NHL 15 is supposed to be a sequel to last year's entry in EA's long-running hockey series, but it takes some serious steps backward. Dedicated fans aren't happy.

People have gained access to the game of graceful ice dancing (and also HITTING EVERYTHING) via EA's new, er, EA Access program, which lets people try full games slightly ahead of release. According to Operation Sports (among many others), the following features from previous installments of the series are stuck on the bench this season:

Modes/Features

  • No GM Connected
  • No Online Team Play (when this is patched into the game later this year, it will use real NHL players and teams)
  • No EA Sports Hockey League
  • No EA Sports Arena
  • No Online Shootouts
  • No Live the Life
  • No Be A Legend
  • No Winter Classic
  • No tournaments or Battle for the Cup
  • No season mode (you can only play seasons in Be A GM, which is limited to NHL teams)
  • No NHL 94 Anniversary mode
  • No custom music support
  • No create-a-play designer
  • Cannot customize each team's AI
  • No create-a-team
  • No way to edit individual players
  • Practice mode is now limited to one skater vs. an AI goalie

Gameplay

  • No custom camera option
  • No Action Tracker replay highlights
  • No Top 3 Stars at the end of games.

Be A GM

  • Yearly draft is fully automated by the CPU
  • Cannot play the AHL games for your chosen franchise
  • Players sent down to the minors do not accumulate any season stats
  • No fantasy draft option
  • No preseason games

Be A Pro

  • No option to sim ahead to the next shift
  • You only play in the NHL; you cannot play for minor league teams
  • The Memorial Cup tryout period is gone. You now begin by picking an NHL team, or by letting a random CPU team draft you.
  • No All-Star game

Ultimate Team

  • Cannot play against your friends
  • No tournaments
  • No mobile app

So yeah. There's kind of a lot missing.

It's important to note that NHL 15 was primarily made with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in mind, whereas NHL 14 was an Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game first and foremost. The new consoles allow for all sorts of snazzy new physics tricks and Dynamic Cloth Spanielization (or something), but the foundation built on those older platforms appears to have been lost.

Longtime fans are pissed, despite the fact that the trade-off is—in some ways—understandable and the new physics/engine upgrades are apparently pretty cool. Though EA never explicitly promised any of these features, it's kinda hard to justify buying a skin-and-bones sequel in an annual series when previous entries threw in everything except zamboni-mounted kitchen sinks.

On the upside, producer Sean Ramjagsingh has promised on Twitter that some features will be coming in future content updates. Basic things like online team play and a new draft in Be a GM mode are a lock, though EA has yet to set any release dates in stone.

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EA's being significantly less communicative on its own forums, where many threads raising concerns about these issues are being locked down rather than addressed.

The long and short of it? NHL 15 on Xbox One/PS4 might not be quite as complete as you were hoping when it speeds into the rink next week. Buyer beware. If features you really care about are out for now, you might want to consider waiting for a price drop or a (hopefully free) update that includes them.

I've reached out to EA for comment on the whole issue. As soon as I hear back, I'll update this post.