Thursday, January 22, 2015

NHL 15: Build of the Week -- Power Forward

Sorry, I have been out of the loop here for a while. My low level of enthusiasm for NHL 15 because of the lack of a next gen version has sapped my will to write about it. That is until now. So let's dive into the build.

Power Forward
Legend 2
6'2"
195 lbs
Regular flex
Second curve from the top
13" Skates

Deking: 88
Hand-Eye (+7): 90
Offensive Awareness (+7): 86
Passing: 70
Puck Control (+7): 89
Slap Shot Accuracy: 65
Slap Shot Power: 65
Wrist Shot Accuracy (+7): 88
Wrist Shot Power (+7): 80

Aggressiveness: 90
Body Checking: 68
Defensive Awareness: 86
Discipline: 85
Faceoffs: 65
Fighting Skill: 65
Shot Blocking: 65
Stick Checking (+7): 88

Acceleration (+12): 90
Agility (+7): 84
Balance: 67
Durability: 90
Endurance: 86
Speed (+12): 90
Strength (+7): 83

Built at http://pixelhockey.net/builder/p/jmpeLLFK

This type of build should be pretty familiar if you have seen my previous builds. Offensively it looks like accuracy over power is the way to go again for the shot. Passing gets fiddly if you put it up too high so minimal spending there. Max puck control, deking, and hand eye let you hang onto the puck. You can pick corners from the high slot with this build pretty easily.

Defensively the maxed stick check, defensive awareness, and aggression are highlights. To avoid unnecessary fights keep body checking low. If you play a more physical game you can feel free to increase that by taking away from say discipline or aggressiveness. The aggressiveness is to be able to corral loose pucks. It has a good stick check and isn't prone to tripping players like the playmaker.

In athletics it is all about the speed and acceleration and endurance. Agility is nearly max as well. Strength is solid. Balance is for left overs. Durability is maxed but injuries still happen with alarming frequency. It is an inexpensive stat so spending points there probably doesn't hurt the build. Injuries really need to go away (or be completely revamped) in EASHL. Getting hurt, especially if it is skating, ruins the rest of your game.

So why power forward? Playmaker trips everything in sight. Two way forward can't score well enough. Grinder ditto. Sniper is too squishy and doesn't shoot any better. Enforcer (pause while there is lots of laughter ... still pausing ... more laughing ... catches breath finally...) um ... no. Obviously you are not going to play this build at center. For center I would go two way forward. You won't score quite as much but max faceoffs and great defensive ability along with decent offense is a good balance. Maybe if I get ambitious I will put up my two way forward center build.

Monday, September 8, 2014

NHL 15 vs. NHL 14

After playing the pre-release version of NHL 15 we have decided we are going to play on the 360. Despite the exact same interface there have been some changes to gameplay which I will discuss below.

Here are differences I have noticed between NHL 15 vs. 14:
  • No touch icing makes the game quicker and eliminates those times your CPU D decide to take a terrible line to the puck.
  • Icing in general seems to be called more consistently. As opposed to last year where it was basically a coin flip as to when they were going to call it.
  • Injuries seem to make much less of a difference. I don't know if this is a side effect of just not having many cards but I have barely noticed a difference when I get injured.
  • The game misconduct is back in. This is really good because it should cut down on people running you from behind. The downside is I have seen a couple of five minute interference calls where they look no worse than incidental contact.
  • The high flip dump super bounce is gone. So people can't cheese you with those.
  • Off puck collisions between players on the same team could both help and hinder you depending on who it happens to.
  • The physics just feel somewhat different overall. To this point I would call them improved.
There are other observations I think are too clouded by lack of attributes to be able to come to any solid conclusions. These include the poke check being poor and scoring being difficult. I suspect these are going to clear up over time just like in 14.

So there you have it. Are these changes enough to justify buying NHL 15 on last gen? That is a call you will have to make.

Friday, September 5, 2014

NHL 15: EASHL Fail

The game I was most looking forward to this year was NHL 15 on Xbox One. The though of a better engine and crisper graphics combined with the ability to stream to Twitch or just grab highlights on the go seemed like the breath of fresh air the series needed. As it turns out this was not to be. EA decided to leave EASHL (and other modes) out of next gen in favor of overhauling the presentation, crowds, and arenas.

In my professional life I do custom application development. This decision from EA is like getting a complaint from a client that their application is running slowly and responding by prettying up the UI. If we did something like that we would be fired. It is difficult to fire EA because there are zero alternatives for NHL games. What I did though was I got EA Access refunded and am not buying NHL 15 on next gen. I would encourage you to do the same.

However, the story doesn't end there. EA happily informed us we could still play EASHL on last gen. Reluctantly, my teammates and I resolved ourselves to the disappointment and decided to suffer another year in the 360 ghetto to play the only must have feature of the NHL series. At this point I think things are about as bad as they are going to get.

I was wrong. As you can see by watching that video they have basically taken NHL 14 and changed the logo to NHL 15 and forced you to look a Bergeron all the time in the menus. I am grabbing the pre-release as I write this to confirm myself but at this point I am not inclined to keep my NHL 15 pre-order for 360. If the gameplay is still exactly the same as 14 then why play it or more importantly *pay* for it.

I will be commenting on Twitter as I try out 15 on the 360 this weekend. I may follow up a with a blog post but it is looking like this may be a lost year for the NHL series. I can see my team just staying with 14 and then maybe upgrading to next gen if they follow through with their promise of implementing OTP in a future patch. But I could just see waiting for NHL 16 as well.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

NHL 14: Build of the Week -- Sniper Winger

This week (month/year) I am featuring a build I just started playing recently. The sniper.

Sniper
Legend 3
6'2"
195lb
Regular flex
Second curve from the bottom
13" Skates

Deking: 80
Hand-Eye: 85
Offensive Awareness: 80
Passing: 77
Puck Control (+12): 90
Slap Shot Accuracy: 66
Slap Shot Power: 65
Wrist Shot Accuracy (+7): 90
Wrist Shot Power (+7): 84

Aggressiveness: 84
Body Checking: 66
Defensive Awareness: 86
Discipline: 75
Faceoffs: 65
Fighting Skill: 65
Shot Blocking: 65
Stick Checking (+7): 86

Acceleration (+7): 90
Agility (+12): 88
Balance (+7): 75
Durability: 75
Endurance: 87
Speed (+12): 90
Strength (+7): 83

The offense is going to look somewhat weak compared with a playmaker outside of the shot and puck control. You aren't going to feather great passes across the ice to people for one timers unless they are completely open. What you will do though is score goals in bunches. This build puts pucks in the net like no other. The shot is nicely balanced and will pick corners with ease. The puck control lets you hang onto pucks in high traffic areas so you can get your shot away.

Defensively it looks somewhat weaker than a playmaker as well but it has a surprisingly good pokecheck given the rating. The solid aggression and defensive awareness make this build respectable at picking up loose pucks as well. While the body checking is low it is notable how often this build knocks people down. That may have something to do with the athletics.

One of the things I never liked about sniper before was how it felt skating. It was awkward and didn't turn well and seemed like it was a step down from most other choices. This setup though feels very quick and responsive with the maxed acceleration, agility, and speed along with the 13" skates. Balance and durability are just enough to get by. Strength is maxed here as well and while it is not a very high rating it seems to factor in to how well the build hits.

How to play this build?  Pretty much get open in good scoring position and fire away when your teammates set you up. Or pick up the puck with speed in the neutral zone and beat the goalie off the rush. You are the trigger man with this build. This is not a support build. If you aren't going to shoot a lot then I suggest picking another build.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

NHL 14: Build of the Week -- Two Way Forward Center

This week features a two way forward that will help you take over the center of the ice.

Two-Way Forward
Legend 1
6'2"
195lb
Regular flex
Second curve from the bottom
11" Skates

Deking: 75
Hand-Eye: 85
Offensive Awareness: 75
Passing (+7): 87
Puck Control (+7): 87
Slap Shot Accuracy: 66
Slap Shot Power: 65
Wrist Shot Accuracy (+7): 85
Wrist Shot Power: 75

Aggressiveness: 81
Body Checking: 70
Defensive Awareness: 89
Discipline: 79
Faceoffs (+7): 95
Fighting Skill: 65
Shot Blocking: 68
Stick Checking (+7): 90

Acceleration (+12): 90
Agility (+7): 81
Balance (+7): 80
Durability: 77
Endurance: 90
Speed (+12): 90
Strength (+7): 80

Props go out to http://pixelhockey.net/builder/ for their awesome NHL 14 player creator.

Offense is not bad on this build. The wrist shot is just about perfect for scoring in a variety of ways including screened wristers against both CPU and human goalies. Puck control and passing are solid. Hand eye is solid. Deking and offensive awareness are low so it is not the greatest on breakaways and don't try a lot of no-look passes with this setup.

Defensively this is a very strong build. Poke check is great, defensive awareness is great, faceoffs are maxed, and despite the seemingly low body checking this build will lay a lot of people out. The aggression is nice for picking up loose pucks and also intimidating people you hit. There is a smattering of discipline but this build shouldn't take a lot of penalties if you are smart with it.

Athletics are pretty strong top to bottom. Acceleration and speed are what stir the drink. The agility is reasonable and with the 11" skates it allows for pretty good turning.  Strength and balance are good so this build can take and give a hit pretty well. Endurance is high also so that you can keep skating fast all game.

This build can play it anyway you want. It is good on the rush, cycle, or in front of the net. It can also shut down teams by cutting off passing lanes, dealing out big hits, or taking away the puck with a well timed poke check.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

NHL 14: Build of the Week -- Playmaker Winger

And we are back! First up is a playmaker winger. Let's get right to it:

Playmaker
Legend 1
5'10"
180lb
Regular flex
Second curve from the bottom
13" Skates

Deking: 78
Hand-Eye: 85
Offensive Awareness: 80
Passing (+7): 90
Puck Control (+7): 90
Slap Shot Accuracy: 67
Slap Shot Power: 65
Wrist Shot Accuracy (+7): 85
Wrist Shot Power (+7): 79

Aggressiveness: 84
Body Checking: 72
Defensive Awareness: 85
Discipline: 65
Faceoffs: 65
Fighting Skill: 65
Shot Blocking: 66
Stick Checking (+7): 85

Acceleration (+12): 90
Agility (+7): 81
Balance (+7): 80
Durability: 75
Endurance: 86
Speed (+12): 90
Strength (+7): 80

This build will look pretty familiar to anyone who has seen my builds before. This has pretty good first five stats with an emphasis on puck control, passing, and hand eye. Then you have a beefy wrist shot good for beating both human and CPU goalies. I don't use one touch dekes much instead using the side to side dekes to slow down and create separation between defenders and I. It is enough to score somewhat on breakaways but will probably get increased along with offensive awareness once legend two and three roll around.

Defensively this is pretty good all around. Good stick check as long as you don't poke directly from behind (that probably goes for all builds but this one seems to trip easier than others). Good defensive awareness to cut off pucks in passing lanes and a high aggression to help scooping up pucks. This build does not hit well at all. This is however a bonus in that you can run into people almost at will and never pick up a penalty over it. You won't flatten them but you will jar the puck loose frequently.

Athletics are good from top to bottom. Agility is a bit low especially with the 13" skates but the straight line speed helps make up for that and it turns far better than you would think. Endurance is key for the ability to skate fast all day. Strength and balance are also bolstered to help with being jostled along the boards and to help maintain puck control. Almost no amount of this will help you from getting leveled this year but some is definitely worthwhile. The new thing you might notice is added points to durability. With the crazy amount of hitting and injuries I really think that adding some points here is worthwhile. Being injured, especially a skating injury, will keep you from being effective. The spare points there let you take some hits to make plays without getting hurt as often.

This build is good at both passing and scoring and solid enough defensively to get the job done there as well. I am not sure there is a better offensive class available in the game.

Monday, September 9, 2013

NHL 14: Early Release Impressions

I have updated my lists to reflect what I have seen in 40 or 50 EASHL games so far:

The Pros

  • Passing seems less random and more reliable.
  • There are some shots now that have a decent chance to beat the CPU goalies 
  • CPUs don't automatically take the puck away on cross ice passes.
  • Hits from behind are penalized more frequently now.
  • Poke check doesn't work from forever away anymore and is generally just less powerful overall.
  • Skating feels better. Fewer big turns and just overall smoother.
  • Backskating and transitions from forward to backskating feel much much better.
  • I have seen cross crease goals actually work at a semi-reasonable rate. Still a few too many crazy saves on those for my liking but better than before.
  • Overall offense feels better.

The Cons

  • Forced fighting after big hits. It is dumb in the NHL it is dumb in NHL 14. It is in everything and probably not as bad as I made it out to be but I have been forced into fighting a couple of times I didn't want to. (left stick hitting can end up with some crazy unintentional hits)
  • No turtle option for those of us who don't care about fighting.
  • Still no easy way to pick which of two players who are skating near one another that you want to pass to. I don't get why they haven't at least attempted to fix this after years.
  • Still can't pick up a puck right near you at times because you can't turn in a circle quickly even going at the slowest speed.
  • Hitting window still seems a second too long. Need to call interference more often on later hits.
  • Overall defense feels more difficult.
  • Hitting is easier. 
  • CPU goalies still throw the puck out randomly, already lost a game because of this.
  • Tie ups in front of the net are still annoying. They are easier to get out of it seems.
  • Faceoffs are still broken, can spam a faceoff move or change at the last second still.
  • Incidental contact still not being called and you can be jostled from behind to lose the puck.
  • Short passing is still terrible.
  • AI still unable to make easy passes yet somehow make crazy outlets at times.
  • AI can still just destroy you on hits no matter what your build or how fast either of you is going.
  • Wrap around is way too effective.
  • Intimidation effects are still way too effective.
  • Latest tuner seemed to scale back scoring.
Since the last tuner 14 is now basically like 13 but with better passing, skating, and slightly better scoring. Hitting and fighting are also better in that they seem a bit more realistic (not as many crazy flying bodies) but a lot of the fundamentals of these systems are broken (forced fights and not enough penalties for late hits). They need to fix some of these simple things that have been broken for ever and balance out playstyles so that running around hitting everything isn't rewarded as much.