Within the maelstrom of game releases over the last month or so, EA Sports launched NHL 19. FutureFive's Darren Price belatedly hits the ice to check it out.
EA's NHL 19, far from being just the usual annual stats update, actually bring even more plays to play Ice Hockey on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
World of CHEL (from N-AY-CHEL- yeah, I had to look that up), introduces a new progression system allowing player to take their character from zero to hero. Across multiple modes, players can level up their custom character and win special gear and attributes.
Completing in outdoor rinks, Ones is an online mode that pits three players against one another in a point-scoring free-for-all. Threes is a fast arcade-style 3-on-3 competition that plays a little-loser with hockey rules.
Hockey Ultimate Team returns, offering an engaging alternative way to play NHL 19. Virtually identical to the Ultimate Team modes across all of EA Sports' title, HUT is part collectable card game, part fantasy hockey league. Players get to create their own team by collecting and trading cards featuring players, gear and boosts. You can play offline or against other players online for points that you can used to buy more card packs.
If you want you can also buy points using real money to create your Ultimate Team. I've got to say, I'm not a fan of this. It's a precursor to the infamous pay-to-win/gambling-by-another-name loot crate situation that doesn't seem to have garnered the same level of scrutiny.
The visuals are superb. There's not much change from the look of last year's game, but there's no need to fix what's not broken. The outside rinks are nice addition.
Gameplay is fluid and clean. The analogue stick and movement controls are intuitive and I never felt like they were working against me. In no time you'll have your players deftly skating across the ice. If you need help, there is a raft of training videos and drills to get you up to speed.
Just as in real life, matches can be brutal affairs with NHL 19 providing some satisfying tackles that'll send your opponents flying across the ice. Be careful with those tackles, though, as it doesn't take much for the gloves to come off and the fists start flying.
NHL 19 also features loads of returning ways to play, offering something for everyone. You can take your favourite team to glory in Franchise Mode, follow an individual player in Be a Pro Career or just play a straight season in Season Mode. Then there's playoffs, shootouts and Champions Hockey League rounding off a feature-packed package.
NHL 19 is another premier sports title from EA that looks and plays fantastically. With loads of modes, online and offline, hockey fans and newcomers, alike, will have a great time with the game.