NHL ’19 is just around the corner. New details and features have already rolled out. This post will take a look at NHL 18 and assess the following: (1) Game-play; (2) Content; and (3) Pay-to-Win Factor.
Coming into the season, we were given the new features of ‘Creative Attack’ moves and the ‘Defensive Skill Stick’ to combat those moves.
The Creative Attack moves were a fun addition but they were not overly useful in-game. These dekes felt like more of a novelty to execute, as opposed to a “go-to” move that could quickly beat a defense-man or a goaltender.
On D, we were given the Defensive Skill Stick. Essentially, the skill stick allowed the defender to hold out their poke check and move their extended stick to block passing lanes. This feature existed in previous iterations of the NHL franchise and should be included in the game. A player should not be locked in a straight poke check and moving the stick to block lanes is a fundamental hockey technique. The downfall to this was that poke checks in general have been way too overpowered in recent years of NHL. This past season was no exception. It was consistently more effective to use multiple poke checks than to take the man and go for a hit.
The main problem with this season’s installment of NHL game-play was the skating, puck pick-ups, momentum shifts (known as ice-tilt) and defense. The skating this past season was a mess. It was very difficult to make sharp turns and the acceleration felt off on even the fastest rated skaters. The lead-up to NHL 19 has been focusing on the new RPM Tech skating, which confirms that movement was a problem in ’18.
Puck pick-ups were by far the worst part of this season’s game. During every single game, multiple scenarios arise where you and a defender are simply hovering around the puck and hoping that your skater picks it up first. This has also been addressed by EA during the lead up to NHL 19. However, a recent tweet revealed that EA Help did not sound overly confident with their progress. Twitter user @Matt_PuckRivals tweeted “Looks cool. But this year, will your guy actually pick up the puck everytime when you skate by it?” Brad from EA Help responded with:
Hi Matt. Pick ups are something the dev team wants to improve so hopefully it’ll happen. While the majority of puck pick ups work just fine, there is the occasional time they don’t work as intended. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.
The bright side of that exchange is that the dev team is fully aware that the pick ups are an issue. Hopefully the new skating mechanics in ’19 work in conjunction with better pick ups to give us a smooth feeling game next season.
Ice-tilt is undeniable in the game. Going forward, if the NHL series is to be viewed as a legitimately competitive game, it needs to be removed.
The defense in NHL 18 was predictable and boring to play. You were punished for making any sort of aggressive play with your defense man. This was amplified by the fact that taking the body rarely separated the man from the puck. As a result, the most effective defensive technique was to ‘skill zone.’ To skill zone, you simply control one of your forwards and sit them in between the hash marks in front of your own goal. You then trust your AI to do everything else. In addition to skill zoning, the goal-tending is terribly inconsistent. I’m not sure if there is a solution to this, but far too often there is box scores with 50% save percentages.
Game-play rating: 5 out of 10
HUT Challenges were a major addition to NHL 18. This formula was borrowed from solo challenges out of the Madden Franchise. Many of the HUT Challenges had a 3 star structure. A 3 star challenge had 3 objectives and rewards for hitting all three. Unfortunately, a majority of these objectives were frustrating and did not always register. For example, scoring a breakaway goal or blocking a shot always seemed like it was more of a chore than an exciting challenge.
Competitive seasons returned from NHL ’17. These were consistently updated throughout the season. You win these tournaments by accumulating round points after winning games. These points vary depending on the skill of your competition. Your end of season rank determines your prize. The NHL team did a pretty good job overall at keeping these fresh and keeping the rewards worth while.
HUT Champions made its debut this past February. This mode followed the footsteps of FUT Champions and MUT Champions. However, unlike the other two modes, there is no set number of games that you must play to complete the season. The ranking system is like the Competitive Seasons structure described above. This is a welcome addition to those familiar with the weekend league grind of FUT and MUT. It also has the effect of eliminating match fixing.
Overall HUT made some significant strides with content this past season and it deserves a rating of 9 out of 10.
At the start of NHL ’18 we were promised lower overalls. This went out the window and the market went sideways early on in the season. This allowed even a casual player to have a fairly stacked roster, especially if they were willing to grind HUT challenges. There was some debate in the NHL community as to whether or not this was a good thing.
Personally, I did not spend any money on HUT Points and I was able to put together a Division 1 roster full of some of my favorite players and legends. Compared to FUT and MUT, HUT was the easiest title to assemble a good and competitive team. On this 10 point scale, a score of 10 is most favorable to a no money spent player. This seasons HUT made assembling a competitive team a reasonable task and it earned a rating of 10 out of 10.
As you can see, HUT ’18 lacked in game-play but the dev team took significant strides in other areas of the game. If the new game-play mechanics in NHL 18 work as advertised, it should be the best edition of HUT yet.