Are you ready for the next installment of the coolest game on Earth?
In August, I was invited by Electronic Arts to their New York City office to check out the newest installment of their Hockey franchise, NHL 18. You should check out my recap of the visit to their office as well but back to the review setup! Fast-forward to now with NHL teams in training camp mode and the season a few weeks away, what better way to get you going than checking out the full version of NHL 18! It’s time to drop the puck so get to your seats before the opening faceoff!
One of the new features of the NHL franchise this time around is the “Threes” mode where like in Overtime periods; teams are made up of three man units. You’ll be able to play the game to most goals or time limit; you’ll have a chance to decide that at the start of each game. You’ll have to figure out whom the best players on your favorite teams are to get the advantage in threes. You can also play the Campaign mode, with an already created team from scratch. Play with the ragtag group as you go across the league and play the different teams/leagues, unlocking different logos, uniforms, upgrades along the way.
You’ll gather stars during gameplay by your performance and the better you do the more you get. You will need stars to advance to the different leagues/divisions so you can get the best players/unlockables for your team. This mode is Hockey’s answer to NBA Jam with Money pucks and other pucks that do different things. You’ll also be able to play online against other people as well as co-op. If these things aren’t doing it for you, you’ll be able to play as your favorite mascots from your favorite teams in “Threes.” You’ll be able to play as N.J. Devil and all his friends from the rest of the Eastern conference against the Western conference mascots. Threes is a lot of fun but looks like it will take a lot of time to complete so it will give the game plenty of replay value.
As for the realistic Hockey modes that you love and crave, NHL 18 has them too! You’ll be able to play as the newest expansion franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural season. You’ll be able to re-expansion draft their roster or add a new 32nd franchise to the NHL and expansion draft them. You become the owner of the 32nd team and run everything about them. You design their arena, their logo, and their color scheme. You get put in the shoes of an NHL owner getting their hands on an expansion franchise and having to do everything they do. You will need to study how the morale of the team is doing as well as the morale of the fan-base, just like a real owner and General Manager do during the season. If the team isn’t scoring enough, what are you going to do about it? If the fans aren’t coming to the games, are you going to lower ticket prices/concessions? It’s up to you and think about this, I haven’t even mentioned playing Hockey yet!
Be a Pro Career Mode puts you in the role of a budding young star in an organization in the league. You can start out in the Memorial Cup/QMJHL to help your draft stock or you can select your team. To avoid being a New York Ranger (fate worse than anything, ha-ha) I assigned my created player to the Devils and started the preseason schedule with “Jersey’s Team!” You’re able to see the advice from the coaches before/after/during the game as well as simulate gameplay to your next shift is. Your player is graded with experience points/points to see how he can improve or how much of a team player is he. However, you lose points for doing frowned upon things or making negative plays, like taking penalties. I understand why the game disciplines you this way but I don’t think you should lose experience points in this fashion.
You stay on your point man and the other point man, who you’re not responsible for, comes down, scores, and you get deducted for not covering the point man. Another example of losing points unjustly is when I took a shot from the point when I had a player crashing the net/corner and lost points for taking a wild shot. Sometimes, the best option is putting the shot on net and having the guy crash for the rebound! Long story short, my player was sent down to Binghamton and for a few months now, the league knew they were the Binghamton Devils, not the Senators. Everything else is Devils but Doc Emrick still calls them the Senators. Something like this will need a patch at some point to fix!
The controls are very intuitive in the regard that some of the plays the A.I. does is something a living Hockey player would do. If my player cuts to the boards and the A.I. sees me making that cut, they’ll pass the puck to the boards. That wasn’t a possibility before and that allows for skilled players to set up more odd-man situations. The board battles are very realistic as well where you can fight in the corner and get into a scrap and then throw the puck back to the point, just like in a real game! The gameplay controls have some variety where you can play NHL 94 controls that are very simple to use. The 94 controls are basically one button assigned to one action and you don’t have to think too much about controls. There is also a hybrid control scheme where you can part simple controls, part skilled controls. What I mean by this is you can still have easy passing and shooting controls but also have the ability to perform dekes and other slick stick moves!
NHL 18 is the next installment in the NHL franchise from EA Sports and the “Threes” mode is one of the more fun things to happen to Hockey in years. Mascots playing alongside players was a nice surprise. However, there are moments where the game gets a two-minute minor penalty. (Be A Pro mode experience system/Binghamton Sens not Devs) It’s these reasons that I’m giving NHL 18 for the PlayStation 4 an 8.0/10. I would like to thank EA Sports for the review code.