has to avoid making the same mistake twice. Furthermore, with EA intentionally waiting a whole year before their first release on next-gen, they have to do better. Right?

Fun EA trivia question for everyone. Since the release of NHL 07 (“next-gen”) how many US cover athletes are no longer currently playing in the NHL? 

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  1. NHL 21 has the deepest franchise mode in all sports games IMO and I hope they build on it. I love the fact that you can control all aspects of your Franchise, from merchandising, facility upgrades, marketing, promotion nights to scouting and regular player management.
    I do hope they add the ability to edit/create goalie mask designs to replicate what the real goalies look like, more player editing options like their hairstyle and alter their faces if EA hasn’t scanned them into the game. Also include real coaching staffs for teams and if not, then the ability to edit names and appearances for Head Coaches at least. Goalie fatigue needs to be implemented in Franchise mode so that rotating goalies is important during the long NHL season, a view of who’s starting and their fatigue level would be welcomed on the screen before you start your game. Also a highlight show in between periods would be nice with the commentators talking about what’s happening in the game and around the league scores etc.
    I'd argue 2k is deeper, but 2k also has the "MyLeague" mode which would be welcomed by any gamer of any sports game I imagine. Would like to see sports games allowing me to to run a league rather than be a GM in one.
    In my opinion, NHL 07 was one of the biggest next-gen leaps since Madden 2001 on PS2. A breath of fresh air in every way, even if 2K7 offered more customization and a deeper franchise mode.
    David Littman was a project lead that made the most of the resources afforded to the NHL series. Under his leadership, the series made substantial yearly improvements.
    NHL 15 may have included some nice arena atmosphere --- probably the best example of "living worlds" that EA ever produced --- but it didn't improve on what the 360/PS3 games established. In fact, the entire PS4/XB1 generation is a blur to me. It didn't seem like any one game stood out.
    NHL's Franchise Mode, even though 21 didn't really improve on it all that much, is one of the best on the market, second only to NBA 2K's MyLeague. There are flaws that absolutely need to be improved, however, and I expect 22 to make things a bit more realistic. Maybe adding real-world staff (as well as a hiring carousel), a yearly Winter Classic/All Star Game, Custom Draft Classes, roster sharing and improvements to generic prospects should be next on the agenda. There's so much else that needs to be done.
    Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't say that the main focus needs to be on the ice. Firing up a game became stale for me a long time ago. There are still elements of NHL 07-14 that need to be rebuilt or retooled. Furthermore, the stagnation of NHL 15-21 needs to be addressed.
    I'm really, really hoping NHL 22 turns out to be the next true evolution of this series. We need the refreshing leap that was NHL 96 to 97 on PC and of 06 on Xbox to 07 on 360. This has been one of the worst years for sports gaming in general, so I'm cautiously optimistic that we'll only go up from here.
    And if they don't step up, I'm really hoping that new indie alternatives emerge like with baseball (Super Mega 3) and football (Axis/Maximum).
    Will be in basics the same Game as 15-21 version. Only possibility if something would change is when they hire a new Developer Team. We need a Canadian Frontman with Hockey knowledge.
    tcnumba10
    NHL 21 has the deepest franchise mode in all sports games IMO and I hope they build on it. I love the fact that you can control all aspects of your Franchise, from merchandising, facility upgrades, marketing, promotion nights to scouting and regular player management.
    I do hope they add the ability to edit/create goalie mask designs to replicate what the real goalies look like, more player editing options like their hairstyle and alter their faces if EA hasn’t scanned them into the game. Also include real coaching staffs for teams and if not, then the ability to edit names and appearances for Head Coaches at least. Goalie fatigue needs to be implemented in Franchise mode so that rotating goalies is important during the long NHL season, a view of who’s starting and their fatigue level would be welcomed on the screen before you start your game. Also a highlight show in between periods would be nice with the commentators talking about what’s happening in the game and around the league scores etc.

    I don’t disagree but the major massive issue is that their franchise is limited to offline
    It is unacceptable for me to not offer online franchise experience, game would take a totally new dimension.
    Only thing i hope they bring to nhl 22 us online franchise for 32 users with all offline franchise features (fa, rookies, scouting...) and a few must have additions (practice mode, xp progression, real coaches...).
    Oh and a fatigue system. I am nit talking about in game fatigue, but more fatigue driven by number of games played. Similar to the show for instance where players need to take some rest/rotate.
    Roster Sharing is needed but i really hope EA devs let us upload our own logos kinda like they do in the show and theirs some great logos online it would add much more for say expansion mode or relocation..
    Player likeness. FIFA has player likenesses even in the minor leagues while we have 3-5 players/ team.
    Also better Create a player. The ability to edit all the facial proportions like the length of the nose, width of the jaw, skin tone and so on.
    Realistic goalie masks, goal horns and goal songs or at least I hope EA gives us the chance to upload our own.
    TBH I'm hoping everything about the game is up for review for next gen, even the controls. I might be alone here but in terms of gameplay, all the Skill Stick games kinda blur together.
    Like I can fire up NHL 08 or NHL 21 and basically approach the game in the same exact way.
    capnlarge
    TBH I'm hoping everything about the game is up for review for next gen, even the controls. I might be alone here but in terms of gameplay, all the Skill Stick games kinda blur together.
    Like I can fire up NHL 08 or NHL 21 and basically approach the game in the same exact way.

    I know that the skill stick is worshiped, and I'm not saying it's bad or should be removed, but 2k9/2k10 was able to implement a skill stick that had much more realistic limitations on what you could do with it. The competitive community would probably hate it, but it made offline so much more interesting. You actually lost a ton of speed really quickly when you started to use it. It also had a drastic difference between passing with your forehand compared to your backhand. Backhanded passes were REALLY slow, easily picked off, and you couldn't hold the puck out to your forehand side then make a 60 mph backhand pass behind your back (which is even worse in EA because it's not even a special animation, puck just flies out) like EA.
    I do love the skill stick. I love the creativity it brings, but I also don't think it's something that simply shouldn't be touched. There's a few things I just mentioned there that would have significant impacts on the current balance in this game without completely removing the skill stick or the creative moves you can pull off with it.
    HipNotiiC_x
    I know that the skill stick is worshiped, and I'm not saying it's bad or should be removed, but 2k9/2k10 was able to implement a skill stick that had much more realistic limitations on what you could do with it. The competitive community would probably hate it, but it made offline so much more interesting. You actually lost a ton of speed really quickly when you started to use it. It also had a drastic difference between passing with your forehand compared to your backhand. Backhanded passes were REALLY slow, easily picked off, and you couldn't hold the puck out to your forehand side then make a 60 mph backhand pass behind your back (which is even worse in EA because it's not even a special animation, puck just flies out) like EA.
    I do love the skill stick. I love the creativity it brings, but I also don't think it's something that simply shouldn't be touched. There's a few things I just mentioned there that would have significant impacts on the current balance in this game without completely removing the skill stick or the creative moves you can pull off with it.
    There are a lot of limitations by making up shoot and down slapshot, means you can't stick handle in every direction. Not that I'm saying it's bad but it's possible they could improve on it. I'm not a game designer, so I'm not gonna suggest something LOL.
    capnlarge
    There are a lot of limitations by making up shoot and down slapshot, means you can't stick handle in every direction. Not that I'm saying it's bad but it's possible they could improve on it. I'm not a game designer, so I'm not gonna suggest something LOL.

    I'd LOL if they implement something radical like trigger/bumper shooting and an even more advanced skill-stick like you suggested, only to have the competitive community like it. It'd be another thing 2k8 was light years ahead of but unfortunately wasn't well received at the time by the sweaty crowd.
    HipNotiiC_x
    I'd LOL if they implement something radical like trigger/bumper shooting and an even more advanced skill-stick like you suggested, only to have the competitive community like it. It'd be another thing 2k8 was light years ahead of but unfortunately wasn't well received at the time by the sweaty crowd.

    To be fair, 2K8's controls did have some clunkiness to them. Like IMO we have an analog stick, we don't need speed boost at all and 2K8 had 2 speed boost buttons LOL
    I know I said I wouldn't design a control scheme, but I guess I lied. I think an interesting thing to try is to set up NHL's controls like an FPS. Nearly everyone can understand that kind of scheme. Base it around: Left stick skate, right stick stickhandle, R2 shoot, L2 pass. And then put other **** in various places on the controller.
    And again, maybe this ends up worse than Skill Stick. Just think for next gen, everything should be up for review, to make it feel fresh. As we've had pretty much the same NHL game for more than a decade.
    capnlarge
    To be fair, 2K8's controls did have some clunkiness to them. Like IMO we have an analog stick, we don't need speed boost at all and 2K8 had 2 speed boost buttons LOL
    I know I said I wouldn't design a control scheme, but I guess I lied. I think an interesting thing to try is to set up NHL's controls like an FPS. Nearly everyone can understand that kind of scheme. Base it around: Left stick skate, right stick stickhandle, R2 shoot, L2 pass. And then put other **** in various places on the controller.
    And again, maybe this ends up worse than Skill Stick. Just think for next gen, everything should be up for review, to make it feel fresh. As we've had pretty much the same NHL game for more than a decade.

    2k8's scheme did have some clunkiness, I played 2k8 with the 2k7 controls lol, I was just kind of talking out loud about how ironic/funny it would be if EA shifted their scheme to something that is more similar to that than what they have now. I agree with you, I think shooting needs to be taken off the stick. Would open up deking a lot and would probably allow them to have more control over the shooting animations if I had to guess.
    need boxscores for all franchise games.
    highlights of other games.
    roster sharing
    being able to edit names and rinks.
    2k had this.never understood why you could never edit player names and rinks in the EA series??? anyone know??
    Boxscores for other games around the league should be standard for all sports games in Franchise mode especially, was it always missing in EA’s NHL series?

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