Format: PS4, Xbox One
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
ESRB Rating: E 10+ (Everyone 10 and older)
Release Date: September 15, 2017
The Grade: A
NHL 18 Haiku Review
Canuck training camp
Ray Ferraro teaches you
NHL Threes rocks!
What is it? The 27th edition of EA Sports’ popular NHL video game franchise. Building off of the success of the 2017 model, this newest take on virtual pro hockey has several new features and plenty of options for gamers to tinker with.
Highs: EA Canada has made impressive strides to bring serious fun to their long running franchise. That’s highlighted by my favorite new feature in the game, NHL Threes. Its fast paced, hard hitting and offers plenty of goal scoring. Playing NHL Threes is like playing “NBA Jam,” on ice. All that’s missing is a guy yelling, “Boom Shakala!” NHL Threes isn’t just a diversion. You can really dive into it if you choose to, and you should. There’s several ways to play (single player campaign, online team co-op, local team co-op, online and local head-to-head), it has its own unique commentary and broadcast presentation, and there’s a ton of customization.
Also new to the game is a training camp feature. Most players familiar with “NHL 18” may find some of the lessons pretty obvious initially but even a long time hockey lover like myself, who's intimately familiar with hockey rules, found this mode a ton of fun. Lessons are voiced by hockey great Ray “Big Ball of Hate” Ferraro and feature a number of live action videos. If you’re going to play “NHL 18” using the new Skill Stick controls you’ll find this mode quite useful. Training camp reminded me a lot of the Skills Trainer in Madden. Even if you know a lot about hockey, it’s still a great experience.
Several classic series modes return, but with some major improvements. The aforementioned Skill Stick control scheme lends itself to more complex defensive and offensive stick controls. This allows for an easier time in disrupting offensive players and being more creative with dekes. Franchise mode has also been enhanced, with a new expansion draft and create-a-mascot features (I had A LOT of fun with that) as well as the chance to play as the new Vegas Golden Knights.
Other tweaks include being able to request a trade to other teams in Be a Pro mode, new HUT Challenges in Hockey Ultimate Team, and more options to play local and online multiplayer. There’s a wide variety of ways to get your hockey fix in “NHL 18.”
Lows: In previous NHL titles EA has included an appropriate international element, like the World Cup of Hockey. With the Winter Olympics coming in a few months an Olympic tournament would have been a nice touch.
I’m also a bit surprised that a single player campaign similar to “FIFA 17’s” The Journey and “Madden 18” Longshot isn’t included. But to be fair, there is already so much to do in “NHL 18” that I didn’t really notice its absence. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in next year’s game.
The Grade: “NHL 18” just might be the most well rounded title the franchise has had in years. With something for every type of gamer, from the hardcore to the casual, there’s always plenty of fun to be had. If you’re a hockey fanatic, “NHL 18” is exactly what you’re looking for.
Gazette Media Columnist Terry Terrones is a veteran video game journalist. He has written for numerous publications including GamePro, GamesBeat, PC World, GameZone, and Official Xbox Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/terryterrones.