Time to hit the ice again as NHL 18 brings the realism of the american ice hockey league. With 15 modes to choose from in this years edition there is plenty of fun to be had with what is on offer.
So what’s new:
The main key feature that has been introduced to this year’s edition is your stick control, and even though i use mainly the Hybrid system when playing i thought i would give the other control layouts ago. The stick controls are probably the best to use as you will get a better reaction time than with using the buttons which is ideal when playing online. The other control system is the NHL 94 controls which are simplified for a younger age group with a single shoot and pass button configuration.
All new offensive deke moves deliver more control with the puck allowing to string together more fluid combinations all depending on moment to moment decisions and reaction time.
The new defensive skill stick feature is probably the best new feature gives you full control over your stick allowing you to poke check attacking skaters while even skating backwards giving you more opportunity to disrupt their attack.
NHL 18 has a whole new menu layout with a new landing page which allows quick access to events such as the Stanley Cup allowing you to jump straight into the highly prestigious event rather that completing a full season is a nice touch. On top of this you can customise your Main Menu with modes that you play the most allowing for quicker access.
The biggest change from the last year is the introduction of the 3-On-3 EASHL and the NHL Threes which creates a more intense hockey experience with bigger hits, faster action and more goals, with less skaters on the ice provides more open play. This mode has a complete single player circuit mode but should you want to play against other players you can take the action online.
At the start of each game their is a coin toss giving you the choice of game criteria with either a goal limit or extra periods. You can also select goal limit and how much to win by with the additional feature of the money puck, The moneypuck stipulation allows you to double your goal score, or take a point away from opposing team if you score within a specific time, it even can give you the opportunity to score and win the game instantly regardless of score. The moneypuck is great addition as it can turn a bad game into a good game just as quickly as turning a good game into a bad one.
Another feature of NHL Threes is the chance of acquiring Heroes & Mascots which allows you to select them to play in the game this is great fun with some hilarious outcomes such as a Hunter from the Edmonton Oilers making a big hit on an opposing had me in stitches.
Be a pro which has appeared in previous years of the game now allows you trade your BE A PRO character with other teams where you can set specific trade criteria for the move if you are passing on to a rival team in your division or other teams that maybe competing with you within a major cup. During your career you can start in the lower leagues and be drafted into the NHL league, you also can start in the Memorial Cup which will determine your draft position. If you can’t be bothered with all of that you can still jump straight into the NHL league and choose from the 31 teams on offer over 82 games per season.
EASHL is the equivalent of FIFA’s pro clubs whereby you can create a Character and a team and go online with friends and compete against other teams, the more you play the more you can level up your character and unlock badges of merit, this also applies to your club progression. In addition you get Coach feedback on areas where you are strong and also where you are weak.
Another new mode is the franchise mode which allows you to brand your team and reshape the NHL by introducing a 32nd team to the roster.
Training camp provides real life videos from Team Canada professionals that help you use the right moves at the right moments and allows you to complete challenges based on these tutorial videos. This is aimed at improving your style of play rather than the usual slap shot and hope that it goes in the goal.
Not much has changed in Ultimate team with the exception of HUT challenges which allow you to earn unique rewards to build up your team.
Graphically NHL 18 hasn’t improved over its predecessor which isn’t a bad point as NHL 17 had stunning visuals, the only change is the more razzmatazz look of the NHL Threes mode which is a bit more colourful than that seen in the main season.
As with any sports simulator, it’s all about creating a realistic and atmospheric environment and the in game sound does a great job of creating a lively crowd that cheers and boos, amongst other things the sound of skaters carving up the ice is still one of the positive points for the weather it’s sticks colliding, the puck hitting of the bar or when you hit someone into the barriers it all adds up to a very atmospheric game. Commentary is a key part of the game and is well presented from the build up to a game from commentators such as Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk which continues throughout the in game action itself providing a play by play of whats going on in the game, but in the NHL threes mode commentary is more humorous with one liners that will make you chuckle, this however does get a bit repetitive after a while.
So how does the AI translate in the game, well this all comes down to the various difficulty levels from Rookie to more difficulty and challenging settings such as All-Star, so if you want to score loads of goals and not looking for much of a challenge then i would stick with the lower difficulty settings as this provides the easiest learning curve while trying to learn the game.
As with any american sports game you gets loads of stats information which is shown on completion of each game you get the stats for each team from goals scored, assists, hits, power play goals etc but the action tracker has been improved with a more polished look with a breakdown of shots, goals, face-offs etc throughout the entire game.
NHL 18 has improved on a great game but from a UK point of view it does lack the domestic leagues from this country which i still feel is a bit disappointing as the sport is growing.
NHL 18 has been a fun experience for me and even though their is so much on offer i loved the pick up and play action of NHL Threes as it was more fun to play than the regular season. It isn’t a hockey game unless you get into a fight from time to time and for me this is still one of the better features i enjoyed within the game where it was me starting it or finishing it.
The many improvements have really made this a fun experience to play and keep on playing. NHL 18 is very well presented in every aspect from menu system to in game action and even though there are a couple of niggling points it is one of the best NHL games i have played to date.