For a long time and across multiple disciplines, EA Sports has made some of the very best sports games, and among them is the NHL series, which was the best of the best a few years back. With the transition to the current generation of consoles, however, the studio's ice hockey games endured a major setback and have received a lot of criticism. With NHL 19 they hope to take back the throne and it wouldn't surprise us if they did just that.
Ever since the parody of a game that NHL 15 was, EA has struggled to satisfy their fans in the hockey genre. NHL 16 was a positive release solely because of how bad its predecessor was, but the development since then hasn't been as good as it might have been, culminating in the 8/10 we awarded last year's NHL 18. Now, with NHL 19, we're starting to see promising signs that we might be returning to the golden days.
We'll start with the most important aspect. The skating mechanics have gotten a total overhaul this year after getting feedback from players (mostly the EA Gamechangers). The game has felt slow for several years which really hasn't mirrored the fact that ice hockey is the fastest team sport in the world. EA has really sharpened their skates the correct way this year and everything seems to flow so much better. Instead of having to spend two seconds making a sharp turn, we are now able to make razor-sharp turns just like in real life. This makes the game faster and much better than it has been for many years.
Most sports games have online play as their most popular modes, but there are also fans like us who really appreciate good single-player activities. The franchise mode has also gotten an overhaul this year, which we assume will inspire more people to try it out. A new scouting system gives us much more control of which talents to scout for in the upcoming entry draft, but it doesn't end there. We also have to scout players within the league to get an idea of how good they are if we want to make a trade, for example. Without scouting the San Jose Sharks at all the whole season, we won't know how good of a player Erik Karlsson is and what his value is if we want to trade for him. This gives the mode a whole new dimension which several sports games have been longing for for years. The fact that NHL is the first franchise to bring this into their game is very satisfying for us as hockey fans.
Speaking of game modes, EA has introduced World of Chel this season. And for anyone wondering, "Chel" is the lingo used for NHL around the society lately, like it or not... Several modes have been added to this group of ways to play. The good old EASHL, NHL Threes, and drop-in games are now all a part of World of Chel, and new modes like Ones and Pro-Am have also been added. We'll get back to those two modes soon, but first, we have to take a look at something that goes across the whole World of Chel, the appearance. We are able to choose one set of clothing for casual play, and another for pro play. The pro play clothing is used for EASHL club games only, and casual clothing for the rest of the modes. It's the casual part that is the new and most interesting thing, as we are able to choose from jackets, parkas, jerseys and hoodies along with jeans and hats. Sound emotes are also customisable for when you score a goal, make a big hit or a big save, which really personalises the experience. There are a ton of various clothes and sounds to choose from, and there is likely to be more added later.
Even though there are a lot of changes we can make in terms of our clothing and equipment, there still is the same old 211 male and 18 female preset heads to choose from appearance wise. Several of these also look pretty much the same so the total number of choices is actually much lower. EA has clearly not spent any time renewing this part of the game, but to be fair - it's not the most important part either.
Back to game modes and Ones will likely be popular, for a little while at least. Three players face off against each other with the goal of scoring against a neutral goalie. There is a lot of variety in this mode as we may be just as good as a small dangler as we are with a big bad enforcer. The games are played on ponds all over the countryside, and this makes the whole experience pretty charming. We still have a feeling that this will end up pretty much like NHL Threes when it was introduced in NHL 18, which was popular for a few weeks before people stopped playing it.
Pro-Am is the single player version of three-on-three hockey. Likes Ones, the games are played outside where we team up with two NHL players (and a goalie) to face another team consisting of NHL players. It's set up kind of like a career path, where you play the easy games first before moving up to the tougher opponents. The games are usually played with a lot of speed and intensity, as there are no rules like offside and icing to hold the play back. Pro-Am was also our first meeting with the new and improved AI in NHL 19. EA has really listened to The Great One, Wayne Gretzky, when he says "I'm playing where the puck is going to be", as they pass the puck while reading game situations and our movements on the ice. This is one of the things we've missed in previous versions of the game.