EA Sport games need very little introduction and even if you aren’t a fan of its sport games you are bound to know one of its franchises (or at least know “It’s in the Game!”). NHL 19 is the next installment of EA’s hockey series and it brings everything you would expect, offline pro career, online multiplayer, ultimate team, loot boxes and an intro movie of slow-motion sport played over an R&B track, what’s not to love so far?
I was worried when I loaded NHL up that I was going to be bombarded with menu options, screens and a whole bundle of ‘you should know by now’ sort of attitude. However, I was pleasantly surprised that I couldn’t have been more wrong. NHL 19 welcomes you in with open arms and lets you set how you want to be treated when playing this game.
EA’s work to make this game as accessible as possible is the first impression you get as NHL directs you to the Training camp, hosted by Hockey Canada! The training camp is extensive and takes you through all the basics you would expect and gradually moves you on to the more complicated moves where you will find yourself moving analogue sticks while holding L1, pressing square with a brush of R1 to perform ballet on ice. After completing the camp, I felt prepared to move into the actual game.
“From the pond to the pros” is a quote from the intro movie that EA has really put to the test. NHL 19 has an abundance of content to dive into, all with its own personality and skills to learn. This does lead me on to what is one of my few negatives with the game though, the menus are not great. You can pin your favorite three to the main menu so you can jump right in to your favorite modes, which does make things a tad better, but the dull menu just isn’t as inviting as the bright colours on the cover.
Before you get underway with anything you will need to create your character and I was once again happy with the amount of customization available. You pick from a number of already designed features instead of a slider style, which does limit your look slightly, but not enough to be a worry. As you would expect there are a countless number of clothing items you can equip to give your skater their own personality but most of these are locked behind progression and loot boxes so don’t expect to have that pink fur from the start.
I jumped in to World of Chel first which might have been a bad idea as it was hard to leave this mode once I was in. Playing against current and former NHL players in a full-ice 3v3 arena was so much fun when paired with the progression of your character and it kept me coming back for more. Being someone who enjoys some direction, a campaign even, I found myself wanting to beat every level. Alongside this 3v3 mode you also have the opportunity to enjoy the chaos of 1v1v1 online in the conveniently named Ones. World of Chel serves as a great place to hone your hockey skills in a fun and fast environment before heading into the day to day hockey.
Next up we started our legacy in the Be A Pro career mode where you fight for your draft ranking, push for more ice time and take your career all the way to the big time of the NHL if you choose to start out in the Canadian Hockey League. You can obviously cheat a little and choose what team will draft you and go straight into the NHL but where is the fun in that? However, this does continue EA’s great work on making this game accessible plus you can simulate games when you aren’t playing, keeping the game moving till you are next on the ice.
There is also a robust and scarily deep team management simulator behind the Franchise mode, to the point where you can purchase new car parks to keep you fans happy. The in-depth options available really make you feel like you are managing a franchise and you can see your actions play out as you progress. A fog of war put on the league really pushes you to scout more often to make the right trades and is just an example of how this mode really pushes you to be an active General Manager.
There are loot boxes and the hockey ultimate team in this game as you would expect. HUT 19 comes with daily challenges and milestones to help give you rewards for playing more often. However, I am not a microtransactions person and have no real interest in this part of the game. As you would expect buying loot boxes is the fastest way to unlock more items in the game compared to trying to earn the points for these packs.
With all this content you might start to worry that the gameplay or graphics have suffered, well they haven’t. The ice rinks look fantastic from the T-Mobile arena to the outdoor frozen lakes, sound quality is there from your slap shots to the all-important body checks and the commentary is probably the best I have heard from a EA sports series. The game has an amazing soundtrack, I actually left it on while I was writing this review it was that good. Yes, the controls can be complicated when you want to perform some of the many skill moves but you can get by with just a good passing game meaning you never need to worry about those button combo moves.
Overall, I would fully recommend NHL 19 to anyone, from a hardcore NHL fan to someone who has never played an EA sport series game before. I am happy to admit that I have jumped in and out of sport games over my time with PlayStation and have never fully committed to one but if NHL 19 is anything to go by then perhaps I have missed out. I am confident that you will find something you like in this game. The work EA has done to make this game as open and friendly to newcomers as possible is a great touch and certainly got me on side.
NHL 19 has something for everyone. Whether you want that online competitive play, the fun arcade style or the stress of managing a team you will find it in this game. The amount of content and the quality of it cannot be ignored. Want a sport game to play? Pick up NHL 19!
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*