Review: NHL 18 (PS4)

Review: NHL 18 (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro, PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: NHL 18
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN ( GB)
Release Date: September 15, 2017
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Canada
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 542 of the podcast at 137:51.
Episode 542: Don't You Do It

Gameplay:
This year’s NHL game is the best hockey game EA Canada has ever made. Honestly, that’s something I hope I can say every year and for the past few years, it’s held true.

That’s not to say the game doesn’t have its faults. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, but when comparing NHL 17 and NHL 18 by playing them back to back, the difference is striking. The fluidity of the movement on ice and the wealth of moves available to you make the game look and feel so much closer to the real thing.

Learning all those new moves just became much easier as well. There’s been a pretty comprehensive tutorial the past few years but this time around things have been ramped up with the Hockey Canada Training Camp.

Real players are filmed doing the moves you’re about to learn which brings things to another level. The fact that you’ll be able to use the DualShock to pull off some of the trickier moves you’ll be seeing makes it that much more impressive. It’s an excellent primer for newcomers and a good refresher for veterans of the series.

You AI teammates have become much, much smarter. It’s such a significant improvement that it feels like they’ve gone from a bunch of Homer Simpsons to a gaggle of Gretzkys. Spotting a winger moving up the left side, bouncing a pass off the boards and watching them skate right into it is a thing of beauty. I feel like I have true teammates for the first time ever.

They’re also great about not getting caught offsides and finding you with a nice pass. It’s amazing that such a small thing can make such a vast improvement in the game, but the impact of smarter hockey players on all aspects of the game can’t be overstated.

This also means that the other team has gotten smarter too and you’ve been given a nice upgrade to combat against that with the Defensive Skill Stick. You now have full control over your stick whether you have the puck or not, and being able to knock someone out of the slot while simultaneously sweeping your stick through a passing lane is amazing.

NHL Threes is a nice diversion and really it’s aimed at being the party mode of the game. With solo, online, and local modes, you can customize the gameplay to your liking and blow through some arcade style hockey. It’s a decent mode on your own but it’s much more fun with a group of players.

Be a Pro doesn’t feel like it’s changed all that much, but you can request a trade for the first time in the series. And if your game is lacking in any specific area, you’ll be given the option to check out a quick video while on the bench to try to get you up to speed which is a really nice touch.

The Vegas Golden Knights are here of course for their inaugural season and you have the ability to redo the Expansion Draft and build the team however you want, but really, do you think you could do better than them? As I’m writing this review, they sit at 6-1-0, off to the best start of any expansion team in NHL history.

So why not become team number thirty-two in the league by running a new Expansion Draft? That has been added to the Franchise mode and you can make it as involved as you want with all the trappings of creating a new team, logo, colors, arena, mascot, and more. It’s really deep if you want to go there.

Visuals:
At first glance it may not look all that different from last year’s version but watch for a little while and you’ll start to see how much more intelligent the AI players are and how it flows more like a real game.

Some of the canned animations between the whistles are holdovers from the past few years, but those are few and far between. When you’re on the ice, everything is much more dynamic and exciting than it has been in the past.

Audio:
Here’s my biggest problem with the game. The on-ice sounds are great and I have no complaints there, but the commentary has gone stale. This has been a problem the past few years and while I know they’ve at least brought in Mike Emrick to record some Vegas stuff, the rest sounds all to familiar.

Online/Multiplayer:
Multiplayer has been beefed up and is now available as an option in just about every aspect of the game. Connecting feels much the same as it has the past few years but things like the EASHL still suffer if you’re playing casually.

You can start a game with a full six on six but if one team starts to dominate, players start dropping off the losing team left and right with no real consequence. There’s no way to tell if the people on your team will stick it out and fight for a win or just bail on you.

This alone should push more people to finding some players and building a strong, reliable team, but there are time when you may want to just go in and play some pond hockey. Having people drop so easily can kill the fun of it all.

Conclusion:
Every year the developers at EA Canada strive to make the NHL series a little better. With no competition, it would be easy for them to rest on their laurels and phone it in but fortunately, that’s not the case here.

Significant strides have been made this year making this the best experience yet, and I didn’t even touch on the Hockey Ultimate Team updates, which are pretty good on their own.

Even if you bought the game last year, this one is definitely worth the upgrade.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 26 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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