EA Sports’ NHL pillar has been underrated this console generation after a slow and brutal start after NHL 15, but slowly EA Sports has add features on top of a strong core game to make this one of the fine-tuned NHL games. There is a lot of fan service requested features that finally make their way into the game. While I think it might not be on the same level of attention like FIFA and Madden, the new additions help to make NHL 18 more competitive and enjoyable across the board.
Hockey Ultimate Team is back again with the solo challenges and that update weekly alongside the NHL regular season. HUT Challenges now features co-op challenges, so you can team up with a friend and earn packs together. It’s now up there with FIFA and Madden the only thing holding it back is the time commitment for each. All three are time sinks and in order to the most out the experience, it’s best to focus on one. No reason to go up against someone who has Wayne Gretzky, and Patrick Roy in their roster on your first match.
The newest mode is Threes, which is geared toward casual players looking for an experience away from the simulation hockey in franchise mode. The rink is smaller, and more geared towards players who can move around the rink, making players like Joe Thornton obsolete in competitive matches. There is a bit of a grind when first facing against CHL, and AHL teams in order to face NHL teams, but it’s something I needed before jumping into the fire. This mode is where skaters can perform the best deke moves with the game, not every being out of reach thanks to the money puck system. Money pucks are introduced randomly and can give a player a much-needed edge to stay competitive when they’re down on the scoreboard.
Make It Your Own
During the off-season, the Las Vegas Golden Knights officially became apart of the NHL system with an expansion draft that saw players like Marc Andre Fleury switch teams through the expansion draft. EA Sports brought over that draft and gave users two different types of options to start with. You can choose the classic approach, and continue using the 31 teams with the latest roster, or you can create a new organization and write your own hockey fantasy. The last option is what i’ve been playing for majority my time on NHL 18 because of how customize options are available. Both of the expansion drafts contain authentic player protection lists with their being some limitations to make the experience seem authentic. If you could pick Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin in the same draft, it would break the game (and might break the league). Even minor details from Mascots, team logos and over 30 different jerseys available to design, the only limitation is your creativity.
While franchise mode is a solid experience, there are a number of key elements missing. Trading in NHL 18 is still a troublesome experience at times due to the lack of feedback. When trading you’re suggested to pick players from the trade block to get an advantage in trade negotiations, but most of the time I didn’t see enough incentive to go down that route. Instead, I focused on trading for future draft picks, which were easily obtained. Trade logic still comes down to focusing on the present need, even if you’re a rebuild franchise with no shot to make noise in the playoffs. Often when siming through season I’m kinda left wondering how well my players are progressing. Player morale and team chemistry is a major factor when it comes it to new players entering the league via the draft, and I just don’t understand how to build and develop my AHL farm system without having to play every game on the calendar. Stat increases are increased every six weeks, so you just have to assume that your number overall pick is heading in the right direction.
Be a Pro is Back… and Yeah
Be a Pro mode is back, but it’s kinda just there in the package. The addition to the mode is the ability to ask for a request for a trade, but I don’t think I will do that this year. With the introduction of the Las Vegas Golden Knights it has given the mode some new life. Doc Emrick and Eddie Olczyk often talk about organizational first moments that happen on the ice and they seem more organic this time around.
It’s a great place to see the new gameplay mechanics that have been tweaked in NHL 18 like A.I positioning. Teammates in transition will create space from defenseman to catch lead passes and recognize of match ups that the offense can take advantage of. A team like the Anaheim Ducks who uses it size in front of the net is going bully smaller defenders in front of the net to get into the best position in front of the net.
Be a Pro now feels like a classic approach to career mode in sports games after NBA 2k, FIFA, and Madden. I think this is still a great alternative if you just want to jump in and play, however if you’re looking for a story mode approach in NHL 18 is just not going to cut it this year.