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NHL 18

Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Sports
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Sept. 15, 2017


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PS4/XOne Multiplayer Preview - 'NHL 18'

by Cody Medellin on July 28, 2017 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

NHL 18 delivers the action of today’s new NHL with new 3-on-3 NHL Threes mode, creative attack Controls, league expansion and more.

Pre-order NHL 18

For the third year in a row, EA Sports has put its NHL series through a beta designed to iron out any online quirks before the full game's release. As expected, the beta features a number of modes that showcase different online aspects. Regular versus play and EA Sports Hockey League perform very well online, so fans of those modes will be pleased. There was one mode that we were very interested in because it's new and feels like a big change: Threes mode.

Threes mode represents EA's attempt at emulating the old NHL Hitz series. On the surface, this means two teams of three players (not counting goalies) face off against each other in a not-so-standard game of hockey. All rules are tossed out the window, so hits are encouraged, and things like icing and offsides won't slow down the game. Depending on your options, you're either playing with standard periods with very short time limits or playing for a target number of goals. To spice things up a bit, some goals grant you bonus points, while other goals deduct points from the opponent.

For the most part, the Threes mode feels faster than the regular game. Part of this is due to the removal of two players from the ice, so everyone has more of a chance for breakaways. The lack of penalties also helps in this regard, as there are fewer stoppages. There are no fights, but that can be seen as a negative, since hockey is generally known for such skirmishes.

A few things could use some improvement, especially if you're more of an arcade hockey game fan. If you're looking at the small things, the over-the-top announcer emphasizes some of the more mundane moves in the game. His lines to hype up the crowd don't work very well, so they come off as cheesy or forced rather than humorous.

Additionally, the shortened time periods mean you're constantly interrupted to break for a new period. On average, you'll play the equivalent of two normal hockey games in one seven-goal match. NHL 18 retains some simulation aspects in Threes mode; it may be intentional but is perplexing for those who might think of this as an arcade mode. Player movement and shooting feel sluggish, and if you shoot hard enough, you can lose the puck to the crowd. Pinning an opponent to the boards is also possible, and while that is perfectly fine for the main game, it feels out of place in a mode that's supposed to be faster-paced.

In the end, the Threes mode in NHL 18 feels like a decent first draft of a mode that isn't sure what it wants to be yet. If this were meant to be a more arcade iteration of the sport, it needs work since the pace feels slow due to the number of simulation elements still in play. The multiplayer modes have potential, so it all depends on whether the rest of NHL 18 proves to be a solid package. We'll find out in mid-September.

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