The past two days for me have been a study in what it must be like to be a Hermit Crab. From around 10am Friday morning until about 11:30 last night, with some sleep, food and cold ones scattered in between, I have been glued to my Xbox One playing EA Sports’ latest iteration of NHL, NHL 19.
(SynonymForWet on Live if you wanna catch the mittens in some NHL)
If you recall, a couple months back, I sent out an NHL 19 wishlist. EA, somehow, did not listen.
Let’s get to the good, the bad and the what in the name of holy Christ were they thinking with that?
Even if the name makes me cringe worse than watching Marc-Andre Fleury give up a weak backhander to Casey Cizikas in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, World of CHEL (uggggghhhhhhhh) is damn near perfect.
Four game modes, all incredibly fun. NHL Pro-Am, NHL Ones, NHL Threes and EASHL.
The NHL Pro-Am is a fun way to build up a character’s XP and get better perks, skill sets and play against current and former NHLers in a full-ice 3v3 mode, while NHL Ones is absolute anarchy, but a great shut your brain off and just play for hours on end kind of game mode.
Essentially you make your character (since Twitter has ruined me, I’m currently playing as Shatten Kevinkirk), outfit him with some wintery clothing and it’s off to the pond to play 1v1v1. For two and a half minutes, it’s no holds barred. Outscore your opponent by any means necessary. More wins get you more XP and cooler outfits to wear and emotes to trash talk your opponents throughout, which as a petty Millennial, I absolutely love.
I rarely play NHL Threes after NHL 18, because I don’t think EA went far enough with it. We all remember the NHL 09 add on NHL Arcade. If not – check out some highlights.
Pure silliness. Which is fine! However, all NHL Threes offers by way of power ups is just making a puck worth more goals for your team or subtracting goals from your opponent. If we’re going to have an arcade 3v3 game mode, let’s go all out. I want guys growing to 10 feet tall, goalies shrinking and slap shots becoming missiles.
EA Sports Hockey League (EASHL) if you don’t know is a mode where you get some friends together, start a team and you play one position. What I love about 19’s update from years past is they have taken their idea of loadouts from Star Wars Battlefront and brought it to sports gaming.
In years past, if you played center in EASHL and chose to be a playmaker, you were locked in to whatever skill traits EA decided came with that type of player. Now, you can add on to what EA has deemed the traits of a playmaker with custom trait loadouts.
This is big, because you can decide with your teammates what your strengths are and play to them, giving your team a decided advantage. Are you a playmaker, but want to improve your shot? Consider it done. Offensive defenseman, but you want to occasionally lay the hammer? They got you.
Overall, World of CHEL (kill me) is the best innovation EA Sports has put into the NHL franchise in years. It has something for the casual gamer to the dedicated NHL gamer.
Along with a brand new game mode, the physics of the game got a complete overhaul, which thank you based Crosby. When playing as NHL teams outside of World of CHEL (stop, please), player type, size, weight and speed all matter much more now. If Carl Hagelin is skating down the wing against Chara, chances are he can blow right past him now rather than Chara’s size just being the determining factor. That said – if Hagelin takes the wrong route…Chara is going to send him into next week.
The biggest difference is in skating. For the past couple of games, tight turns and stopping were rare. You essentially had to be one of Crosby, McDavid or Ovechkin to have that skating ability. It’s tough to describe, so I’ll let YouTube take it:
It’s much more fluid.
When rolling out a brand new game mode such as World of CHEL (god damn it again?), it’s natural a few things will get ignored. Game modes like Be A Pro and Hockey Ultimate Team have remained largely the same over the past couple of years.
The biggest failing of this is Be A Pro. Back in NHL 14 EA introduced “Live the Life” as their new Be A Pro. It was a good start for a more narrative-driven style of gameplay. You didn’t just play on the team, you made life decisions like whether or not to take an endorsement or how to interact with teammates and staff off the ice and talk to the media. It laid a good foundation to build on.
They scrapped it the next year.
A lot of sports games like Madden and NBA2K have shifted their Be A Pro modes to more than just the game, but living the life of a professional athlete. Now, with the addition of NHL Ones, it might not be in the cards for awhile, because they’ve struck gold with that. Sports games are going a certain direction with Be A Pro, and NHL is very behind.
I’ve never been a HUT player, so it wouldn’t be fair for me to review, but it’s dumb. There’s your review, don’t @ me.
The What in the Name of Holy Christ Were They Thinking with That?
It’s been written to death on Twitter, in reviews and just about everywhere else…the poke checking in this game is GARRRRRRRRBAAAAAAGEEEEEEEEEE.
During my brief foray into Online Versus, I met an opponent who chose to counter my choice of the Penguins with the Montreal Canadiens, bold move. My foe managed to take 20 (TWENTY!!!!) penalties throughout this game. Of those 20, 19 (!!!!!!!) of them were tripping from attempting to poke check a player.
Now, I’ve played against every dipshit in NHL that has an itchy poke check finger and it’s incredibly annoying. It needed fixed – not like this. EA has done phenomenal work striking the balance between video game fun and arcade nonsense with the NHL franchise. They went far too real with this one. Even so much as using your stick for good defensive positioning will lead to tripping calls if it gets in the way of a player. It’s maddening and takes away from what has been a largely enjoyable overhaul of the physics engine.
Here is to hoping with some upcoming tuner updates, they’ll fix this part.
Overall, NHL 19 may be the best version of this franchise to be released since they basically did a complete overhaul in 2009-2010 for NHL 10. There are game modes for all to enjoy from the new to the grizzled vets, the gameplay is smooth for the most part and there’s enough with Franchise Mode, HUT, Season and Be A Pro to keep people invested for more than just a few minutes.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to spend the rest of this Sunday building Shatten Kevinkirk.