EA Sports continue their new season of sports sims adding this year’s ice hockey extravaganza, NHL 18, to the line-up.
A favourite of mine, EA’s NHL series has been entertaining fans for nearly 25 years. Whilst the first current-gen iteration was a bit feature-poor, in subsequent years the franchise has gone from strength to strength.
The fast pace and sometimes vicious contact between players is what make EA Sports’ NHL games so exciting. It’s a game that has the depth of football, but the speed of basketball, all topped off with the brutality of rugby.
But, whilst every year I look forward to the new season of EA Sports title, it is with some apprehension. Are we getting something new this year or is it just a roster update?
NHL 18 misses out on the campaign modes that are currently en vogue amongst sports titles, which is a bit of a shame. In FIFA 17 and, most recently, Madden NFL 18, the single-player story campaign has given the games a more personal touch. Despite this disappointing omission, NHL 18 still brings enough to the table to make the latest entry in the franchise worth a look.
NHL 18 features all your usual play modes, allowing quick games, NHL seasons, franchise management and, of course, NHL Ultimate Team.
New for this year is NHL Threes. The three-on-three gameplay opens up the ice for faster-paced arcade-style action. You can play a multi-city tournament, a single game or against an online opponent.
Threes pits two team of three players plus goalkeepers against each other with the first to score seven points being the winner. Points are scored with each goal, but consecutive goals can score double points or even deduct the opponent’s points. This results in high scoring games with teams requiring consist performance to win. Action comes fast, with no face-off and penalties for infringements. The game continues with extra periods until one team hits the magic seven points.
Gameplay-wise there have been some tweaks. Players seem to move better on the ice, with more weight and the deke controls is bit more manageable. Of course, you can still go back to the NHL ’94 controls if you are feeling retro.
NHL 18 caters to newcomers via a very comprehensive set of training videos and interactive drills from Team Canada. These tutorials are essential if you’ve not played NHL before, and also a good revision tool if you’ve been away from the franchise for a while.
Visually, there’s not much difference from last year. This is perhaps due to NHL 18 still using EA’s Ignite engine. Madden NFL and FIFA have transitioned to the Frostbite engine, the same used to power most of EA Games’ other titles.
Whilst a graphical overhaul would have been nice, NHL 18 still features a slick TV-style presentation, complete with NBC branding and top commentary from Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk. NHL Threes, notably, features an extremely excitable un-named MC whose sole job is to work the crowd into a frenzy.
On the whole NHL 18 delivers. There’s still room for improvement in order to bring it up to the heights of its EA Sports stable-mates Madden NFL and FIFA. But, still, I enjoyed it and I think you will to.