NHL 18 is the latest title in a series that has been molded and evolved through time. Since its debut with NHL Hockey (1991), the series has seen various modes and upgrades.
Ultimately, the goal was to create the most realistic representation of what the actual sport was like. While the sports league has grown in its own way over the years, the NHL video game series has done the same. Ironically, whether you are playing in the real world or on your gaming console, Gretzky’s words never fade!
“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” – Wayne Gretzky
NHL 18 is the result of years of studies. From title to title, the development team gathers feedback from players and key people in both industries to make the next NHL the best one yet. There is a title every year, but in between NHL 17 and NHL 18, a lot more work has been put into visuals and giving players more options. From a graphical perspective, this title looks phenomenal. Textures, reflection, and avatars look real. Just a little more and it will become a challenge to differentiate the game from an actual LIVE filmed match playing on HD TV.
This sort of vision can only be achieved thanks to the hard work that was put into recreating each player independently and giving each one of them personal touches that brings them to life. Set aside the visual, on the ice, another element comes to mind, the coach.
A Coach Following Your Every Step
Introduced in an older title, the coach is a list of recommended actions giving to you as you play. They start off as basic commands until you master them. Later, the coach recommends a lot more complicated plays – even high roller players might have forgotten. The difference with NHL 18 is that the AI is smarter, so the recommendations are more efficient from player to player, and from play to play. Unfortunately, if you are connected to an account that has had experience with the game, the AI won’t make the difference and scale down the recommended actions.
In Hockey, there are a lot of technical terms, such as slap shots, backhanders, coast to coast, and more. Most of these are actual moves you can perform while you play and to do so, you need to learn how. Just like fighting games, the practice mode in NHL 18 offers you a library of basic and advanced moves to master; you must complete them on ice a series of three times to “master” the move. For each, there is a short description of the move, a little bit of history behind it, and a live in-game demo. You are then prompted to complete it three times – a good and efficient way to ease a player into learning how to perform some of the most intricate techniques in Hockey.
Full Arcade Mode with NHL THREES
Accessible from the get-go, the franchise mode is the main attraction of the game. All and all, it features pretty much the same thing. However, due to some changes that happened in the actual league, namely the addition of a 31st team, the Vegas Golden Knights, the game had to incorporate it and its players. That said and done, a new slot was also created for you to fully build, from the ground up, an entire team. You will get to customize its arena, team name, logo, jersey, and even mascot. The franchise mode gets you even closer to your respective team as it uses a complex system that utilizes player morale. The more you are driven to win games, the better the chemistry the team will have with one another. A positive take on the ice basically gives you an advantage.
One of the main additions in NHL 18 is NHL THREES, a brand-new mode that stars 3-on-3 hockey games. The idea is to pin down a goaltender and three players in a competitive setting where you will have to manage fewer players but in a more intense and faster gameplay. The first to five points wins. Traditionally, a punk grants a single point, but to make things interesting and competitive, punks can have different values after a goal. For example, it can drop your opponent’s points by one and grant you two, it can grant 3 points, etc. There are many different values the punk can have, all of them making the match a lot more challenging as it goes.
In addition to the main mode and the featured NHL THREES mode, you have various other at your disposal. Most of them can be played online and locally. The rules are the same, you can rank and hold your spot on the leaderboard. If you are looking for a challenge, the online feature will set you up against good and great players, a perfect way for you to hone your skills and learn valuable strategies.
Customize For Days
NHL 18 features a ton of customizable tools. Compared to the last installment, this one has an overwhelming amount. From creating your own player and mascot to customizing practically every single element in an arena, you have been granted to power to remodel everything the way you see fit. Change the color and pattern of chairs, add flames and smoke to the Mega-Screen, and much more. Going through the entire customization options could as well take a few hours. If you have that kind of patience and will to play in your own customized arena, then, by all means, go ahead. Keep in mind that your hard work can’t be shared online, meaning someone can’t just go and download a copy of what you have been working on, but they can see it. At the end of the day, whatever you create, it is pretty much personal.
Sports games can’t really have a replayability value in my opinion; they were designed to last until the next iteration and feature modes that are fun and challenging enough to re-invite you to play the game. In that sense, NHL 18 exceeds expectations and offers new ways to play the game. You can opt for a classic take, or do quick matches. Depending on how long you have, NHL offers players that kind of flexibility.
Always Something To Learn
If playing NHL 18 has taught me anything is how to upgrade my knowledge of the sport. Hockey for me has always been a gray area. NHL 18 ease in all the terms and tactics that were foreign to me. The game itself is fun to play. It gets redundant and boring after a while for someone who isn’t used to playing sports games, or simply doesn’t like to, but from a fan of the sport’s perspective, NHL 18 one of the best Hockey games to ever release on the market. The level of detail that was put on the ice and to make avatar realistic is beyond impressive. Also, the number of customizable options granted to players has been multiplied from past titles; it now offers an array of cool tools and combinations.
The improvements done to help a player master tricks on the ice is an element worth bringing to the table. At the end of the day, the idea is to make you into a better player and understand the sport from a more technical perspective. NHL 18 transforms you from a good player to a great player if you embrace the knowledge it offers you.