Review: NHL 19

Every year we see new iterations into sports game franchises, but they continually only tend to work on improving gameplay aspects that have already been developed within previous titles. The idea of experimenting to create new and exciting gameplay features can result in worrisome thoughts on how the community will respond. It is true that if something is not broken then you should not fix it, but something new has to first be created to see if it requires fixing. This year’s release of NHL 19 focuses on bringing the gaming community together in their new online World of Chel mode where players will undoubtedly spend countless hours exploring what it has to offer.

Major updates within NHL 19 are focused on improving the overall performance, interaction, and pacing as it is easily noticeable the first time you tie your skates and hit the ice. These improvements fall under the implementation of Real Player Motion (RPM) Technology that delivers an immersive experience that reflects the realism of player movement and their interactions from the NHL. A player’s skating, speed, stick handling, and the ability to quickly turn and recover, are greatly improved by RPM Technology and it offers up a more defined NHL experience. The collision system was also improved as every hit offers a satisfying feeling while watching the players fall to the ice. Stick manipulation, deking, and the ability to deliver perfectly placed shots will take some time to get used to, but the training modes offered will help you develop and fine-tune your skills to fully appreciate these new features and increase your dominance within the World of Chel.

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NHL 19 continues to experiment and expand the franchise’s experience with innovative game modes that incorporate the community as a whole with the World of Chel. Here we see the return of EASHL and last year’s Threes, which includes a fast-paced 3v3 arcade hockey where players can quickly jump in for a multiplayer match. Pro-Am is an offline mode where players will go up against legendary players who should offer up an increased difficulty level as you progress, but unfortunately do not. The most notable implementation is awarded to the newest game mode ONES. Not only does ONES feature every man for himself type gameplay, but it also takes a detour from showcasing the gameplay from within a hockey arena and instead delivers a refreshing visual presentation by playing on outdoor skating rinks across Canada.

There are no rules within ONES as your only objective is to outscore your two opponents to be crowned the victor. Every victory will get you closer to competing in daily challenges for exclusive content, but with each victory also comes increased difficulty as you will continually move up the tiered system which will present you with more skilled opponents. My initial concern with venturing into the online skating rinks was the overall difficulty as my skill level is prone to constant defeats, but I was pleasantly surprised that I still managed to score goals and even be victorious at times. The pressure that is brought about in ONES’ overtime can also instantly change to sheer excitement as you score the game winner. EA Vancouver even kept each game time limited, which was a wise decision as it will either be enough time to become the reigning champion, or to put a halt on skilled opponents running up the score and taking the fun out of it. The amount of time invested by the team to bring this mode to reality will be thanked daily as players invest their own time to enjoy the experience.

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Playing any game mode within the World of Chel will grant you experience points which awards you hockey bags upon leveling up. These bags contain over nine hundred customizable items that players can equip to bring their own individual styles onto the ice. All items are purely cosmetic and grant no edge over another player’s skill set. However, leveling up will also reward players with various traits and specialties that will improve their competitiveness such as increasing their toughness, shot accuracy, and the ability to initiate rushes with successful passing.

World of Chel offers up countless hours of enjoyment, but the arcade playstyle may frustrate some hardcore players who prefer to see more refined alterations to the simulation based NHL experience that they have come to love. The single-player Franchise, Season, and Ultimate Team modes continue to deliver an engaging experience where fans will lose track of time due to the amount of content available in each mode. New additions such as the fog of war in the Franchise mode enhances the immersive experience as it gave players a better look at the realistic nature around trading players.

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My only complaints with NHL 19 revolves around the continual calling of penalties to every poke check that was made in offline gameplay and repetitive commentary within the ONES mode. The issue of constant penalties stems from enjoying the ONES mode as there are no rules as you diligently work to knock your opponents to the ice by any means necessary to steal possession of the puck. However, shifting to the Season mode resulted in constant penalties as my gameplay from ONES carried over, resulting in constant frustration as I was always defending from 5 on 3 powerplays. The commentary in ONES was also distracting at times as it was very repetitive and sometimes did not represent the current actions on the ice.

Risk taking with new innovative features is always a difficult undertaking, but EA Vancouver’s execution of the World of Chel and the ONES mode resulted in a successful experience that fans will greatly appreciate as they relive their childhoods of playing on various outdoor ponds. NHL 19 comes highly recommended as it has an enormous amount of content, both offline and online, for fans and newcomers to enjoy.

You can follow me on Twitter at @DaveMolinski

[A copy of the game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]