Also On: PS4, PS3, Xbox 360
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Canada
I'm kind of a terrible Canadian. I don't think I've ever rolled up the rim to win at Tim Horton's, and I'm positive I've never had a double-double there. I don't buy my milk in bags. I have no opinion on the merits on Canadian vs American beer. And, above all else, I don't care about hockey: I don't watch Hockey Night in Canada, I think Don Cherry is a national disgrace, and I honestly have no idea how Canada fared at the last Winter Olympics.
You'd think, then, that I would hate NHL 16 — or, at the very least, you might expect me to be indifferent to it. And yet, that couldn't be further from the truth.
See, throughout my time with NHL 16, I kept having to fight the urge to stop playing and just watch it all unfold in front of me. Watch as my teammates moved the puck around the ice with clockwork precision. Watch as opposing defenders feebly waved their sticks at an impressive display of skating. Watch as my teammates lit up the red light time and time again, running up the score against hapless opponents. When this game clicks — and make no mistake, it clicks pretty often — it's a thing of beauty to behold.
It's only slightly less impressive when you're actually playing it — though, to be fair, this may be because my created player wasn't as talented as some of her teammates. NHL 16 slows down the tempo ever-so-slightly when your player is on the ice, perhaps because there's no way you could possibly move as impressively as your CPU-controlled teammates. Nonetheless, even at that slower speed, things still move at a crisp pace, making it really easy to get sucked in to the fast-paced beauty of it all.
(Side note: I find it bizarre that, as in previous iterations of the franchise, there's the option to make created players female, but the announcers never seem to acknowledge that fact. It's like EA Sports decided they'd make the game inclusive, but somehow do that in the least inclusive way possible.)
What really impresses me, though, is that the game's speed doesn't substantially slow down in online multiplayer. Maybe years of abysmal online play in MLB: The Show have left me jaded, but I'm just not used to playing a sports game online that's free of weird glitches and slowdowns. NHL 16 has no issues that I could see, which kind of blows my mind.
And speaking of comparisons to The Show, NHL 16 also impressed me with its approach to the whole Ultimate Team concept. I'm used to the ridiculous difficulty and lousy packs of player cards that The Show throws at you, which meant I was totally unprepared for how fair and easy-to-use the NHL 16 equivalent is. It makes me want to give it the highest compliment possible: it just works, and it's intuitive, which are two qualities that a lot of games, sports and otherwise, can sometimes forget to include.
Now, is NHL 16 going to make me think twice about my feelings towards the real thing? Probably not. But it does make me want to keep playing — online or offline, it makes no difference to me — which means that, just maybe, I don't have to turn in my Canadian passport just yet.