NHL 19 review for Xbox One, PS4

Platform: Xbox One
Also On: PS4
Publisher: EA
Developer: EA Canada
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1-8
Online: Yes
ESRB: E10+

The NHL season is upon us and like every other sport, that means it?s time for our annual video game release. Like Madden, EA has the stronghold over the NHL franchise and we don?t see any other studios releasing any other hockey games. Competition drives creativity and changes in my opinion, which is why these EA Sports releases don?t see many changes year over year. I?m not sure if it?s due to the lack of hockey popularity or that EA has tight exclusive on the league, but year over year we don?t see all that many changes. Last year I really enjoyed the new Threes mode and I gave the ?it?s not broke, don?t fix it? mentality a bit of a pass, but I can?t let that skate by for another year. Did EA change up enough to value a new purchase this year for previous players? Let?s dive into the new features.

Welcome to the World of CHEL, whatever that means (apparently, it?s slang for how people say they?re playing NHL). World of CHEL is the all new, latest and greatest mode for the NHL series, and it?s quite good. You start out by making your own player and immediately you can tell how deep this mode could be. Not only are you customizing the look, position, and stats of your player, but you?re also picking out gear that he will use. Sticks, pads, clothes, and more, with sprinkles of licensed items, this pretty much guarantees that no two players will look or play the same. Now that you?ve been overwhelmed with the creation and customization of your character it?s time to get into the actual meat of the mode. So in World of CHEL you?re given a bunch of different gameplay modes. I kicked off in PRO-AM, which is what I think a lot of fans will also go right into. In PRO-AM you?re playing three-on-three out on the pond with squads of current and former NHL players. Win the challenges and unlock more goodies for your custom character.

Not only can you play three-on-three, but new to NHL 19 is Ones, which uses half of the rink as you go toe to toe with two other players in a free for all. Unlike the PRO-AM, which is offline, Ones is played online where you try to get the top ranking for the day, while of course earning more goodies throughout your play. Threes is available with online play in World of CHEL as well, and it includes drop in, so you don?t have to worry about finding the matchups and sitting in lobbies forever. World of CHEL is a refreshing new mode that gives the franchise a great kick in a new direction and it allows you to play it in the modes that you prefer. EA has had major issues with the lootbox situation (hello Battlefront) so thankfully there aren?t items for sale with actual money in World of CHEL, but I don?t trust them enough to not change that in future incarnations. (HUT mode still offers points for real cash as it has in previous titles.)

As for other new features? that?s about it. I know at first glance it might not seem like a worthwhile purchase; just one new mode, but World of CHEL is truly robust and I figure to be playing it for much longer than any other mode included. Coming off of how disappointed I was that they decided to include another year of Longshot in Madden 19, this was super refreshing. Back are everyone?s favorite modes; franchise, HUT( Hockey Ultimate Team), Threes (my favorite from last year), and more. HUT this year sees a big push for the inclusion of legends, to which the Great One (not the Rock, wrestling fans), Wayne Gretzky, even dons the cover of the Legends and Ultimate editions of the game. NHL 19 really delivers for all types of fans.

While Threes and Ones brings the arcade action, I wish EA would turn it up a bit more. I really miss the over the top arcade sports games that were in vogue in the early 2000?s. Every sport had its own over the top arcade game back then and nowadays we hardly have any (except Mutant Football League and NBA Playgrounds). Threes is on the right track but I?m thinking more in line with NHL Hitz series? I realize this is more of a pipedream than a complaint. NHL 19 features full customization as to how you want to play, from full simulation down to arcade, no rules, two button controls; it?s all up to you. The violence of the hits in those old games are probably something the NHL wants to move away from, similarly to how the NFL no longer allows the craziness of NFL Blitz.

I can still go either way with advising people on whether NHL 19 is a buy or not. If you have NHL 18 and the World of CHEL sounds like something you?d have no interest in then it?s a safe bet that you could stick with NHL 18 and not be missing out on anything else. If you don?t fall under that situation, NHL 19 is the best hockey game in years and totally worth a purchase. There?s plenty to keep yourself busy and I have a feeling that EA is going to have a hard time topping this release for NHL 20, but until then it?s time to take your Gordon Bombay custom player out onto the pond and do Hans proud.

EA provided us with an NHL 19 code for review purposes.

Grade: B+