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NHL 15 bringing new commentary and physics to PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

NHL 15 will mark the NHL franchise's debut on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One with the promise of revamped physics for players and the puck, as well as a commentary changeover for the first time in eight years, publisher Electronic Arts announced today.

Physics is at the top of developer EA Canada's areas of focus in NHL 15, which will also be released on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. On the new consoles, the game will feature a full real-time physics engine to handle collisions between all 12 players on the ice — a first for any hockey title, according to EA. That doesn't just mean you'll see better-looking checks; the developers also say that the engine will deliver realistic scrums around the net and player pileups.

EA Canada is also retooling puck physics, with the intent of bringing to life the unpredictable nature of hard rubber moving on ice. With a feature the studio calls Vision AI, the CPU-controlled players on the ice will be smarter. And improvements to the Skill Stick, the NHL series' right-stick control method, will provide skaters with more control.

a full real-time physics engine will handle collisions between all 12 players on the ice

As you might expect, making graphical improvements is another important goal for EA Canada. On PS4 and Xbox One, the studio is overhauling player models for NHL 15. Athletes now have three layers — body, equipment and jersey — and each one has a life of its own when it comes to interactions with the puck and other players. And EA Canada is aiming to deliver player faces that look and emote better than ever before, with the same technology that the studio's EA Sports UFC team is using. In addition, the studio says the new consoles allow for more authentic arenas with more varied crowds — there are "over 9,000 individual crowd models," and they have more than quadruple the animations they did on the old consoles.

EA has teamed up with NBC Sports, the television home of the NHL playoffs, for what the publisher calls "the most realistic broadcast package in a video game to-date [sic]." That's highlighted by commentary from the network's leading team of Mike "Doc" Emrick (play-by-play) and Eddie Olczyk (analysis); they are replacing Gary Thorne and Bill Clement, respectively, who debuted in the Xbox 360 version of 2006's NHL 07.

While Emrick and Olczyk will call the action in NHL 15 on both last-generation and new consoles, only the PS4 and Xbox One versions of the game will feature a full presentation upgrade. That includes supplemental commentary from the rink by TSN analyst Ray Ferraro as well as "real-world" pregame notes from Emrick and Olczyk in the broadcast booth, according to EA. In addition, NHL on NBC broadcasters will provide introductions to games.

Emrick and Olczyk will call the action in NHL 15 on both last-generation and new consoles

On PS3 and Xbox 360, NHL 15's new elements will include the new commentary team, as well as the second year of EA Canada's Collision Physics system. Those versions of the game will also bring back the NHL '94 Anniversary mode from NHL 14.

EA is holding a fan vote for the NHL 15 cover with the following eight choices: Erik Karlsson (Ottawa Senators), Logan Couture (San Jose Sharks), T.J. Oshie (St. Louis Blues), P.K. Subban (Montreal Canadiens), Drew Doughty (Los Angeles Kings), Phil Kessel (Toronto Maple Leafs), Matt Duchene (Colorado Avalanche) and Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins).

Voting is taking place on the NHL website, as well as on Twitter and Instagram with hashtags for the respective players. The vote will proceed in three rounds: quarterfinals from today, May 5, through May 18; semifinals from May 19-25; and finals from May 26 through June 1. The winner be revealed during the NHL Awards, which will air June 24 at 7 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network.

NHL 15 is set for release this fall; the game traditionally launches in early September. In the meantime, you can check out the teaser trailer above and our interview with Andrew Wilson from the Xbox One reveal event last May, back when he was the head of EA Sports, below.

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