The release of NHL 18 from EA Sports is right around the corner, and hockey fans across North America and beyond are starting to feel the excitement.
Each year brings new features and options to the series that are expected to improve the series from the previous installment. But there are many that remain on the fence when it comes to making the $60 purchase.
For those still trying to figure things out, we give you 10 things that you need to know about NHL 18.
Viva Las Vegas
For the first time ever, Las Vegas has a team in one of the “Big Four” American leagues, and that team belongs to the NHL.
The Vegas Golden Knights — yes, they dropped the “Las” from their name — make their debut in NHL 18. From the arena to the jerseys, the Golden Knights are finally here.
Full League Expansion
Piggybacking off the Vegas news, NHL 18 will feature full league expansion for the first time in the history of the series. This doesn’t just include Vegas becoming the 31st team in the league. Rather, players can now create the 32nd team in the NHL for either CPU or User control in their franchise mode.
With a full creation suite and expansion draft, the 32nd team in the NHL will be built how you see fit based off the protected player lists submitted by teams. You will also be able to create the new team’s AHL affiliate, or choose from a premade list of teams. Just remember, league expansion can only be done at the beginning of a franchise, so you better make up your mind.
No Last Gen
After releasing “Legacy” versions of the game on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in the past, there won’t be any version of NHL on last-gen consoles. While it doesn’t mean too much at the moment, it does allow the developers to focus all of their time on the current consoles as opposed to those that are over a decade old.
No New Engine
Though they are only focusing on current consoles, NHL 18 doesn’t make the jump to the Frostbite engine like Madden 18 did this year. Instead, the game remains on the same engine it’s been on since it came to the Xbox One and PS4.
It’s much more fine tuned than it was when it debuted in 2014, but it’s starting to get that feeling of being stale. Hopefully this is the last year before the jump, but we’ll obviously have to wait and see for that.
This is the big new mode offered by EA Sports in NHL 18, and damn is it special. The mode takes elements from the great NHL 3-on-3 Arcade title, and brings the arcade-style gameplay to the 21st century.
Fast gameplay, big hits, different ways to win all make Threes one of the more fun game modes introduced to the franchise. Whether it’s playing against the CPU or online against friends or random players, Threes will be tough to put down. And the fact that the 3-on-3 is making it’s way to EASHL adds even more longevity to one of the most popular modes in the game.
Defensive Skill Stick
For years the focus of the NHL series has been on the offensive side of the spectrum. With NHL 18, EA Sports is trying to balance it out a bit with a newly overhauled defensive skill stick.
The new defensive skill stick offers a variety of ways to break up odd-man rushes, passes and get in front of shots. Being able to keep your stick on the ice one way while turning your player’s body another makes playing defense more fun than it ever has, especially if you play defense in the EASHL.
New Offensive Moves
In addition to the new defensive skill stick, NHL 18 also features additions to the offensive side of the puck. The offensive skill stick doesn’t feel too revolutionary, but it is pretty nice to pull off the between the legs passes for a scoring chance.
That being said, pulling off these moves will feel more like a Mortal Kombat combo as opposed to taking actual skill on the sticks. Just be prepared for frustration when learning to pull them off.
Customizable Main Menu
Since jumping to the current consoles, the menu system in EA Sports NHL has been a slow, clunky and buggy mess.
That all seems to change with NHL 18 as players will be able to pin options to the main menu for quick and easy access to what they play the most. No more pointless searching through menus. Now, everything you’ll need can be put front and center.
No Major Be A Pro Changes
Now it’s time for some disappointment. Once again, for the fourth installment in a row, there is no major improvement to the Be A Pro mode.
You still create your player, choose to go through the CHL or jump to the NHL, and work towards being a Hockey Hall of Famer. But it’s still the same grind it has been for years, and hasn’t seen any changes aside from coaching feedback updates and the ability to request a trade.
No Online Franchise/GM Connected
Once again, online franchise fans are left out in the cold as GM Connected remains MIA from NHL 18. The developers constantly state that the player base for the mode was so small that it doesn’t justify bringing it back. What they fail to ever acknowledge, however, is the fact that the mode was so clunky and unplayable off of the ice that it pushed fans away from something many clearly want based on what you see on social media.
What are you looking forward to with NHL 18? Let us know in the comment section below, and be sure to keep an eye out for Sports Gamers Online’s official review around launch.
NHL 18 launches on September 15 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Those who pre-order the game’s deluxe edition will gain access to the game three days earlier on September 12.