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Reviewing EA Sports’ NHL 18

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EA Sports is back with their latest addition to the NHL video game franchise. Let’s take a look at how they did.

EA Sports released their latest video game installment of the NHL franchise with NHL 18 on September 15th. Good timing: I just recently purchased a new Xbox One S back in July after not having one for the past few years. I had an Xbox 360 for many years but then all of a sudden, the disk tray stopped working. But that’s a story for another time.

I had bought the EA Sports NHL franchise for several years, but the last one I purchased before the disk tray incident was NHL 12 with Steven Stamkos as the front cover.

So it’s been awhile.

But here I am with an NHL 18 preview, nonetheless. Sit back and enjoy:


Graphics/Presentation

The visual aspects of this game continue to amaze. With realistic faces, game play animations that mirror the NHL and in game visuals that leave you stunned, the visual aspects of this game far outperform any predecessor. I’d recommend, however, definitely trying to play the game on a larger screen for the full effect.

This is my first year playing the NHL franchise after NBC Sports took over some of the in-game visuals. The visuals and graphics themselves make it seem like you’re actually watching a Wednesday Night Rivalry game with “live look-ins” to Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk in the booth. Having a major broadcasting company like NBC insert their visuals into the game gives it an authentic experience.

The only complaint I have is the lack of “ummph” behind Emrick’s voice. We all love him for his ability to make an otherwise somber 1-0 game into a masterpiece with his use of colorful vocabulary. In the game, however, he simply just says “waffleboarded” instead adding that hint of excitement in his voice. Something to consider moving forward.

Category Score: 9.7/10


Game Modes

This year’s edition of the NHL franchise welcomes the new 3 on 3 game mode that adds an arcade twist to the current overtime format. The user can play with the best three players each team has to offer and can even play with mascots. “Money pucks” are also added to the format which can count as multiple goals for one shot or take away goals from your opponent. It adds an interesting perspective to the game but may not be exactly what die hard fans were looking for when there were other things to be addressed.

Franchise mode is...interesting. You can now add an expansion draft and completely customize your new team. This experience can be rewarding for the user but it is quite time consuming.

I consistently play franchise mode across all sports games. To me, it brings a sense of excitement creating your own reality in taking your team on a Cup run or playing with a bad team and turning them into a competitor. Pro tip: don’t play with the Vegas Golden Knights. Year one is rough and they will blow many leads. Wonder if this will become a reality.

However, many things don’t match up in this game. For one, Victor Rask is listed as a “rookie skater.” It’s near impossible to make a trade within the game mode unless you severely overpay. Ratings, generally, simply don’t make much sense. I may be a bit biased, but how can a winger (Jeff Skinner) who scored 37 goals last season not be within the top 10 in ratings and has little “trade value” according to them? Seems puzzling. Maybe some of the ratings or minor issues with the game will be fixed in a future update.

The many inconsistencies can become a bit bothersome and for this, the score for game modes suffers.

Category score: 7/10


Gameplay

Overall, the gameplay feels a lot different since the last time I was able to get my hands on a copy of the game. Smoother skating controls and pinpoint passing make bringing the puck up ice a lot easier.

However, the new “defensive skill stick” that the franchise is trying to sell you on isn’t all that great. Often, you are caught just redirecting the puck to another opponent or end up with the stick in between a players legs and find yourself in the penalty box.

For the life of me, I can’t win puck battles in the corners. Either my player will completely skate by the puck and miss it, or they will get outmuscled in the corner. Sometimes I even win the puck battle then turn it over. Maybe I’m just bad. (Let me know in the comments.)

Goalies seem to be most easily beaten by one-timers, slap shots and breakaways. A simple wrist shot may have a hard time finding its way into the net, even when controlling one of the game’s top players. Your goalie won’t be your savior no matter what difficulty the game is set on, but they may be just good enough to help you win.

Category score: 6.7/10


Final Thoughts

I can see many differences between the 2012 and 2018 editions of the franchise. The visual aspects of the game and many game modes can be fun to play for the casual gamer. However, some of the game is still hindered by problems that can be easily fixed. A better Be-A-Pro experience should be a priority for the franchise moving forward. Madden made a big stride with its new Longshot game mode and a cinematic experience would be a cool edition for the NHL.

Is the game worth your hard earned money? In my opinion, yes. There are definitely faults to it, but overall, it is still refreshing enough and there are plenty game modes available to fit your style.

That’s enough from me. Let’s hear from you! Let us know in the comments your initial thoughts of NHL 18!