Most sports game fans know how EA’s NHL series was neutered with the jump to next-gen. After spending a few years recovering, the developers have finally caught up with themselves and are now trying new things. NHL 18 saw the exciting and intense NHL Threes mode added, while this year NHL 19 sees the addition of World of Chel, and multiplayer hub that features a new mode called Ones that changes things up just as much has Threes.
NHL 19‘s Online is where the game has seen most of its improvements, and will please the hardcore community that loves to play with friends online as a team. That being said, I haven’t been able to get ample time with the game’s multiplayer yet, and would also like to see how it functions post-launch, so this review in progress will mainly focus on NHL 19’s single-player, which unfortunately is much less impressive.
Visually, the game has seen some notable improvements with RPM tech, and all of the included modes are incredibly well polished, but not much is new this year. Some of World of Chel‘s coolest modes are surprisingly excluded from NHL 19‘s single-player, which will make the game feel way to iterative for offline fans.
While the NHL series has still not made the jump to Frostbite as the developers want to keep all of the game’s features intact, NHL 19 still manages to look good. As usual, the official branding and announcers highlight a passion and attention to details from the developers perspective, and the new animations take out some of jank sports games can be notorious for. EA’s new Real Player Motion tech adds a bit more polish to the animations on quicker moves and body checks, which makes the hockey games look more realistic.
You still can’t escape the occasional odd character model or animation, but animations do look better, and the new outside rinks look nice as well. The same could be said about the rest of the single-player content. Some of the modes have received iterative tweaks and improvements but doesn’t stand out from NHL 18 much at all.
Play Now, Franchise, Shootout, Threes, and Be A Player all function like you would expect. When it comes to Franchise, there have been small tweaks to the Scouting Process to make it more engaging and in-depth, while Threes introduces a second Threes Circuit campaign for players to make their way through. For those who skipped a couple of years and have been waiting to jump back in, these modes will likely be appreciated at their fullest, but things will seem a bit too similar for returning players.
World of Chel features some cool new modes such as Pro Am and 1v1v1 mode Ones, and it finds it pretty shocking that these modes aren’t available offline. While I understand wanting to bolster the game’s online experience and keep people coming back, both would stand out among the other single player modes just like Threes did last year. It’s the mode where some of NHL 19‘s most significant introductions like outdoor rinks and extended customization are, so it’s unfortunate that these cool features are locked to those who play online.
NHL 19 takes its biggest strides in multiplayer, so offline focused or veteran players may come away a bit disappointed. From my time with the game so far, NHL 19 has proven itself to be the most polished, in-depth, and well rounded hockey game in years, but the lack of anything noteworthy to the offline experience will likely make the game feel too iterative if that’s what you like to play.
Of course, after I spend more time with NHL 19’s online features, you can expect a well-rounded review of the whole package. If you want to pick NHL 19 up before then on PS4 or Xbox One, you can do so on Amazon.
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