EA’s NHL series this generation always seemed to be missing in one department or another. Whether it be in terms of game modes or gameplay, there was something always holding it back. Last year, the team introduced the Expansion Draft with was legendary in its own right that other sports franchises should incorporate. The play and physics on the ice were lacking, however, as momentum continued to be an issue. NHL 19 will also be getting the Real Player Motion technology much like its other sports counterparts and it may just benefit the most with hockey. We spent some time exploring the many modes and the game of hockey itself at the recent EA Sports Summer Showcase. EA might just have the complete hockey package in its hands with NHL 19.
NHL 19 will feature many ways to play including playing at the pond. The World of CHEL will expand upon the EA Sports Hockey League as this will be a unified system to use your created player. NHL ONES is a mode that features free-for-all hockey where players chase the puck and try to score as much as they can in a specific time limit. This is limited to half-rink hockey much like a pick-up game that features an announcer straight out of an ’80s ski lodge movie. Most importantly, there will be over 900 different items to customize your character that will be unlocked by playing various matches. Some is officially licensed NHL gear while the rest is just random items like an NHL 94 Christmas sweater. Your created player will also utilize upgrades towards the type of player they want to be such as a Two-Way Forward or a Sniper. Attributes will go towards each specific trait.
NHL Threes felt like a tacked-on arcade mode when it was introduced last year but our time with the mode during this session felt a lot of improvements. This may have more to do with the gameplay, which I will get to in a moment. NHL Threes just felt more fresh and as if it belonged this year and this has a lot to do with using your created player. Items can also be earned in this mode for your characters. NHL Pro-am also consists of three-on-three hockey where you play with a random squad of players and take on tasks to get even more gear. There is a ton of variety of ways to play in NHL 19 that should appeal to people looking to play some fun hockey. Playing NHL ONES with other people at the event and their created characters was very entertaining. Much like the real NHL, NHL 19 feels like it’s having a youth movement.
What seemed to make NHL 19 so enjoyable outside of these modes was the hockey on the ice. With the introduction of Real Player Motion to the series, the game flowed extremely well. Player speed ratings truly make a difference in the game. Checking is momentum-based and down right brutal yet completely satisfying at times. RPM takes into effect the player’s size, strength and hitting skill while incorporating the angles, speed and positioning of the player. Replays will show how truly brutal a hit can be and the sound of it on the ice is even more gratifying. There are no canned animations that repeat on checks as individuals limbs will now absorb hits in different ways. No checks will be the same.
Gone are the days of wondering why a hit did not land or knocking a player completely down only for them to get up and immediately get the puck back. Also gone are the hiccups with the puck and players just running into each other. The game flows so smoothly and prior annoyances of passing and barely getting knocked off the puck have dissipated. The A.I. seems to have itself together, as well. Players move to the right position and do more than just stand around. Skill moves are still prevalent as I was able to pull off an amazing deke or two and managed to score. The overall control is tight and it no longer feels like you’re lugging a rock around the ice. Player recovery seems much improved.
All the modes will return from last year’s game, as well. Players can expect the return of the Expansion Draft or regular Franchise Mode. Expansion Draft will allow you to take a created team and go through the same steps the Vegas Golden Knights took to get to the Stanley Cup Finals. NHL 19 will also feature legends such as Wayne Gretzky and while we got to play as some of these guys, we can’t reveal all of them until a later date.
Out of all the games we played at the EA Sports Summer Showcase, NHL 19 was the most enjoyable. With a fresh take on the sport while at the same time embracing the roots of the sport with pond hockey and legends, there will be plenty in NHL 19 for any fan. NHL Threes finally felt like the NHL Hitz we’ve been missing and the overall flow of hockey looks to be greatly improved thanks to Real Player Motion. NHL 19 launches on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on September 14 with three days early access if you pre-order the NHL 19 Legend Edition or Ultimate Edition. Check out some screenshots below.