NHL 20 Review
While many criticize EA Sports for releasing similar games year after year, it was the small quality of life improvements and additions to fantastic modes like CHEL brought into NHL 20 that made me realize that upgrading from 19 to 20 was a must. While things aren’t perfect, and there is definitely room for growth, NHL 20 is a must own for hockey fans of all ages.
The ‘regular’ modes you’ve come to love in EA Sports titles are slowly but surely taking a back seat to the newer and more improved modes that the development team is obviously putting the bulk of resources into, most notably into World of CHEL and Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT). Add in an improved franchise mode, and there is no shortage of things to do in NHL 20!
World of CHEL
World of CHEL has always been a popular mode ever since it was introduced into EA’s NHL experience, and the development team has meshed this pond hockey experience with one of video games most dominate genres: battle royale.
If you are skeptical on how sports games fit into the battle royale formula, be skeptical no more. NHL 20 introduces 1 v 1 v 1 battles to World of CHEL, and has taken those 3 player games and dumped them into an 81 team tournament. Win and move on, lose and you are out. While it’s not battle royale as you might think – no, you won’t be offing fellow hockey players with hard rubber pucks and sticks-turned-into-weapons – it actually captures the spirit of what the genre is really well. And these games get intense! From attempting to send games to overtime when you are losing, to celebrating that last minute goal that gave you the victory, many of the emotions I’ve felt playing shooter battle royale titles are mimicked when playing NHL 20.
And players are good – like real battle royale games, don’t expect to finish #1 every time. The more you play, the higher your rank. It’s a simple formula that will allow you to instantly see what type of competition you are up against, and also matters for matchmaking, guaranteeing you are playing with people who have a similar skill set to your own.
Outside of the 1v1v1 experience, CHEL also brings in new items, new celebrations, and so much more, giving you more of a reason to play CHEL than ever before.
Hockey Ultimate Team
For the most part, Hockey Ultimate Team remains much the same as it has for a few releases now, but small quality of life improvements have made the mode better than ever. This time around, it seems that pricing has been lowered a bit, making packs of cards more obtainable, and increasing the odds of 80+ players (although those 83+ players are still elusive). The entire menu has been streamlined in terms of load times, which has been a MAJOR improvement in my opinion.
When completing sets, for example, you can now instantly search your collection and fill the entire roster of slots, without having to click each spot, find the card, and insert it. This saves a ton of time, and silly little load times that make finishing sets incredibly frustrating.
The inclusion of squad battles is also really fun, giving you a chance to play against other players HUT teams offline, earning points in a tournament setting, and scoring great rewards depending on how high up you finish. This is another way EA Sports is giving you more cards, at a faster pace, lowering the desire to spend real money on ‘fake’ cards!
While other modes in NHL 20 are starting to show their age – cough Be a Pro cough – it’s great to see the development team beef up the modes players are diving into the most, and this definitely applies to Franchise Mode. With more options than ever before, running an NHL franchise has never been more in depth, and for that matter, more fun.
If you thought the learning curve for Franchise Mode was steep before, wait until you take the new coaching features for a spin. Things got just a little more intense, which may be a barrier for some who have never jumped into this experience before. Now all the coaches are impacted by a variety of circumstances and decisions you made; in the past, it was all about the head coach, but now players have full reign over the entire coaching roster!
The Little Tweaks
EA Sports NHL 20 is probably the last NHL title that will release on the current console generations – unless the company opts to release on 4 platforms for NHL 21. Still, they’ve found little ways to tweak the experience and make it better for the end user. It begins with new commentators in the booth. While Doc was always great to listen to, only Ray Ferraro was retained for NHL 20, joined in the booth by Vancouver personality James Cybulski. There are promises of guest commentators in the booth from time-to-time as well, but I’ve yet to see it!
From there, the development team tweaked what happens on the ice, and for the better. Players now accept passes in stride more smoothly, allowing the defense-to-offense transition to happen more accurately, as reflected in the real NHL. The other major change was the introduction of signature shots for big NHL personalities, as well as improved shot animations all around. No more junky looking shots – everything looks smooth, and while you still might wiff on a puck or two, it will look right when it happens!
While reading and listening to reviews since the launch of NHL 20, the common quote that comes up time and time again is, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” That really seems to be the case for NHL 20. While I would have liked the development team to add a bit more flare to the Be A Pro mode, I’m really excited about the additions and tweaks that have been made. Even if you own NHL 19, investing in NHL 20 is a must in our opinion!