October 14, 2018

EA Sports NHL 19 - Review

HE SHOOTS!!! HE SCOOOOOOOOORES!!!! But does EA Sports NHL 19 Score? Read on to find out!

EA Sports NHL franchise returns this year and throws in a bunch of new features such as "Real Player Motion  Technology", legendary players such as Pittsburgh Penguins legend Mario Lemieux and the introduction of pond hockey via the new CHEL mode.

The biggest addition this year is World Of CHEL, CHEL is surprisingly not an acronym, its named after the fact if you say NHL the last two letters sound like you are saying CHEL, there is your interesting fact for the day. CHEL mode acts as the central hub for your created character and ties together game modes such as 1v1v1 and NHL threes. 1v1v1 is a new addition to the NHL series and is an online-only mode takes hockey back to its roots, this mode has you playing on ponds and frozen lakes against a spectacular backdrop of mountainous scenery listening to an over the top announcer commentate the on-ice action. 1v1v1 features no penalties and has you playing against two other players who are also both playing against each other which makes this a frantic battle to gain possession of the puck and slam it into the back of the net in order to score the most goals and win the game.

NHL Threes also returns as part of CHEL this year and amplifies the over the top action from the previous version (think NBA jam on skates) and sees you dishing out over the top hits and even has you playing as a mascot in an attempt to score more goals and beat the other team, this mode is a lot of fun even for people not that interested in hockey as it strips back the rules and regulations and just delivers hard-hitting, fast-paced action. Progressing through the various modes in CHEL earns you cosmetic upgrades for you to use in customising your character, the customisation options are quite vast and ensure you can tailor your character to your tastes.

Be A Pro mode returns this year and while it lacks the in-depth storyline of games such as the NBA 2K series, the fact you can create your character and get straight into playing through games in the minor leagues and start earning points to upgrade your character is highly refreshing. Without being weighed down by poorly written and cheesy storylines the bare bones nature of NHL's be a pro mode sees you doing much more of what you came here to do, play hockey! I am usually a big franchise and dynasty mode player in most sports video games but this year I spent most of my time in NHL's Be A Pro Mode and had a blast upgrading my player and progressing him through the minor leagues all the way through to the NHL.

Ultimate team mode also returns this year and plays much the same here as it does in Madden with the idea being to open packs of cards and put together a team to play through challenges and also to go head to head against other players online, and in doing so earn more packs of cards in order to upgrade your team further, this mode is totally not my cup of tea but tonnes of people play this mode exclusively every year and it only seems to be growing in popularity.

The obligatory franchise mode returns once again this year with a much deeper and improved scouting system allowing you to hire both amateur and professional scouts to scrutinise available amateur talent with the hopes of luring them to your organisation if they prove capable enough. Adding to the realism this year is the fact that if you do not scout a player enough then a player's true rating will not be revealed to you making you have to guess in their true worth to your team. All of the usual budget juggling, stadium upgrades and concession pricing also return this year making this a true franchise mode, especially when compared to the meagre financial depth and customisation included in games such as Madden Football or MLB The Show.

The game itself looks and controls much better this year due to the addition of Real Player Motion which has been brought across from EA's other popular sports titles Madden and the NBA live series and has sparked new life into the game, the player animations at times look absolutely incredible. Real Player Motion makes players control much more realistically and carry more believable weight such as their real-life counterparts. This is a great addition to the series as in previous editions player control was sometimes a big problem, now instead of slipping and sliding unrealistically all over the ice players actually behave and control much more predictably just as their real-life counterparts.

Hitting was a bit, pardon the pun, hit and miss in past editions of the game but it has been beefed up and is now a viable option this year due to the players being much easier to control. The analogue skill stick controls remain largely the same but this year a retro two button pass and shoot (ala NHL 94) control option has been added, simplifying the game for hockey fans who do not want to learn the sometimes complicated intricacies of playing with the skill stick-based control system.

In my review of NHL 18 last year some of my biggest criticisms were directed towards the game's presentation, unfortunately, those issues have not been addressed in this edition. The same commentary team of Eddie Olczyk and Mike Emrick return once again this year and their lines are really starting to sound tired, I was never a big fan of this duo in the first place and can't wait for these two to depart the series so a new team can be brought in, I would love to see the return of Gary Thorne and Bill Clement to the series as these guys know how to provide a soundtrack to the constantly shifting momentum that transpires during a real NHL game.

Stats overlays are once again minimal and are mostly limited to showing how many goals a player has scored in a game or saves a goalie has made, in this day and age of sports games this just isn't enough, players want more than this and want to see things like upcoming schedules, opponent breakdowns, scoring leaders and standings peppered through the game just like in a real NHL broadcast. EA could do much worse than take a leaf out of the NBA 2K series book as that game has absolutely nailed what presentation should be like in a current gen sports game.

While this years game is devoid of any groundbreaking updates EA has significantly improved the way the game controls this edition and has also added the new CHEL mode which is an important first step to establishing an online hub for the series, I feel EA has done enough to improve over last years edition to warrant a purchase of NHL 19, I am just really hoping that next  year EA start to overhaul the tired and dated presentation of the game.

Review copy provided by Electronic Arts

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