Summertime. The birds are chirping, the sky is blue and it’s almost time for a new NHL video game. Tonight at the NHL Awards, EA Sports will reveal to us all NHL 20. A very interesting thing with this game is that we’ve had zero news from anyone on this game, not even a teaser trailer. Nothing.
The secrecy over this game makes me think that a true revolutionary overhaul is coming to the series, but before we get into that, let us step back a little bit and look at NHL 19.
Last summer, I had the pleasure of once again going to Burnaby on a press tour of the game at EA Vancouver. I was able to sit down with the game’s creative director William Ho as he showed me a trailer and few still images of the upcoming game.
A few of the things that stood out to me were offered and delivered included…
Legends-In my time at EA only a couple of legends we’re shown to me such as Wayne Gretzky and Maurice Richard. I knew there would be more legends coming but the sheer amount was staggering. In all the NHL and NHL Alumni combined to provide the game with 271 legends ranging from the Gretzkys and the Messiers to names like Curtis Joseph, Pat Lafontaine, Mats Sundin and so many more.
For the OilersRig readers of a certain age, names like Marty Reasoner, Mathieu Garon, and Todd Marchant got in the game too!
Better skating-Real Player Motion Tech or RPM Tech for short. The technology here to me made skating in the game more responsive and much more realistic as the EA team went out and for example, captured the skating of Connor McDavid to help get things a little more realistic.
RPM Tech also made hits to me feel a bit more real, you didn’t see too often little guys steamrolling big guys somehow unless they were off balance when I played.
Ones-The 1 vs 1 vs 1 mode. A free for all mode gave another fun offering for us who like arcade style gameplay along with NHL Threes. The ability to step up from playing in a parking lot with a small crowd to moving onto the big stage with thousands with more gear to unlock was motivation to keep playing this mode.
The World of CHEL’s staples being Ones and playing online gave me a chuckle with the fact that you’re playing in casual gear in a full-contact game. I wouldn’t advise that in real life.
Moving forward now for NHL 20, what do I want to see revealed?
A True Story Mode
A mode that looks at a player(s) journey through high school, college the minors to the pros has been in every other sports game except hockey. Story modes have been somewhat hit or miss but I’ve always thought they’ve been a fun look and how tough the grind can be to make it to the pros, even if some have been a bit silly.
A story mode in the NHL series could start even before the CHL, I’d love to see either high school hockey or any of the CJHL leagues (AJHL as an example) in the game as the starting point for a player as they try to reach the next level. Story modes also have a healthy amount of off-ice content, it would be cool dealing with family, friends, agents, team staff and even fans to influence where a player will go in a draft. A story mode could also see a player partake in events like the combine, NHL Awards or how about heading to Dominic Moore’s Smashfest ping pong tournament?
The inclusion of all legends teams (All-Time West, All-Time East, All-Time Grit, Local Legends, and the ultimate All-Time All-Star team) was fun but this year I’d love to see it stepped up even more.
I know it can be hard to license every single player on historic rosters but how cool would it be if we had the 1984 Oilers, the 1991 Penguins or any of the 1960s or 1970s Habs teams in the game? To make this feel even more authentic, the presentation needs to feel like it’s set in the time period, make the camera a little grainy or in black and white, have the era-specific team logos on the ice and limited or no ads on the boards depending on what team you’re playing at home with.
The NHL All-Star Weekend
For as long as I can remember NHL All-Star teams have been in the EA series but never the full weekend, I think it’s about time that this finally makes a debut in the series. I’d love to see the ability to either play the whole weekend or just an individual event possible with the ability to take it online and share it. Who would say no being able to partake in the fastest skater online with someone else or the hardest shot event?
The ability to play NHL Ones Offline
In my time at EA I was able to get my hands on this game mode with William and Ones is pretty much absolute chaos. A 1 vs 1 vs 1 battle was a fun change of pace to the series but the one drawback that I had was there’s no way to play it locally. Ones domination online is a fun thing to accomplish but what about just having some friends over and beating them locally in a smaller league or tournament? You may not always be able to go online so just being able to play it with the people sitting beside you or just on your own against the CPU to get better would be a welcome addition.
The Frostbite Engine
Fans have been clamoring this for quite some time. If you’re looking at this and wondering what the heck is the Frostbite engine allow me to explain. Frostbite is the point of contact between the software code written by EA and the code written by Playstation and Xbox. Frostbite has received praise for how realistic it has made environments and players look in such games like FIFA and Madden. The engine that the NHL games use, EA Ignite is a step behind that while it still gets the job done you can see it’s still a little behind the other EA Sports games when it comes to looks.
Showing off an overhauled graphics engine would go quite aways in giving the only hockey game on the market a fresh start.
NHL 19 was a solid game but now the series needs to make the next jump not just to hang with FIFA and Madden but going into the next console generation be a big name player in the market. Here’s hoping we see that jump tonight.