Review: NHL 20 (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: NHL 20
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (33.93 GB)
Release Date: September 13, 2019
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Vancouver
Original MSRP: $59.99 (US)
ESRB Rating: E10+
A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
I will begin by saying the game has not changed much from last year, in terms of modes. As such, I would suggest taking a look at the NHL 19 review, as our review went into great detail on the additions to the game. This will help when I discuss modes without having to go too far into the weeds on them.

For NHL 20, EA Sports is touting “RPM Tech” as their latest innovation in gameplay mechanics, including Superstar Signature Shots, which has the players looking and feeling like their real-world counterparts. Admittedly, I have not seen much evidence of this specifically, but the players skate and shoot quite naturally and feel about as good as they ever have in this series. The speed of the NHL is there as well. The goalies seem to act a little smarter too. These changes seem more subtle and incremental, rather than last year’s great leap forward.

One improvement I have found this year is clearing the puck out of your own end by lofting it against the boards results in fewer delay of game penalties, which occur when the puck travels into the crowd from your defensive zone. This is a plus for me, as I incurred several penalties in the previous iteration when just trying to move the puck out. I find that overall there are fewer penalties in general in NHL 20.

The local modes such as Be A Pro, Franchise, and NHL Threes remain pretty much unchanged for the most part this year. You once again can create an expansion team in Franchise and go for the Stanley Cup. NHL Threes still has the Circuit, allowing you to play a more arcade-y three-on-three hockey against the teams in the NHL, earning logos, uniforms, and possibly mascots and alumni “heroes” with three-star wins. You can play these games with online friends as well.

A new offline mode called Ones Now has been added with NHL 20. Last year, EA brought NHL Ones to the online suite of World of CHEL (detailed in last year’s review). Ones Now allows the player to go one-on-one-on-one against two CPU controlled NHL stars for pond hockey supremacy. Winning games this way will enable you to unlock players, mascots, and venues for the mode. While not the deepest of modes, it is enjoyable nonetheless.

Visuals:
The game looks as crisp as always. Player models seem to improve every year, but, unless it’s a superstar, the faces seem to still be relatively generic. Everything else on the ice looks fantastic though, and they are getting better at making the fans look like actual people, with more varied attire and models. The legends in Hockey Ultimate Team are sometimes recognizable, but that’s hit-and-miss as well.

The biggest change to the visual end of the product is in the presentation area. Gone are the NBCSN logos and graphics (although the logo can be seen along the boards), including the score overlay in the upper-left corner of the screen. In its place is a bar across the bottom of the screen, with more colorful and larger score and time fonts. Your mileage may vary, but after the initial adjustment period, I grew to like it, and have conditioned myself to look there for updates on the scoring and time remaining in the period. When a goal is scored, the graphics pop nicely.


Another addition is at the end of every period, and at the end of the game, you are shown the “Play of the Period (or Game)”. It’s usually a goal scored, either spectacularly or of significance such as a tiebreaker, but can also be a great save or big hit (my personal favorite). These are presented from an ice-level perspective, and slowed down for effect. It’s not the most substantial addition, but it shows they are constantly trying to get closer to a true-to-life presentation.

Audio:
The other big change in NHL 20’s presentation comes here. Gone are Ed Olczyk and the legendary Mike “Doc” Emerick, most likely due to the reduction of the NBCSN connection. Instead, we have Ray Ferraro, making the move to the booth from his previous “on ice” reporting area, and James Cybulski, who is a Canadian broadcaster for Sportsnet. These two do bring a different feel to the game, but, like previous years, the announcing gets repetitive after some time, and eventually, I turned them all the way down.

The plus side to that is that I get to listen to the sounds of the arena. This is one area that the NHL series has been fantastic. The sounds on the ice, especially the checks, are spot on. The crowds are also well “mic’ed”, and they come to life when they should.

The audio (and video for that matter) in the non-traditional modes, such as NHL Ones and Threes, is also spot on. Threes is especially fun and bombastic, with the goal horn and PA announcer being appropriately loud and exuberant.

The game’s music, for lack of a better way of describing it, is what it is. If you like basic, generic, current “rock” music, then it’s for you. Otherwise… not so much.

Online/Multiplayer:
The World of CHEL is still the main hub for online play. I won’t delve too much into areas already covered in last year’s review. However, one addition to this area is the weekly “CHEL Challenges”. This is a way to earn additional XP and rewards for your CHEL player(s) by completing certain challenges in each mode. It’s another carrot to keep you coming back.

As is the case for FIFA and Madden, Ultimate Team is a staple of the series. One addictive (for me) feature cribbed from FIFA and added to NHL 20 is Squad Battles. Here you can play against other HUT players’ CPU-controlled teams and earn coins as well as Battle Points, which are accumulated on a weekly basis and earn you varying degrees of HUT packs depending on the number of Battle Points you have accumulated during that time. For someone like me, who’s not very good playing online, this offers more of an opportunity to improve my team than previous years.

Conclusion:
NHL 20 is another solid addition to this long-running franchise. This year’s iteration is more subtle in its gameplay improvements, which is easier to accept after last year’s leap forward. The presentation changes stand out more, and for the most part, they work quite well. If you are a fan of the series, then you’ll be happy with the product. If you are content with last year’s game, you can feel comfortable waiting for next year’s edition or picking this up on sale. Even though it’s a terrific game, it doesn’t change enough to be essential for non-hardcore players.

Score:
8.0

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

Written by John Payant

John Payant

Playing games since the late 70s, before the word “gamer” even existed! PlayStation since US Day one 9-9-95. I hope I write better than I play :).

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