Michael Leparc On November 3, 2017 at 3:06 pm


Last year NHL 17 won us over by bringing back all the things hockey fans missed most from NHL 16, franchise mode, online leagues, etc. So this year NHL 18 faces a much tougher task trying to convince you to buy it for reasons other than roster updates. How does it do? Well let’s take a look.

First of all, the graphics engine is pretty much untouched for this one, so don’t expect any amazing upgrade in visuals, not that they were really lacking since the transition to this generation. Even the presentation is pretty much par for the course as it hasn’t really been updated with many new commentary lines, if any, and the same NBC branding with the usual suspects Eddie Olczyk and Mike Emrick appearing before the game. It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault but it’s definitely gotten stale if you’re like me regularly playing games through the season, though you can always skip and turn it off.

As far as the core gameplay goes, there’s only been a couple of tweaks here and there, most specifically the addition of the defensive skill stick. Much like its offensive counterpart it allows you to control your stick using the right thumbstick, which allows you to make more precise sweeping motions to cut off passes, knock away the puck, and block shots. Honestly though, it doesn’t appear to make that much of a difference unless you’re a very advanced player, since the all too powerful pokecheck button still does just about all you need when you’re without the puck. To try to get people to a more advanced level of playing, EA has updated their tutorials with a Hockey Canada themed set of video instructions. Personally as an intermediate level player I didn’t find it too helpful though because it’s mostly limited to teaching you either very basic controls or ridiculously complicated dekes that make you feel like you’re playing a fighting game, without much explanation as to when is best to use these maneuvers, only demanding that you execute them a certain number of times to advance. Alas, this means I’m probably stuck playing Semi-Pro to Pro mode at best, and mere fodder for the experts online.

The real star of NHL 18 is the new NHL Threes mode, which capitalizes on the overtime and All Star Game formula to excitement that the actual league itself has hit upon in the past year. This mode as you can guess is all about 3 on 3 hockey, with all the wide open space and goal scoring madness combined with even crazier concepts like the MoneyPuck which adds more value to each goal by either increasing its value two or three times or subtracting score from your opponent. It even gives you a campaign mode where you unlock more players, logos, and uniforms as you make your way through various circuits taking on teams all over North America at various levels of hockey. But to me, the best part about this mode is the mascots you get to play with and against, which is just hilarious to see running around on the ice and blowing each other up with vicious checks. There are even all mascot teams you can play with in exhibition mode. The presentation is well done, reminiscent of the spectacles of wrestling, and makes it feel like this could be a real thing if the NHL really wanted to do it. This is arcade fun at its purest and I love it. In a way, it’s kind of a shame you have to purchase the full game in order to experience a mode that I think a lot of non-sports fans would enjoy, much like they enjoyed NHL Hitz and EA’s previous 3 on 3 arcade download game.

Leaving it on this positive note, if the NHL Threes mode sounds awesome to you (particularly to the casual types out there who are possibly reading this), then I would definitely recommend NHL 18 to you. Otherwise, if you’re mostly into the simulation features of the game, I would consider it a little longer before hopping in, unless you’re an advanced player who loves their EASHL or really need those updated rosters.

Disclosure: Thanks to EA for sending us a free copy of the game, nobody at EA or their PR firms have reviewed this text before posting.

Gameplay

The tweaks are slight and it’s really the NHL Threes mode that gets an enthusiastic thumbs up!

Graphics

Aging a bit if only because they haven’t necessarily changed much, but still great.

Sound

The announcer in NHL Threes is definitely reminiscent of Midway games. The rest is just the same.

Overall

Not a must buy but depending what you like about sports games it could be right up your alley.

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