NHL 17 Beta Impressions (Roundtable)

Cicero Holmes: The first thing I noticed when playing NHL 17 is that there are 13 characters on the ice. 12 skaters are wearing pads and logos, but the puck is finally its own unique object. Gone are the days the puck magnetizing to your hockey stick. The amount of loose pucks situations were numerous -- some could say too numerous.

The game plays well on the ice and there are some really nice additions to the overall feature set. The ability to keep a pick-up EASHL squad together is a complete game changer and is really going to make that my number one mode going forward. I did see a lot of goals where the goal scorer was able to score top shelf from the top of the point in the same fashion, but this is something that I think can be fixed in tuning.

Beyond the ice, most of NHL 17’s Hockey Ultimate Team has remained unchanged from the previous year. There are, however, two changes: the payouts are larger, defaulting at 1000 credits compared to last year’s 25 or 30. This is simply a cosmetic change as inflation has hit the rest of the marketplace as well.

The other change is significant. The Synergy mechanic plays a big role in upgrading both players and teams. Despite its standing as one of the most offensive of buzzwords, Synergy will give players who have the specific attribute or an entire team a boost in an attribute. There are 18 in total, 11 player-specific ones and seven team-based boosts. They can be selected at any time before a game and have descriptions of their benefit.

The game modes, store and HUT auction house remain pretty much the same, so time will tell if Synergy actually adds something substantial to this already popular game mode.

Fraser Gilbert: The NHL 17 beta feels very much like NHL 16 2.0. I loved NHL 16, though, so that isn't necessarily a bad thing. To the untrained eye, it's very difficult to notice any differences based on the gameplay experience alone. After a few games, the subtle changes become more prominent, and for the most part, they result in an improved experience.

EASHL already feels like the primary focus this year, and the customization features will give it a new lease on life. Ultimate Team is also back with a renewed vigor -- I'm a big fan of the new "Sets" feature. And, while the new menus look much fresher, I'm still disappointed by their slow transitions.

Ultimately, there are plenty of positives, and I'm certainly enjoying the ride so far. Will there be enough additions to warrant a full-price purchase from casual fans of the series? We'll see.

Mike Lowe: I've mostly played EASHL, and it's been a lot of fun. I'm average/below average at this game and play as a defenseman because of my (lack of) skills, but it's been fun to play conservatively, be in the proper position and get rewarded for it with the occasional offensive play I'll step into.

I really like the added depth -- the new player options (I use 'enforcer defenseman') -- and there is way more feedback on your performance to help you be a better player and teammate.

I'm still at that stage of trying to figure out what exactly makes it feel different from '16, but it is there I guess; I just didn't play '16 a ton to notice all of the nuances others have mentioned. Either way, I see modes such as EASHL only growing in popularity.

Chase Becotte: All my time was spent with EASHL, and I'll echo the positive vibes a lot of others are throwing out there. There are some weird issues where you get frozen in an animation, or somebody locks up in the loading menu before a game (causing the rest of the team to quit out to regroup), but those sorts of things are expected in a beta.

On the ice, the biggest small change is the control you have of your player. Especially on defense, you can control your player better without drifting. On a deeper level, it's still hard to tell how net battles and tying sticks up will play out, but this depth should end up as a net positive at the end of the day. I've seen more deflections and screens to this point, and I would at least assume that has something to do with net battles.

I do hope puck pickups are improved a bit more because your player still doesn't always reach out for pucks he/she should, but this may be one of those legacy issues that doesn't quite get nailed down -- it's sort of a "feel" issue as well. Regardless, the gameplay tweaks mixed with the added progression layers will keep me coming back to EASHL this season.

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