There's one thing that even the most casual fan of video games knows about a new generation of consoles: the games are much, much prettier. And in the case of sports simulations, that means game experiences that look and feel more like the real sport than ever before. That is most certainly the case with NHL 15, but the latest trailer shows that the improvements are more than just skin deep.
Fans of EA Sports' hockey series weren't willing to revolt when NHL 14 failed to make the leap to next-gen consoles, but there's no doubt that the developers feel pressure to deliver. Without any glaring issues or lasting criticism, the minds behind the NHL series would have been safe in simply delivering the best looking game in the series to date (which, according to what was shown at E3 2014, they have).
But as is usually the case, NHL 15's most promising changes may not be immediately apparent. The players are rendered in higher detail than ever before, and possess even more unique animations; even the arenas around the league have been tailor-made for the extra fan experience. Yet the trailer shows that the developers are still not afraid of unique challenges, choosing to grant physics to players' bodies, the equipment protecting them, and the hockey sweaters keeping it all under wraps.
[gallery link="file" columns="2" ids="232104,232107,232108,232105"]
Admittedly, NHL 15 is what fans of the series will likely expect: the same fluid skate animations, puck and collision physics, with next-gen hardware bringing a higher level of detail and a new presentation package. And at this point, it's hard to know just how often pucks coming into contact with a player's jersey will change the complexion of a play. But in this case, the lack of a leap forward is testament to EA Sports' previous work.
Although some franchises have used the leap to next-gen hardware to remove restrictions and take on a new identity, even the most devoted fans would be hard-pressed to think of an improvement to the NHL formula that would only be possible with a new console generation.
NHL 15 releases on Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, and PS4 on September 9, 2014 in North America and September 12, 2014 in Europe.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.