Few sports hit harder than ice hockey, unfortunately outside of its core fan base the NHL games haven’t managed their own big hits. So has this years offered anything different?
When you review as many sports titles as I do, you start to feel like you’re repeating yourself. It’s part of the genre however, all sports titles at their core offer similar modes, experiences and yearly updates. What sets them aside is the sport themselves, different field sizes, different balls, different number of guys on the court/pitch/field at once. So when it comes to doing the reviews, much like the developers it’s finding differences in the modes, it’s finding that small thing that stands Be a Pro out from MyCareer.
Be A Pro mode allows you to choose not only where your career goes but where it starts. From fighting for draft position in the Memorial Cup, earning the #1 pick via the CHL or dropping straight in to the team of choice. NHL 19 leaves that decision to you and for the gamer who wants to get into it quickly, that’s the perfect decision. Progress in Be a Pro is determined by a skill tree, suitable for the progression tiers it allows you to focus on the areas best suited to your play style.
Taking a page out of the NBA games is World of Chel mode, the online version of Be A Pro where you compete with and against other games from around the world in various game setups. My one issue here is that we create a new player for this mode rather than using our Be A Pro player, it’s a small detail on the surface but would encourage gamers to explore the modes more. Just be sure to have at least one run of this mode and each variation inside of it, especially the free for all ONES. The rest of the modes are your stock standards, you’ve got franchise mode and ultimate team to tie you over once the Be A Pro modes are complete. You’ve also got the champions hockey league and shootout modes to pass time when all you want is a quick moment.
Modes aside the most important aspect of a good sports title is control, does it pull you in and make you feel like the player? The shooting mechanics and body checking if left to the standard option are quick to pick up and flow well. If you’re more of a casual player the option is there to bring it all the way back to NHL 94 with a simple two button scheme or fit in somewhere in the middle with a hybrid setup.
The soundtrack is always depended on your own musical taste, however the sounds of the players gliding across the ice and bodies hitting the glass are something we can all appreciate. You hear each hit whether it’s the sticks, two bodies or a puck smacking against the goals. They’ve presented it all with realism and there is no mistaking just how close your shot was when you hear that clink.
Visually it’s got it’s ups and downs, on close inspection a few players faces do look a little ‘rubber’ but then with the speed of the game who has time to notice? The crowds are one area the NHL series can be proud, none of them look cardboard and the camera cuts to the crazies dancing on their seats gives it a real television feel.
While this doesn’t stand out as a the prime title in the sporting genre, it does stand above the previous years as the best NHL title to date. It offers everything the fan could want and even adds in modes I didn’t think I wanted but loved once I played. Even those who don’t watch the sport on a regular basis will find something here to entertain them, for me it’s going to be that moment I hoist the Stanley Cup up as high as I can celebrating not just another LA Kings victory but a nice solid 4 Thumbs up for NHL 19.
Will Muscat is an avid gamer and has been gaming for many years, from playing on an Amstrad that his dad found at the tip to his Xbox one now. Will enjoys plenty of variety in the games he plays and while he can be found in the world of Gears of War and Halo, he can also be found writing letters to RARE asking for another Jet Force Gemini.