NHL 18 Review – Proving One Game Mode at a Time That Innovation Is Everything

NHL 18 Review

As a relatively long standing fan of the NHL series, I was among those disappointed with EA’s decision to strip away a lot of key features way back at NHL 15. Of course, with that said I too celebrated the return of the series the following year and have enjoyed watching EA elevate the franchise since. While the last two years have represented a comeback for the hockey franchise, NHL 18 highlights why so many people love the game. With a plethora of new features and more ways to play online than ever before, NHL 18 is sure to make both returning veterans and newbies happy.

While there are a lot of new additions, NHL 18 remains the same game that I fell in love with back in 2006. The core gameplay is as noticeable as it’s always been, although this time around there is a depth to the game like never before. As such, long time fans will be excited to see that some of their favorites, like Franchise and Hockey Ultimate Team, feature some welcome upgrades. Hockey Ultimate Team has always been fairly complicated for those just wanting to play unadulterated hockey, however, EA has added a lot of challenges and rewards to it as a way to get more players in on the action. Franchise now allows players a few different options besides choosing one of the 30 teams in the league. If you’re interested in playing as the Vegas Golden Knights before hockey season even starts, you’ll get to do just that, as you create a franchise for this 31st team of the NHL. Another option available is to start completely from scratch. Players have the opportunity to customize a brand new 32nd team to play as well. I could definitely see this being a game mode newcomers can get excited about. As a new player to the game, what’s more exciting than building your own team, mascot and all?


“With emotionally driven single player story modes making their mark on FIFA, Madden NFL and NBA 2K, it’s disappointing not to find a similar game mode in NHL 18.”

Although last year’s iteration came as a breath of fresh air, there was criticism that it just didn’t set itself apart from NHL 16 enough, and lacked a lot of new content. Rest assured that EA took this to heart, and while they upgraded each of the fan favorites, adding new items to each, they also added whole new ways to play. From 3v3 arcade-style hockey matches and a Hockey Training Camp brought to you by team Canada, to new deking abilities, there’s almost too much to try and keep up with. Believe me, it is easy to spend hours playing any of the game modes available, regardless of whether they are online, offline, or couch co-op.

The featured game mode for NHL 18 is this inventive arcade game mode called NHL Threes, where you get to play 3 v 3 games both online and offline. This experience focuses on making the game fun and fast-paced with an emphasis on big hits, and lots of goals. This game mode features all new and exciting commentary, new arenas and a campaign mode of sorts. Here, when playing offline, players will have the opportunity to take on established teams in an attempt to earn rewards, unlock new arenas and become the best in the sport. Of course, if online is more your style, you can compete as teams of three, rather than full teams of 6. If you’re looking for a frantic way to play the game or even a way to experiment with some new moves, this is the place to do it.

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For those of you who yearn for simpler days with even simpler controls, you might wonder how EA could have possibly made the controls in NHL 18 even more complicated than before but they did. There are new and more complex ways to deke out the AI because after all, you’ll need better moves to outsmart them if you want to succeed. Of course, with all of the intricacies of these new moves, it’s more satisfying to get the puck past the defenders and goalie now than ever before. Don’t worry about trying to figure these advanced moves on your own either, because whether you’re any good at them or not, the new Training Camp Mode uses footage from NHL superstars to illustrate the moves in action. After that, you still have all of the different modes to practice in, and eventually (especially if you’re a newbie) you’ll get the hang of each and every one… and you’ll look great doing it too. The graphics and player likeness is better than any NHL game before it. So much so in fact, that at one point or another you’ll feel like you’re watching a hockey game rather than playing one. Not all that surprising though, because if there’s one thing EA definitely knows how to do, it’s make a game look fantastic.


“With a bunch of new features and more ways to play online than ever before, NHL 18 is sure to make both returning veterans and newbies happy.”

Unfortunately, even though there is a lot of new content and the graphics are more than appealing, it honestly seems like EA kind of forgot about Be a Pro altogether. They added in the ability to request a trade from the team you are drafted to, but besides that, it remains largely unaltered. With emotionally driven single player story modes making their mark on FIFA, Madden NFL and NBA 2K, it’s disappointing not to find a similar game mode in NHL 18. Sure, Be a Pro is still fun, but now it just feels sub-par and outdated in comparison. Hopefully, this will see a facelift next year, because there are so many avenues to explore and it would be a shame not to dive into the deep end with the story as well. Without a big change, I just don’t see a whole lot bringing people back to play it.

NHL 18

As if Be a Pro doesn’t already feel behind the times in NHL 18, the commentary is still comprised of the same regurgitated lines that Mike Emrick and Ed Olczyk have been saying for years. Although both men are great commentators, they need new lines and a bigger variety. If you’ve been playing the game for a few years, you’ll just end up tuning them out, or turning down the volume because the same lines get repetitive really fast. What makes this even worse is that the commentary for the new 3v3 arcade mode is fun and exciting, which really highlights just how bland it is for the other game modes.

While EA Sports has done a great job deepening fan-favorite modes and giving players a ton of exciting new content to choose from, there are a couple of areas that simply feel outdated. With that said, NHL 18 is still the most innovative hockey game to date, and regardless of your level of experience with the franchise, it will leave you wanting more, coming back for more fun time and time again.

*** Xbox One code provided by the publisher ***

The Good

  • NHL Threes is awesome
  • New additions
  • Tons of game to play

The Bad

  • No story for Be a Pro Mode
  • Commentary could use a facelift