The 2017-2018 NHL season is barely underway, but NHL 18 has driven up excitement since the middle of September. Countless expansion teams have been created and Threes breakaway goals have been scored to date. These modes and their accommodating features are clear indicators that the series is willing to innovate and experiment to bring in new fans and spice things up for die-hard loyalists. As such, here is a list of five features that we would love to see in NHL 19.
Better Passing Control
Passing altogether could use a bit of an overhaul. Holding the pass button for slightly too long far too frequently results in the puck flying comically too far across the ice and derailing momentum. But sometimes, just tapping the pass button lightly to a nearby teammate will be way too soft and immediately stolen by defenders. No player’s passing should be perfect, but passing should be a much more controlled experience to set up the offense. NHL’s passing system feels more like FIFA estimating where it thinks you want the ball/puck to go as opposed to NBA 2K’s more selective button-specific passing.
Custom Sounds And Other Customization Improvements
The Expansion Draft is one of the biggest draws to the game for newcomers and perennial players alike. It was very surprising to see certain aspects of the team customization suite so robust (such as the Arena Creator) while others felt multiple console generations outdated (such as the team logo customization). If the Expansion Draft feature (presumably) persists in NHL 19, a more functional logo creator would be a noticeable step up.
However, being able to customize goal horns, arena sounds and in-game songs would elevate the mode even higher. MLB the Show’s Sounds of the Show allow players to customize every audio aspect of their experience, including multiple walk-up songs and custom uploaded chants. Bringing in hometown-specific songs and Ric Flair’s “woo” after goals would make an immersive mode even more incredible, all without significantly overhauling the core experience.
A Deeper Hockey School For Coaching Strategies And More Complicated Dekes
Hockey School was a nice feature for newcomers. Figuring out when to use wrist shots versus slapshots helps out beginners, but does not do much for intermediate or hardcore players. The game’s box advertises new Creative Attack Dekes that allow for players to chain a number of complicated moves together, but it is barely touched on at the very end of Hockey School. So why not expand Hockey School to include situational tutorials like a fighting game’s training modes to teach intermediate players how to become experts with these dekes?
Or how about a clearer breakdown of offensive/defensive strategies? Some are self-explanatory, though the game never recommends when or how often these coaching strategies should shift. For example, read this description for “Overload” an offensive strategy: “best suited for skilled players.” Well, alright. Overload actually consists of spacing players out to pass the puck to pull the defense out of position. The game plays well without shifts in coaching strategies, but sometimes the AI can feel two difficulties easier when the right tactic is employed against the right team. Expanding Hockey School for intermediate players is an easy win for NHL 19.
Classic Legendary Teams Outside Of HUT
The NBA 2K series’ inclusion of classic NBA teams brings a new level of excitement to each subsequent entry in the series. In the DLC/Ultimate Team world we live in, it is safe to rule out the option of unlocking these teams from single player progress. HUT already has HUT Heroes licensed, so why not expand a little bit more to include some of the most legendary NHL teams? Pitting the 1991 Pittsburgh Penguins against their present day counterparts would be a blast. Better yet, how fun would it be to take the 1984 Edmonton Oilers into Franchise Mode as the 32nd team in the league? Including these legendary players and teams would provide extra depth for every mode in the game.
An MLB The Show “Showtime” Feature
The 2016 iteration of MLB The Show implemented an optional feature called “Showtime” wherein your Road to the Show (the game’s career mode) player could slow down time for big moments. The Showtime meter was very sparse and primed for use in big moments such as a much-needed strikeout or a do-or-die hitting situation. While some initially wrote it off as a cheap way to make ends meet in Road to the Show, the mechanic did not always guarantee results and never grew to be overpowering. This idea is easily the most experimental of the bunch, but could be very useful for the blistering speed of breakaway dekes, busy rebounds in front of the net, or precisely aimed slap shots. It could even be used on defense to square up a big hit or a clutch diving body block. Of course, it would be available for any mode as an optional feature with extremely limited use. But it could add a new dimension to close nail biters or improbable comebacks.