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The Five Biggest Takeaways From the NHL 19 Beta

NHL 19

The Five Biggest Takeaways From the NHL 19 Beta

Ahead of the release of NHL 19 on September 14, EA surprised everyone by dropping a beta version of the game a couple of weeks ago for free download. Now that the beta just has just wrapped up and everyone has had ample opportunity to give the upcoming game a try, it’s probably a good time to reflect on my experience with the beta and consider what areas stood out most when compared to NHL 18.

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the NHL 19 beta.

Watch Your Pokes

By far, the biggest adjustment everyone had in making the leap from NHL 18 to NHL 19 was learning to use your poke checks selectively. While NHL 18 eventually settled on a tuner set that often rewarded the spamming of the poke check to get the puck away from opposing players — even allowing it to be effective at some of the most inopportune angles — that all appears set to change in NHL 19. The big deterrent now for using the poke a little too liberally is penalties, and plenty of them. Online 6 vs. 6 games within the beta were filled with people learning the hard way about how to properly use the mechanic as penalty minutes over the course of a game ballooned to ridiculous proportions.

But as people played more and more games, they gradually grew accustomed to the nuances of when a poke was appropriate and when it was liable to send someone sprawling to the ice. It became imperative to play better positional defense and use your body rather than the stick to create turnovers — thanks in part to the game’s improved hitting engine. Though some people naturally opined that EA had ruined their most reliable defensive tool and turned the game into a boring penalty-fest, EA surprisingly stood firm in the belief that defense is more than poke checks, and despite an update to the tuner set partway through the beta that made the penalties a hair more lenient, suggested that people adjust their tactics accordingly.

Real Player Motion

With EA focusing on making players’ movements more realistic across their entire slate of games, NHL 19 has the added the challenge of trying to replicate skating across a sheet of ice. But the developers have done a rather remarkable job of making significant improvements in this important area, allowing much more control and responsiveness from your inputs. Whereas last year’s game too often had your player appearing slow and sluggish, NHL 19 now has you feeling the impact of every stride, whether you’re speeding down the ice on a breakneck rush or making a tight turn to try and get back into the play. Skating is the absolute foundation of hockey and we’ve seen mediocre approximations of all its complexities in the past, so it’s refreshing and encouraging to find it working this smoothly in the NHL 19 beta.

Puck Pick-Ups

The bane of everyone’s experience in NHL 18, picking up the pick when you’re skating close by it, has thankfully been adequately addressed in NHL 19 to the extent that there are now only rare instances where you feel like you were cheated out of coming up with the puck on your stick. This is a far cry from the regular frustrations of last year and a relief to anyone who feared this persistent bug would continue to hinder the series for yet another year.

Customization is King

One of the drawbacks in NHL 18 was the way your player would level up in EASHL but you would never really see anything in the way of rewards for your efforts — other than just a higher number next to your name. In NHL 19, however, there’s plenty of compensation to be found within The World of Chel in the form of hockey bags that can then be opened to obtain customizable clothing and equipment that you can use to set yourself apart from everyone else on the ice, ranging from funky pants to fancy parkas to different styles of hats. It’s hard to complain all that much about actually having something to show off for your efforts now, but it’s also worth mentioning how some of the clothing can make it a little confusing at times in EASHL as to who is on your own team and who isn’t. This could perhaps be helped by making the differentiation between light and dark clothing a little clearer.

Ones

Perhaps it shouldn’t come as any surprise, but the new Ones mode in NHL 19 is a wild and frenetic free-for-all whose mileage will likely vary according to tastes. As someone who values the team play and cooperative elements of hockey more, I found Ones to be a little too chaotic and redundant for my tastes. There’s only so much enjoyment you can get out of trying to collect a puck in the corner only to be bowled over by one of your two opponents (or both), or having one of those same cherry-picking opponents slip a juicy rebound by the goaltender right after your shot was stopped. But others seem to like how different it is from other modes, offering players a chance to show off their individual skills and work their way up tiers for rewards.

Final Analysis

All in all, the NHL 19 beta was likely better than most people expected given the myriad issues from NHL 18 that needed attention and has most hockey fans more excited than they’ve been in some time for the next entry in the series. There will likely still be some fine tuning with the poke-check mechanic to find the perfect balance, but the implementation of RPM and better puck pick-ups are encouraging signs that developers have been focused on the issues most in need of improvement. With a little helpful feedback from the community, this could be a rare year where the game grows in leaps and bounds rather than the incremental progress we’ve become accustomed to seeing.

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  1. I had fun playing the beta. one on one and 3s drop-in. But is it enough to warrant a purchase and full price at $59.99US?
    Going to give the EA trial a go and see if it's any good. The new hitting and skating mechanics are nice, but how will the AI fair in-game and in season/franchise mode is the biggest concern i have with the game.
    will there be any team or player differentiation, that's what this game (and Fifa, and Madden for that matter) has sorely missed.   In the NHL game each team plays/attacks/defends the same way and the games become stale and boring.
    Peter_OS
    I had fun playing the beta. one on one and 3s drop-in. But is it enough to warrant a purchase and full price at $59.99US?
    Going to give the EA trial a go and see if it's any good. The new hitting and skating mechanics are nice, but how will the AI fair in-game and in season/franchise mode is the biggest concern i have with the game.

    For whatever reason the game plays a lot differently in Franchise Mode compared to Play Now.
    I’d probably buy the game if it weren’t like that.
    Sent from my iPhone using Operation Sports
    I'd buy it if it were available on PC like Madden and FIFA.
    I'm not buying a PS4/XB1 just for one game though unfortunately.
    Looks like another year of NHL Legacy on PS3 for me! :duck:
    Money99
    For whatever reason the game plays a lot differently in Franchise Mode compared to Play Now.
    I’d probably buy the game if it weren’t like that.
    Sent from my iPhone using Operation Sports

    THIS!
    I get so frustrated playing this game as it depends on what mode you're playing as to what the various sliders do. It's frustrating. I tried so hard with 18 to get it to play right. Plug one hole, open 10 others. I think my hockey gaming days are just over...
    I don’t play a ton of play now, usually just franchise games etc.
    I’ve noticed last few years guys saying games play different in play now compared to franchise or even season mode.
    What are you guys noticing that is different?
    My 5 biggest take aways from the Beta:
    1) Skating light years better and it improved the AI in SOME areas. The poking is right where it should be after the tuner but we all know how the tuner game goes. Without being able to play offline yet I do feel the skating has to make that mode better.
    2) Goalies received no love again. Same money goals we all learned 8+ years ago still work.
    3) Promised player separation is non existent again. Give us a roster share and we will fix this for you.
    4) Ones was fun but I was already getting bored with it during the Beta and a new toque or pair of jeans isn’t going to change that. Time would have been better spent working on the actual real game of hockey.
    5) EASHL is a bumbling cluster F in the street clothes.
    I’m on the fence. I think I could do an offline season based off what I saw but I’m not sure I have the patience to deal with the radical changes that happen every time a tuner or patch is released. Fix 1 thing mess up 3....a roster share would go a long way I’m swaying me into buying.
    ... as people played more and more games, they gradually grew accustomed to the nuances of when a poke was appropriate ...

    Sorry, that is false. What happened is this, people stopped using the poke-check button completely. Players adapted to instead hitting everything that moved since body checks became the over-powered defensive weapon in its place. There is a happy medium somewhere when it comes to poke checking and hitting, but IMO they haven't found a good balance yet. It is much better than NHL 18, but too many times undeserved penalties are given to legit poke-check attempts.
    2khockeyguy
    Sorry, that is false. What happened is this, people stopped using the poke-check button completely. Players adapted to instead hitting everything that moved since body checks became the over-powered defensive weapon in its place. There is a happy medium somewhere when it comes to poke checking and hitting, but IMO they haven't found a good balance yet. It is much better than NHL 18, but too many times undeserved penalties are given to legit poke-check attempts.

    Exactly. That’s the biggest problem is that EA doesn’t tweak anything they radically change it. Overall the problem is two fold. 1) Your computer AI teammates are brain dead so you over compensate with desperate pokes. 2) EA eventually caters to the whiners who don’t know how to play so the game becomes an over the top poke fest hit fest. The tuner they released for the BETA was excellent. It balanced the poke appropriately based on where you attempted the poke from but eventually they will tune it to make the cry babies happy and once again everyone will spam poke.
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