Time to end the Hockey withdrawals of the summer with NHL 18!
I love the coolest game on Earth, and jumped at the opportunity when EA Sports invited me to check out the newest installment of the NHL franchise. I received the Beta for PS4 to play so I had been working on my stickhandling before hand so I wouldn’t be rusty when meeting with the developers. The Beta version was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of available gameplay so “we” (I’ll touch on that in a little bit) were able to see full versions of “Threes” as well as the updated gameplay. Player introductions are over so let’s go to center ice for the opening faceoff!
Three on three overtime has been one of the most exciting rule changes the National Hockey League has introduced in recent years. The minute I heard that there was going to be mode dedicated to three on three, I knew it was going to really fun and action packed. “Threes” is EA’s answer to making Hockey fun for the casual fan as well as the diehards. Sean Ramjagsingh,Senior Producer of NHL 18 stated that the “Threes” mode could be compared the NBA Jam in reference to the arcade style of play. Ramjagsingh also mentioned that “what could their “On Fire” mechanic be referencing NBA Jam and that’s where the Money Puck comes in. Multiple goals are scored for one team but at the same time, goals are subtracted from the team that gave up the goal.
This mode is all about crazy gameplay and what better way to show that than by bringing in the mascots! There are two teams of mascots from each conference to play with and I played with the Eastern conference Mascots. Since I’m a Devils fan I had to play with my guy N.J. Devil! “Threes” has a few control modes to choose from and the same control settings can be used for the full gameplay mode. You can play with the Skill Stick controls for skillful dekes but I only recommend that if you really know the controls.
If you aren’t that familiar with them, the Hybrid control setting might be a better option, where you have simpler passing and shooting controls but you can still perform the new dekes. Then you have the NHL 94 control settings. Any Hockey video game fan will tell you that NHL 94 is the greatest Hockey video game ever so why wouldn’t the controls from it be an option? The year is 1994 so you have simple controls and by simple I mean shoot, check, and pass; the 90’s were such an easier time! I found myself using the Hybrid controls during the hands-On and when I switched from the Skill Stick, I was able to take over the game. The Skill Stick controls are more complicated but really show just how realistic this version of NHL 18 is! You’ll also have the option to play Threes online so you’ll have to practice so you don’t get pulled after the second period.
Next up was a full game between the New Jersey Devils and the Nashville Predators. As I mentioned earlier, NHL 18 has some of the most realistic controls and graphics I’ve seen in a Hockey game, complete with the Preds fans at the Prudential Center and the Devils authentic Goal Horn (I’m a stickler for things like the Goal Horn being authentic) One of the more interesting things mentioned in the meeting was that the A.I. was going to be smarter and during the hands-on, you could really see it. What I mean by that is the computer players wouldn’t pass to you if you were covered like they would in the past. Having the option to pass to a certain area or off the boards shows how far Hockey video games have come. You would never have been able to pass to a certain spot or off the boards “on purpose” in the past but NHL 18 allows that this year. Controls like this open up all kinds of possibilities for you to set up scoring chances. It also should make it easier, if performed properly, to exit your zone with speed and rush into the neutral zone.
You also will have full control of your stick while playing with the Defensive Skill Stick that allows you to aim your stick while skating. You’ll be able to cover a zone with your stick while skating through your defensive area, getting ready to poke check and steal the puck. During gameplay, the game will notify you when you do good things as well as bad things. For example, it will let you know if you made a good pass or a good poke check but at the same time, it will let you know if you made a bad call in stepping in with a defender for a hit that resulted in an odd-man rush. Learn to master the art of the poke check without taking a penalty, something I had trouble doing in the presentation but my Devils Penalty Kill was on point for the win!
Now, I mentioned I had a guest with me at EA Sports at the NYC office. He’s a big Hockey fan too as well as a big Devils fan. Please welcome my Brother, Jim, to GamerHub.TV in the “Second Opinions” section.
Second Opinions- Jim Tyminski
The option to switch to hybrid controls is a nice feature. The hybrid controls simplify the game a bit for less experienced players without squeezing all of the fun out of it. The player can chose to use the controller buttons to shoot and pass, but still retains the ability to pull of some of the cool new dekes using the right stick.
NHL 18 gave me credit where credit was due by acknowledging and rewarding my superbly executed poke checks and shot blocks. But I liked that it also chastised me for ill-advised body checks that left me out of position and surrendering odd-man rushes the other way.
The "Threes" mode dispenses with any semblance of NHL hockey realism, so it's not for everyone. But it provides something that's been missing from recent EA hockey games: A fun, pick-up-and play game experience for friends to enjoy. EA's comparisons to titles like NBA Jam are not far off. Features like "money pucks" (worth three goals) and goals that reduce your opponent's score keep things interesting even if there's a skills gap between the players.
I would like to thank EA for inviting my brother and I to their NYC offices to see NHL 18 and the “Threes” gameplay mode. The game releases September 15th.