I think it’s fair to say that when it comes to sports games, no one quite dominates as much as EA does. NHL 19 is a prime example of how in-tune EA is with their fans, being that it builds upon what makes the series so successful, whilst throwing in heaps of improvements and gameplay refinements. NHL 19 has it all, from well over two hundred ice hockey legends to play as – and against – and a wide range of content to support and uphold them. Furthermore, there’s a deep and intuitive introduction to the game for newcomers and returning fans alike.
NHL 19 encompasses everything that you would look for and expect to find, from the new world of CHEL, right up to EA’s real player motion technology. Everything within is tied to a simplified reward system that brings it all together, allowing you to make a player of your own choosing and earn rewards and credits to unlock over nine hundred pieces of apparel. Safe to say, there’s a lot of content to get through and certainly no shortage of choice as you strive towards crafting the skater of your dreams. So, let’s dive right in.
NHL 19 includes all the usual modes and trimmings, save a few new functions and mechanics. These function and behave as they always have, so instead of retreading old ground, I’ll dive into what’s new. Before I do, let me tell you that I’m by no means what you would call an NHL buff. My knowledge of the sport is minimal, but that’s not to say that I haven’t had an absolute blast. If anything, NHL 19 remains massively accessible, making it a welcoming trip for those of you, like me, that haven’t kept up to date with the much loved series.
First and foremost, I started out by creating my own player for the World of CHEL. There’s a deep pool of casual and pro gear to select from, but as standard, the majority of it will need to be unlocked through hockey bags, the game’s gear drop system. Until then, I had to make do with a nice woolly hat and a thermal coat before finally hitting the ice. World of CHEL offers up a number of modes to engage with; NHL PRO-AM, EASHL Clubs, NHL THREES, and NHL ONES. NHL PRO-AM is where you’ll want to visit first, even if you’re new to the franchise.
Here, you’ll play alongside and against pro players, stars of both present and past as you move through a collection of challenges against progressively tougher squads. It’s the ideal place to go if you want to fine tune your play-style and hone some skills before heading into the online world; NHL THREES, NHL ONES or EASHL Clubs. NHL THREES serves itself as a three-on-three arcade-like competitive experience. This is upheld well by the mode’s robust, somewhat chilled announcer, along with the well designed arenas and its laid-back functionalities.
I have to say that above any other mode, I felt at my most comfortable here, simply due to how well presented everything is and how easy it is to adapt to the fields of play. Furthermore, as alluded to above, you can indeed earn unified XP here to win hockey bags containing casual gear for your character. NHL ONES offers a similar affair but trades three on three for one on one on one action. Here, it’s all about those skills. NHL ONES sees you competing against two other players to see who can net the most goals first to ultimately stand victorious.
This is where you’ll want to focus some time and attention to showcase your gear and capabilities once you’ve sunk some time into the game. There’s no stoppages and no rules here, and as you win, you’ll progress through a small band of outdoor arenas; The Lot, The Cove, The Docks, and The Ring. The aim of the mode is to win, get promoted and chase after being crowned as the daily champion. Outside of this, it’s business as usual. Fans can enjoy online versus, play-off mode, pro career, season mode, ultimate team, draft champions and so forth. Like I said, it’s all here.
Everything in NHL 19 is bigger and better than ever before. Seriously, the content diversity is through the roof. Whether you’re picking this up for some casual fun in its intuitive, wildly fun modes, or fancy working through the ranks to achieve pro status, there’s something for everyone. Having skipped the last outing, I decided to download it through EA Access to get a feel for the controls, the handling and visuals. Boy howdy, could I tell the difference. Thanks to the aforementioned RPM and the overhauled collision physics, NHL 19 is the most fluid game in the series so far.
The controls are super precise and respond magnificently well, making for a game that feels effortless and light in the palm of your hands. I did stumble across one issue in which the puck would get stuck behind the net and I wouldn’t be able to see it or manipulate the camera to find it. Here, I had to blindly hope that my character would pick it up anyway on his way round. It’s a small gripe, but one I hope is fixed shortly. Nevertheless, NHL 19’s refined gameplay is a massive step up from its predecessor in every way you could hope it to be.
It’s as close to as empowering as watching the real-world sport. Each and every movement, shot and goal feels earned, giving you a level of flow and involvement that’s quite simply unrivaled. It helps, of course, that the game looks and sounds sensational. Whether you’re in the outdoors or situated within a giant stadium, NHL 19 replicates the sport brilliantly. The level of detail is outstanding, and the same can indeed be said about the game’s character models and even the crowd behavior. Simply put, if you’ve followed the series so far, NHL 19 will not disappoint you.
NHL 19 is quite simply the best ice hockey game ever created. There’s a massive depth of content within, all of which is magnificently upheld by its refined gameplay mechanics and its overall improvements. The game isn’t entirely without fault, but there’s no denying that this years installation is deeper, more varied and a hell of a lot more fluid than any game before it. Fans of the series, don’t pass this by.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.