It’s hard to believe that we’re officially in the fourth decade of the EA Sports NHL series. What started as a basic 2D series on the Sega Genesis back in 1991 has grown to be the only NHL game on the market for the Xbox and PlayStation consoles.
With NHL 20, EA Sports finally released a game that more people enjoyed than hated, and it’s only gotten better from a gameplay perspective during the post-launch support. But that doesn’t everything is all A-OK for the franchise.
NHL 21 is set to be the last NHL game to be primarily built for the current generation of consoles, and you have to hope that EA Sports wants to end the generation with a bang much as they did with NHL 14.
In order to do that, however, there’s plenty we’d like to see implemented this year whether it’s a brand new addition or the return of something we haven’t seen since the jump to the PS4 and Xbox One.
I’m Mike from Sports Gamers Online, and these are 10 things we want to see from NHL 21.
More Player Likenesses
Now, before getting into things in-depth, you’re going to realize that a lot of these have been asked for for years. And it starts with more player likenesses.
With each game, we have been getting more and more likenesses added, but it still doesn’t feel like enough. It’s ok if a guy who spent most of the time in the AHL before getting called up doesn’t have a face scan, but the fact that so many well-known players — players like Washington defenseman John Carlson and Dallas Stars goalie Ben Bishop — still aren’t scanned into the game remains a headscratcher.
All-Star Weekend/Skills Competition
This feature is definitely more of a like-to-have than a necessity, but adding All-Star Weekend and the Skills Competition to the series would be a nice touch to give fans something different.
Seeing a full weekend of events in Franchise Mode would add a new wrinkle to a mode that has continuously gotten better over the years. Getting that alert that a player on your team was selected to take part in the Accuracy event makes the mode feel more authentic.
Now, take it out of franchise mode. Just imagine killing time with friends locally or online by setting up a custom set of competitions for bragging rights. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty fun.
Roster sharing has always been a smaller feature that has been wanted by so many for quite a while now. Though it’s gotten better in regards to the gap between official roster releases, it’s still a pain to have to wait for each month’s update.
With roster sharing, the developers can put the burden, so to speak, of roster updates on the players. Now, that doesn’t mean eliminate the official roster updates entirely, because that would just be ridiculous.
What if you want to create 31 classic rosters? What about custom draft classes for franchise mode? The feature is in almost every other major sports title, so it’s about time that the NHL series gets with the times.
The outdoor game has become such a focal point of each NHL season that we should see it return for the first time since the game left the Xbox 360 and PS 3.
Many of the venues are already available thanks to games like FIFA and Madden NFL, though those games are built in different engines so it may be more of a challenge to bring them over. That said, it would be nice if they could somehow get 4 or 5 of the past outdoor venues in the game. Plus, think of how fun it would be to see it added to Franchise Mode and have your team selected?
Year to Year Transfers
This is more for the Franchise Mode fans than anyone else, but it would be pretty nice to just pick up your fifth-year franchise right where it left off in the new game instead of starting over.
Hell, how great would it be to bring over your World of Chel player? Not saying all the leveling would have to be carried over, but at least the player itself to avoid the hassle — to some — of recreating them.
EASHL Practice Mode
While EASHL has become leaps and bounds better than what it was when it came back to the series with NHL 16, there have still been things missing. The biggest, in my opinion, is a full practice mode.
With EASHL 6-man leagues becoming more and more popular, teams have to actually go into games in order to build any sort of chemistry whatsoever. A practice mode would allow those teams to work on their game, test out new strategies and attacks, and even possibly try out new players for their team. There are so many reasons why a practice mode makes sense that it’s impossible to come up with an acceptable reason for why it’s not there.
Online Franchise Mode
At this point, we’re beating a dead horse with this request, but dammit, we’re going to keep asking for it.
There’s not much more to say other than bring back Online Franchise, GM Connected, or whatever you want to call it. Just give fans a way to enjoy the improved franchise mode with their friends.
It’s been 12 years since the NHL series saw a PC release, and I think that’s long enough. PC gaming continues to rise in popularity and EA would be tone-deaf to not capitalize on the available market.
They can go ahead and blame piracy concerns all they want, but the fact that games like NBA 2K, Madden NFL, and more find success on the platform renders that argument moot.
If the company doesn’t want it released through Origin (which would be odd), then, hell, partner up with Microsoft to release it on their store. That way, if you play it on PC you have the ability to not only play with other PC players but Xbox players as well.
Overhauled Be-A-Pro (FINALLY)
Like with online franchise, I feel like I’ve become a broken record with this, but I’m going to bring it up again and again and again until it finally happens. We need a fully overhauled Be-A-Pro mode in NHL 21.
Be-A-Pro remains a pretty forgotten mode in the NHL series with no real point to playing it unless you really have nothing better to do in the game. I bring it up almost every time I talk about it, but the Live the Life mode from NHL 14 was a great foundation for what a career mode in EA Sports NHL could be. It had off-ice events, player interviews, endorsements and more.
After not making the jump to the PS4 and Xbox One because of development constraints, it’s as though it’s been forgotten about completely in the seven years since those consoles launched.
If it’s not going to be in NHL 21, then we need to at least get something promising a revitalized career mode for the PS5 and Xbox Series X. This is the biggest thing we’ve wanted for almost a decade now, and it’s time for EA to finally listen.