NHL 19 Review
Despite being a Canadian, and despite loving the sport of hockey, I took a break from the annual NHL EA Sports release for the 2018 iteration, and during a year heavy with impressive titles from developers across the industry, it didn’t actually miss it that much. When EA Sports came to Toronto a few weeks ago, and a few of my colleagues were able to attend, they couldn’t stop raving about the improvements to NHL 19, so we reached out and thanks to EA Sports, received a copy to review!
This review was carried out on an Xbox One X provided by Xbox Canada.
Sports games have almost never receive a fair shake from anyone but the hard core, often being brushed off as “paying $59.99 for updated rosters” and so often, this is actually the case. Even within the NHL franchises, fans went through years of lackluster improvements. To do a side by site comparison, I borrowed a copy of NHl 18 to see what has changed, and to their credit, EA Sports has developed the best hockey game ever released on console, and perhaps even the best sports game I’ve ever played.
The accessibility of the game is what makes it so easily recommendable to my friends and family, and of course to you the readers. Whether you are an avid fan who spends countless hours with the game, or someone who would rather casually play on weekends, or when friends are over, there is something in NHL 19 just right for you. Even those who aren’t as proficient on the ice, have lots to love when playing the game off the ice. How you might ask? Let’s dive in.
For the Casual Fan
For the casual fan, NHL 19 brings back the NHL THREES mode that was so popular in NHL 18, and also adds a brand new mode to the mix, NHL ONES! In ONES, rules go by the wayside and players can hit the ice in an all out battle for supremacy. 1 v 1 v 1 allows players to rely on their own skills, or their own ability to bend the rules in their favour. Want to hack a guy down and steal the puck? That’s possible. Think that a body check that sends your opponent head first into the boards is a good idea? That’s possible too.
There are no rules in NHL ONES, which means you can do whatever you need to, in order to put the puck in the net. The mode is fun, it’s fast, and only has one major drawback: it cannot be played locally like NHL THREES. While a minor issue, I would have loved to busy out NHL ONES at a party or family gathering, but unfortunately that isn’t possible.
Both THREES and ONES fall under the NHL World of Chel mode, which will give you great customization options over your player, give you tasks to complete in order to unlock new gear to outfit your player with.
Be a Pro mode is back, and a great place for casual fans who aren’t ready for the EASHL mode to play in a single-player environment. Once you’ve built your pro, you can opt to begin in the Canadian Hockey League, or instead play the prerequisite junior games to determine your rankings in the NHL draft. Either way is fine, although one does allow you to fast track your progress towards playing for an NHL franchise.
Those Looking for Fun Off the Ice
While every mode in NHL 19 requires at least some on-ice activity, EA Sports has added modes that focus a bit more on off-ice jobs and task. Franchise mode is an insanely deep mode that allows you to build a new expansion team from the ground up. In 2019, the developers have placed an extra emphasis on drafting, giving user the ability to hire up to 20 pro and amateur scouts to find the best talenet the hockey world has to offer.
With varying degrees of skills in specific areas, having a good balance of scouts in each region of the world will help you as manager make the proper decisions come draft day. From scouting players to managing the off-ice affairs of your team, there is a lot going on in Franchise mode that will definitely appeal to those who like to go behind the scenes of an NHL franchise. Make smart financial decisions, scout good talent, and try to win championships, all the while maintaining a successful organization!
The other mode with a fair amount of off-ice things to do is Hockey Ultimate Team. Although one of the more polarizing modes available in NHL 19 – thanks to micro transactions – it’s likely the mode in NHL 19 that I enjoy the most. Any hard core sports fan has collected cards at one point in their lives, and EA Sports gives you an outlet to do that, while building your own team. Users will play hockey games and complete challenges to earn coins, which can then be spent on packs of cards, ranked by Bronze, Silver and Gold.
Compared to previous iterations of this mode, HUT in NHL 19 is very generous with the coin destruction; some 6 minute challenges can quickly net you over 2000 coins, and when you notice that the Gold Ultimate Pack is only 15,000, it wouldn’t take much time to reach that coin threshold!
The Best of the Best
Not every mode in NHL 19 is going to be for everyone, and this is most true of the insanely popular EASHL mode. Here, players will team up with friends online to create their own team, where each players controls one of the six guys on the ice, and enters a league where they take on other teams. This is truly where the best of the NHL video game world live, honing their skills and putting them to the test against the best the world has to offer. In my brief time with this mode, I got wrecked timed and time again, and I’m not sure my team mates…er ex team mates…will want me back anytime soon!
The modes are what keep you coming back to NHL 19, but other major improvements behind the scenes are also pushing this game to the max. The most noticeable improvement year over year, is the enhanced skating abilities. Regardless of which mode you choose to play, new more realistic skating mechanics will propel you up and down the ice with ease, reacting more to your touch. It’s more realistic, and much more enjoyable as well.
Outside of the lack of local play for NHL ONES, this is easily the best package EA Sports has every put together. Even when compared to other sports franchises – Madden, NBA, etc. – none of those provide the number of features and modes to be as accessible as NHL 19. If you enjoy a game of hockey every now and then, pick this up. You won’t be disappointed!