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Review: NHL 16

Oct 06 // Brett Makedonski
NHL 16 (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: EA CanadaPublisher: EA SportsRelease: September 15, 2015MSRP: $59.99 In a genre plagued by incremental increases, this is NHL 16's greatest offering: An on-ice trainer that goes above and beyond. Hockey is a sport that's notorious for its inaccessibility to newcomers. Putting the biscuit in the basket is easy enough to understand, but where should my forwards be positioned when in the defensive zone? What kind of check should I execute when skating backward toward my goal? This training aid helps refine gameplay on-the-fly. It kind of teaches hockey, but more importantly, it teaches how to play NHL 16. For instance, when skating into the offensive zone, a cone will appear that indicates what part of the shooting lane is open and what part is blocked. A target may show up in the corner of the goal to tell you the smartest place to aim. Or, when playing defense, a box will cordon off part of the ice at your zone. Sticking to this area and covering the man in the box is what you're supposed to do. That's how hockey is played; NHL 16, simulation of hockey as it is, wants you to play it just like hockey. Those are two examples, but this on-ice trainer permeates every second of gameplay until you don't want it to anymore. It's a good thing too. I imagine EA had grown tired of players wildly out of position trying to line up huge hits. That's not how hockey looks, and it's not how a digital representation of the game should look. [embed]314010:60626:0[/embed] To its credit, the trainer doesn't stick to a low-level understanding of hockey. If it detects a seasoned player is at the helm, it'll start to adapt so as to offer more nuanced and advanced suggestions. Basically, everyone has something they can learn from this feature and it's incredibly unintrusive despite constantly being on the screen. It's the best part of NHL 16 because it actually enforces an understanding of doing what you're doing. The rest? Well, it's what NHL 15 should've been. Maybe it's unfair to hearken back to a previous game as a reference point, but fuck it. We make the rules around here. The on-ice product in NHL 16 is again solid and it includes the modes that last year's game should have shipped with. The actual hockey-playing in NHL 16 feels extremely similar to NHL 15. There are surely some physics and AI tweaks making ever-desired strides toward realism, but they feel mostly nominal. The game still plays well outside of the occasional rare physics bug. And this. Whatever the hell that was. With regard to the modes, they were mostly done right this time 'round. Be a Pro allows the simulation of shifts until it's your time to hit the ice again. (Curiously, the coach-assigned goals and ratings often seem off. Like, how do I have two goals and an assist, but a "C" ranking on offense for the game?) Likewise, the EA Sports Hockey League has been largely straightened out. Gone are the days of maxing out player skill through real-world currency. Now, everyone has to define their aptitude via a class of player that they pick. It's a smart design decision for the game's leading cooperative mode -- not to mention a surprisingly ungreedy one. Be a GM rounds out the most interesting modes that NHL 16 has to show. In it, you eschew the skates for a suit and tie. You're in control of an NHL franchise, and it's up to you to trade, manage, and motivate players. Games are simulated via a coach's drawing board where major events become markers like a "G" for a goal scored. The fascinating facet of Be a GM lies within the morale system. It's a bit paper-thin, but NHL 16 asks you to make unique speech decisions for different players. Over time, you learn what motivates your guys. Your star's ego might be too fragile for you to just outright yell at him; you may have to baby him instead. NHL 16 isn't perfect, but it's a substantial improvement over what released last year. Mind you, that's not some sheer brilliance; it's just because of general competence. The NHL franchise seems back on track, and it has even introduced the wonderful on-ice trainer. But, that trainer aside, it's tough to shake the feeling that NHL has just caught up instead of innovating. EA Sports spent this iteration making up ground. It was a necessary move, but not one that instills confidence that the developer has grown comfortable with the generational shift in consoles. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
NHL 16 review photo
Training wheels
In the mandatory initial matchup in NHL 16, I was forced to choose between last year's Stanley Cup Final contenders. I had to back either the Chicago Blackhawks who I very much dislike, or the Tampa Bay Lightning who I am ver...

Sports photo

Street Racquetball is a real game coming to PSN

Oct 03
// Kyle MacGregor
Street Racquetball, one of the more obscure titles in D3 Publisher's budget-priced Simple series, is coming to PlayStation Network next Tuesday, October 6, as a PSone Classic. Mmm, yes, classic. In Japan, Street Racquetball&n...
Rocket League photo
Rocket League

Good defense, guys

He said sarcastically
Oct 01
// Brett Makedonski
Old, stodgy, wrong sports broadcasters like to yell that defense wins championships. If that's true, then this team is the 2008 Detroit Lions of Rocket League (for you non-sports folk, that means they're god-fucking-awful, which you could probably tell just from watching the GIF). How Not to Defend a Goal [reddit]
NHL 16 photo
NHL 16

NHL 16 pegs Anaheim Ducks as Stanley Cup champs

Not worth winning if you can't win big
Oct 01
// Brett Makedonski
It's not exactly a leap of faith, but NHL 16 has used its magical season simulating video game powers to predict that the Anaheim Ducks will win the 2016 Stanley Cup. By most accounts, Anaheim enters the season as the W...

Old ppl gonna old photo
Old ppl gonna old

Sports personality Colin Cowherd proves he is an out of touch dick

Bashes eSports
Sep 29
// Jed Whitaker
Colin Cowherd, a man who covers ancient sports, has been known to speak out against eSports having said that listening to eSports commentary was "the equivalent of me putting a gun in my mouth" after ESPN2 covered a Her...
Ultra Smash photo
Ultra Smash

Mario Tennis fills the void left by Star Fox Zero

November 20, 2015
Sep 29
// Jordan Devore
Nintendo says Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash will release for Wii U on November 20, 2015. (Which, as you might recall, was when we were originally going to get Star Fox Zero before it slipped to 2016.) In response, people on Twitt...
Dead or Alive Xtreme photo
Dead or Alive Xtreme

Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 coming to PlayStation VR

Sep 19
// Kyle MacGregor
Dead or Alive Xtreme fans will probably be thrilled to hear Team Ninja will be taking things up a notch, as the developer has revealed plans to incorporate PlayStation VR functionality in its next risqué ...
Deals photo

Year's worth of EA Access included in new FIFA 16 Xbox One bundle

Also a roundup on all FIFA 16 deals
Sep 18
// Dealzon
It feels like every game is getting its own Xbox One Bundle this fall with the glut this September. The latest of the bunch is the above-pictured FIFA 16 bundle, which launched on Tuesday this week (the game comes out next we...
FIFA 16 photo

13 female footballers removed from FIFA 16 following NCAA warning

EA disagrees
Sep 18
// Vikki Blake
Thirteen female football players have been removed from FIFA 16 following NCAA concerns that being in the game may jeopardise the athletes' eligibility for "collegiate athletics". North America’s National Collegiate Ath...

PES 2016 made us laugh, but it's no Rocket League

Sep 17 // Brett Makedonski
[embed]311321:60427:0[/embed] STEVEN: Soccer, originally derived from the socks worn by the players, is cool. At E3 2015 a very old Pelé spent two hours on the EA stage telling an anecdote about calling soccer "the beautiful game," which is not really a thing people say, except for ironically, like calling coffee "morning mud." I mean I guess to do something ironically someone has to have done it genuinely.  Brett played as the Foot Locker-striped Jeeps and I played as Roma. I didn't know Jeep was an Italian brand. I feel bad typing it without us getting paid. Let's call it "Jorp." As much as we joke, having a sport play out without commercials (because the players and stadiums are the advertisements) is kind of amazing. On the other hand, I don't want to see a Sizzler logo on a San Francisco Giants jersey. The entire NFL is one constant running advertisement. I think in the modern era of sports subscriptions that block commercials, I'd rather take the blank periods than see all the advertising on folks.  I recognized Buffon from the 2006 Italian World Cup team (and a few other soccerers). He has a great head of hair and thousand yard stare in Winning Eleven. This is the first calcio game I've played since a few FIFAs ago but they still feel the same? Maneuvering tiny any people over a giant pitch like electronic football from far away. BRETT: The real joy didn't come so much from our unskilled controlling of these little athlete men, but in the replays that followed. The one goal that was scored saw Tevez running away from the goal, shooting it behind him, the ball ricocheting off several players including the keeper before finally being tapped in. All the movements were spot-on, but completely silly upon review given that these are representations of the finest footballers in the world. Like, Tevez would never just dart straight out of the box in that attacking situation. Similar comedy struck on the occasions when we committed to the idea of committing hard fouls. Rather than try to gracefully steal the ball, we'd end up stalking our prey before chopping them down at the legs. The replays confirmed that, yeah, we probably earned those yellow cards. Didn't manage to get a player sent off, though. STEVEN: Well Brett really likes Yellow Card so it was appropriate. How about the fact that we couldn't figure out how to skip the replays? Maybe it was the Share button to skip. I think we hit every other one. But yes, not skipping them lets you appreciate how....goofy these things look up as they strain to approximate human movement and the nuances of some of the greatest athletes in the world (after school teachers, nurses, and firemen). That goal was some bullshit, though. I took like six respectable shots on goal and got nothing, you had weird physics bounces and four assholes tripping over themselves and a chip shot. That is sports, mind, It's why it's so gif-able. Rocket League is still the better soccer game, though. It's more realistic. You have to control individual movements instead of electronic football floating. FIFA and PES feel more like real-time strategy games to me. Baseball has the advantage of being a one on one sport, football of the quarterback being most important, and basketball gets to shrink everything down for intimate and more detailed five on five. BRETT: Sure, PES 2016 isn't going to be the next video game du jour and find widespread acclaim like Rocket League has. It's just a good soccer game that good soccer game players will love -- just as they have with previous PESes. Those folks probably already know that. They're the ones who can make those replays look like actual soccer, but I get more of a kick out of our style.
PES preview photo
This preview brought to you by Jorp
Who would have thought that Tokyo Game Show, rife with interesting and weird games as it is, would lure Steven and I to try Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 (or, Winning Eleven 2016 as it's called here)? The Konami booth h...

Hot Shots Golf photo
Hot Shots Golf

New Hot Shots Golf coming to PS4 in 2016

Clap your hands
Sep 15
// Kyle MacGregor
Sony showed off the latest entry in the Hot Shots Golf franchise, New Minna no Golf, today at its Tokyo Game Show press conference. The title is targeting a 2016 release on PlayStation 4. Curious about what it looks like in action? You can watch the hot new (sorry) trailer below.
NBA 2K16 photo
NBA 2K16

Oh, right, Spike Lee directed NBA 2K16's story

How could I forget?
Sep 14
// Jordan Devore
NBA 2K16 has a MyCareer storyline, "Livin' Da Dream," directed by Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, 25th Hour). It revolves around an up-and-coming player named Frequency Vibrations. I've heard this all before and I'm still coming to terms with it. Seeing it play out in a trailer is surreal.
FIFA 16 photo

Here's the full FIFA 16 soundtrack

Forty-two tracks
Sep 11
// Vikki Blake
EA has unveiled the full soundtrack that will accompany FIFA 16. This year's track listing features 42 artists from the likes of Bastille, Beck, Foals, and John Newman. Here's the full list:
Tony Hawk photo
Tony Hawk

Tony Hawk 5's PlayStation exclusive costumes are hideous

Skating heads
Sep 10
// Chris Carter
Do you want to go to sleep tonight? Then don't watch this video detailing the new Sony exclusive heads, including Ratchet, Sackboy, and Sweet Tooth. They're not full-on costumes -- they're heads, which look incredibly jarring...
Dead or Alive fan vote photo
Dead or Alive fan vote

Dead or Alive Xtreme 3's smallest chested volleyballer leads polls

Looks like all the youngest leading
Sep 01
// Steven Hansen
Dead or Alive Xtreme 3, which may come west and will feature women in bikinis playing volleyball on the beach, is filling out its swimsuit roster by way of fan vote. And, perhaps surprisingly, fans of the series known for its...
Rocket League photo
Rocket League

Rocket League free for Steam Hardware preorders

In celebration of over 1 million sales
Aug 27
// Darren Nakamura
Rocket League has been an out-of-nowhere phenomenon. I had assumed its large player base was made up mostly of users who downloaded it for free through PlayStation Plus. As it turns out, it has sold more than a million copies...

Review: Madden 16

Aug 25 // Steven Hansen
Madden NFL 16 (PlayStation 4 [reviewed], Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Developer: EA TiburonPublisher: EA SportsReleased: August 25, 2015MSRP: $59.99 Madden 16 makes an interesting opening gambit, once again going right into a game, this time a fabricated Super Bowl 50 starring the Cardinals and Steelers. No one wanted to watch that match up seven years ago (except me because of the Kurt Warner), but EA insists on framing this nostalgia-less, fake match up with Any Given Sunday editing, close ups on players, and even tepid, badly-acted football dialogue, the kind of jawing written by someone who has not played sport.  Fuck, is it boring. It introduces new (very simple) catching mechanics in painful slow motion setting up situations (oh, one of the teams is trailing!) we're supposed to have emotions in, like I have any stake in Fake Super Bowl 50, like I'm supposed to feel something when alleged rapist Ben Roethlisberger (who narrates later tutorials) tells his mates, "It's time to be the team we're supposed to be right now. Believe in the man to your left and to your right. It's our time right now" like he's reading commercial cue cards. At least the San Jose 49ers' digital Levi's Stadium field hasn't turned to pudding like the real one. This is what Madden is, though. In past years I have creatively ripped on the series for aggressive advertisements of real-world products, which this one seems to have toned down significantly (unless they're coming dynamically as updates post launch). But! Madden is a yearly advertisement for the NFL. From the start menu it encouraged me to share my information with the NFL, promising digital playing cards as a reward. This is what it means to have exclusivity rights to the only meaningful football league (because no one internationally gives a shit), the commodification of players. It is cool to see the increased likeness of Arizona's head coach whose fascinating neck folds and face-scanned pores have him looking like a corrugated version of Dana Carvey's turtliest member of the turtle club. [embed]307755:60128:0[/embed] In 2006 (that would make it Madden 07) I distinctly remember when I fell into the habit of abusing slot receivers instead of number one and number two wide receivers. This meant a lot of balls to the perfectly serviceable Kevin Curtis instead of two of the greats, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. The worst thing about those slot receiver posts, or crossing routes over the middle, has always been linebackers undercutting the passes for picks. Here is the scenario: a player looks reasonably open for a pass. It is a pass any NFL quarterback could make. It is a pass I, an idiot with bad knees, could make. You throw it with a nice arc over the front defensive layer and before the safeties. Madden has never wanted to give you that pass and it has taken near 10 years for the series to introduce "touch passing," a double tap that lets you drop balls into open zones. Ten years. Low and high throws are executed by holding L1 (high) or L2 (low) while passing. The passing game has seen the most new features added this year. Aside from the aforementioned quarterback stuff, there are three types of catches, done by holding one of three buttons while the ball is in the air en route to the receiver. The Aggressive catch (triangle) is for leaping catches and bodying cornerbacks. RAC (square) encourages the player to make a catch in motion and continue running up field, provided they're not about to be clocked. Possession catches (x) are for keeping feet in-bounds or making sure the receiver hangs on to a first down. These useful buttons encourage more user interaction during catches and also speak to a refined interplay between defensive backs and receivers. On the other side of the ball, you can have defenders play the ball (hold triangle) to go for an interception or deflection, or more conservatively play the receiver (hold x) to ensure you make a tackle and possibly knock the ball from them. There is much more realistic jockeying for body position and faithful physics so long as you don't stare too closely at the instant replays. Eventually you'll notice some similar, more dramatic catch animations (a particular one-handed one stuck out), but it is a plus on the whole for verisimilitude, for giving weight and feeling to awesome athletes interacting in a confined space. That's about it, though. There are some neat presentation additions (statistic graphics overlaid on players) and the menus are well laid out, though they are also pretty slow. Load times, too, are still a bit of a problem (and intrusive presentation elements are bothersome when running a hurry up offense). The insistence towards microtransaction-laden Ultimate Team and the new fantasy football-cribbed Draft Champions modes is useless. Throwing, catching, and defending throws have seen some welcomed, long-ignored additions that get a couple yards closer to faithful simulation. You can decide if that's enough. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Madden reviewed photo
Mildly deflated
I do feel, some, for Electronic Arts and the people responsible for making Madden every year. This is only my 4th year (out of  27 releases) covering it and I fear I may have peaked with last year's review. But like a fr...

NBA 2K16 photo
NBA 2K16

NBA 2K16's latest trailer is predicated on a four-year-old hashtag

A bit late
Aug 24
// Brett Makedonski
"Winning!" That's what some marketer with tiger blood in his veins thought when he saw this NBA 2K16 trailer. "This is bi-winning. It wins here, and it wins there. This, now this makes all other trailers look like ...
Madden 16 photo
Madden 16

EA goes way over the top to promote Madden

We didn't see this coming
Aug 21
// Brett Makedonski
EA Sports' promotion of Madden has largely been the same for years now. Gameplay trailers, new features, interviews with developers -- we've been there and done that. This is different. This is...weird. And, kind of amazing....
Rocket League pro match photo
Rocket League pro match

You need to watch the Rocket League grand finals

The best match you have ever witnessed!
Aug 21
// Patrick Hancock
Major League Gaming (MLG) just completed hosting its first Rocket League tournament, and the grand finals was one of the most exciting things I have ever witnessed. The two competing teams were Cosmic Aftershock an...
First screens photo
First screens

Bikinis, volleyball confirmed for Dead or Alive Xtreme 3

First screens
Aug 21
// Steven Hansen
Just in case you were concerned that Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 would not feature Japanese women in bikinis playing volleyball on the beach, I am here to reassure you that Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 will in fact feature Japanese wome...
Rocket League photo
Rocket League

A high-flyin' reverse aerial Rocket League goal GIF

No teammate screwing it up, either
Aug 18
// Brett Makedonski
What do you do if this goal gets scored on you right off the bat? Do you just rage quit? Is there even any rage, knowing that this opponent clearly has you bested? Do you just hang your head and walk home? Really, its upside...
Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 photo
Dead or Alive Xtreme 3

Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 may come west after all

Provided there is enough demand
Aug 18
// Kyle MacGregor
Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 is in development for PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, the latest issue of Famitsu reveals, while also giving fans in the West some hope of seeing a localized release. Though Koei Tecmo currently onl...
Rocket League cars photo
And why isn't it the Merc?
Rocket League is the new hotness. The newest update added in some new cosmetic items, and I'm sure most of you have been playing around with the new toys. The new cars, Takumi and Dominus, are easily the most used at the...

Rocket League DLC photo
Rocket League DLC

Rocket League's Supersonic Fury DLC is cooler than I expected

Love that new pearlescent paint finish
Aug 14
// Darren Nakamura
Rocket League just released two DLC packs: Utopia Coliseum is a new arena to play in and is available for free while Supersonic Fury contains a host of new car customization options and runs about four bucks. The two new cars...
NHL 16 photo
NHL 16

Patrick Kane taken off NHL 16 cover during sexual assault investigations

No new cover announced
Aug 12
// Brett Makedonski
Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane has legal troubles, as he's the subject of a recent rape allegation. The incident allegedly took place at Kane's lakefront home in Hamburg, New York last week, though he has not yet been c...
KONAMI photo

Konami is killing PES 2014 servers in November

Better buy this year's version
Aug 11
// Kyle MacGregor
In case you were looking for another reason to curse Konami's name (as if there weren't enough already), the publisher is shutting down online support for Pro Evolution Soccer 2014. It's not a very good reason, mind you,...
eSports photo

ESPN has a genuinely positive discussion about The International

A bit out of touch, but still positive
Aug 10
// Joe Parlock
Last week saw Dota 2’s annual championship The International take place in Seattle, with a huge $18 million being up for grabs in prize money. It is by far one of the biggest events in eSports, and recent years have se...
FIFA 2016 photo
FIFA 2016

FIFA 2016's FUT Draft mode gets a trailer

Oh that banter what cheeky legends
Aug 05
// Joe Parlock
Want to see two footballers have some incredibly forced “top quality bants”? Want to have your soul ripped out of your eye sockets and fed to a swarming flurry of crows? Well don’t worry, EA has you covered...
gamescom photo

'Xbox players love their fut' and crappy FIFA deals

Xbox One bundle, week early access
Aug 04
// Steven Hansen
That is FIFA Ultimate Team, the thing EA uses to somehow make more money than just releasing a new FIFA every year (two when it's a World Cup year). "FUT fans this is a deal for you." Xbox One folks get FIFA 16 one week early...

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