Sports are fantastical. They are buff-out people battling against each other in a showcased spectacle. The memorable part of these interactions is how bombastic the big, flashy moments are. However, what often gets forgotten are all of the fundamentals needed to even perform in a sport. Like flashy players, fundamentals give way to those big, flashy moments. No matter what, one play is not the deciding factor in an entire game.
Where many sports game focus on this, NHL 19 gets it completely right. Fundamentals contribute to a wavering percentage of any sport. Executing those fundamentals well are the leading factor to success. Anomalies exist, sure, but fundamentals last longer than anomalies. The NHL franchise has had this figured out for a long time. NHL 19 takes the success the franchise has created and adds enough without stepping on its own shoelaces.
NHL 19 welcomes beginners with open arms
Beginners receive a hearty welcome in this year’s NHL, entitled Training Camp. Through Training Camp, coaches walk you through tons of different techniques and controls from basic shots and passes all the way up to complex dekes and defensive maneuvers. A lot of sports titles include regimens such as that in Training Camp. However, NHL 19 sets itself apart by having actual players performing these techniques with feedback based on how you have performed. With all of this stuff preset, that calls for a lot of prepped footage.
Context is still not super-duper detailed, but you end up with some great clips here and there as you develop to help you become better. For me, this gave me more incentive to learn and explore new tactics rather than having to glaze over a ton of menus. If the path NHL 19 paves becomes the standard, then this will be the training bar going forward for all other sports titles.
Fundamentals make great overall gameplay
From a game play standpoint, NHL 19 has a healthy strategy. For the last few years, since implementing stick controls, there has honestly been very little need for drastic game improvements. It’s clear that the team knows this. This year features something called Real Player Motion Tech. This basically increases accuracy of physics in regards to how players interact with the ice and each other. These enhancements come more on the back end, improving what was already good about NHL 19’s game play. Almost no risks are taken this year, which gives this outing a deep sense of repetition. A fair amount is adjusted this year, of course, but most of these changes benefit regular players rather than coax new ones.
Consider this a divisive factor when thinking of purchasing it, because your thoughts on this point affect how you feel about it. There is no attempt to try and rewrite the game, because unlike Madden, game play in NHL has been good for a long time. Instead of trying to feature one thing over another, implemented changes instead increase both control and realism. It is not flashy, but it feels organic. The game does not rely on animations. Instead, it simulates interactions. Too often are fundamentals forgotten, but NHL 19 has them nearly perfected.
Hockey Ultimate Team balances Gatcha elements with progress
Hockey Ultimate Team has the bread and butter of a standard Gatcha card game, complete with mobile-based features: rewards, objectives, player cards, and purchasable card packs. In recent years, this year especially, EA has put a bigger focus on how their Ultimate Team modes offer options for more earnable rewards. This takes some focus away from having to buy cards, and that’s for the best.
Buying cards has its perks, but buying a good team shortens how long you will want to play. Sure, bad teams with bad card pulls can cause a similarly shortened game experience. However, building a team from the ground up organically is far more rewarding than simply opening your wallet. As I step off my soap box, I say that NHL’s Ultimate Team has put a stellar focus on earning players rather than having all arrows pointing at the store. The store is still there, of course, but it’s not such a focal point anymore.
It’s not a new feature, but contracts in Ultimate Team are also worth noting. I reference Madden here because I have had the most time with Madden’s Ultimate Team than any other game’s. I always forget about player contracts in NHL’s Ultimate Team. Due to this, I always get a sense of dread that I will lose my best players. This holds up especially so this year with phenomenal classic cards appearing rather early as rewards. Contracts always surprise me, though. Either way, contract cards appear so frequently that there is little risk of losing big players. Contracts only apply to certain rare cards as well. You can then choose to bench those cards for more thrifty ones, only using them when you really need them.
World of Chel brings focus to your custom player
One big addition to NHL 19 is its mostly-universal game mode called World of Chel. In this, you create a character and carry him or her into different game modes, both single and multiplayer, and progress them. Hitting milestones earns rewards for equipment, and earning experience allows you to apply skills to your player. These are called perks. These can be applied to help your player play certain ways, like having advantaged ability with dekeing or better shot control. Elements of this game mode have been present for a while in the franchise, but World of Chel offers some much-needed focus to this feature. What makes this even better is how streamlined and smooth the servers are. No hiccups make jumping between single and multiplayer feel quite organic.
NHL 19 gives you everything you need to play good hockey
There is a Gatcha element to this, of course. However, being free-to-play means that there is an added element of strategy and skill involved. This alone adds weight and merit to success and effort in this game mode. The team behind the game should be commended for its efforts in balancing a game mode between profiteering and player engagement. NHL 19 avoids risks by reducing major changes, but the game itself still offers top-notch hockey like it always has.
NHL 19 review code provided by EA Sports.