It’s that time during the NHL playoffs where EA’s hockey series preps to release it’s update on (or lately removal of) game features for it’s yearly NHL installment while forums interwebs wide get flooded with gamer “wishlist’s”. Even Fox Sports own hockey guy and gamer Pete Blackburn recently wrote his NHL 18 wishlist.
Well now it’s my turn, dammit.
So sit back and watch this (very good) lifelong NHL gamer (since NHLPA ’92) offer up improvements that would make NHL 18 the greatest thing to happen to hockey since the zamboni.
#1: Fix Your Servers. There are piles of kids out there who actually think how good they are at NHL matters. They care where they are on leaderboards. Then there’s the normal human being who, although enjoys a nice win, plays for fun because it’s a video game and in the end it means absolutely nothing. However you partake you need to be able to enjoy your online gaming experience in a smooth manner. EA’s NHL series is plagued by horrible servers. And we know this because 99% of other games run fine online. NHL has almost never been a great online experience. Servers need to be priority one for NHL 18 (but absolutely expect them to not be better come September).
#2: Deepen Franchise/Be A Pro Modes: Hire/fire coaches. Promote staff from the AHL or ECHL. Extend players contracts mid-season. Revamp drafting, trade logic, scouting. Make the trade deadline an event. Offer retired players coaching jobs. Retire numbers. And on and on and on. Everything needed for these modes could get it’s own dedicated blog they’re that bland. All you have to do is look at Madden, MLB The Show, and NBA 2k to see how embarrassing the NHL version of single player modes are in comparison.
#3: Add Roster Share. NHL roster updates are the worst of all sports games. They are terribly inaccurate and rare. Allow the nerds and authentic gamers who care about them to share their amazing work and craft.
#4: Fix the “intelligence” part of A.I.:
That is an actual clip from last night of my defenseman putting the puck in our own net. There was no prompting on my end, no call for a pass, just shitty A.I. in 2017 doing it’s thing. And it happens ALL the time. All the self board pinning behind the net, not chipping it up the wall quickly, turning into the goalie with the puck, and no use of indirect passes or passes to space needs to go. We’re not asking the CPU to win the game for us, we’re asking for common sense, competence, and a quick breakout once in awhile.
PS: We lost that game 2-1. “Thanks, EA.”
#5: Improve Skating Engine. I love that the series has moved from arcade skating to what it is now. It’s the right move. But it’s got a ways to go. Skating still feels like driving a tractor trailer truck in GTA V. It’s painful to turn directions, stop on a dime, pivot, face the puck, you name it. It’s a chore. This should be a hockey experience not a broken skating simulator. Just watch the real NHL. It’s so fast and fluid from point A to point B. Not EA’s version. They fix this problem alone, while playing on a good server, and it becomes the best team game out there.
#6: Less Animation, More Physics. NHL has to be the most automated/animation driven game I’ve played. Yet hockey, with all it’s quirks on ice with and odd shaped puck, is anything but automated. I don’t expect that the animation heavy model they use will go away but a heavy physics based model would be fantastic. If you play offline and adjust sliders in NHL 17 you know the possibility for vast improvement is there.
#7: New Stanley Cup Celebration, Please. It feels like it’s been the same crappy montage that’s been around as long as the Habs Cup drought. Let us skate around with the Cup and pass it off to a teammate. Let us enjoy it.
#8: Add More Defensive Tools/Skill Stick: Right now it’s just poke check or hit a guy. But you rarely want to hit because the player you hit will still get up and get the puck before you. So let us use the stick to take away passing lanes or keep it out in front of us for gap control as well.
#9: New Boardplay, Faceoffs, and Fighting Would Be Nice. They’re all as old as the rock, paper, scissors game they’re modeled after. They need a face lift. Make those gritty areas great again.
#10: New Presentation: Give us new cut-scenes, new (simpler) menu layouts, new commentary. Make it fresh. Throw in some custom music options, draft and trade day videos too. Let’s make this thing a real nice production. At least try to make it seem like NHL 18 is something more than just a roster update.
Overall, I do enjoy NHL 17. I like the simulation like direction they’re attempting. The problem is there are other sports options out there. And you only have to play one of those options (2k, Madden, The Show, etc.) once to realize they are all light years ahead of NHL in terms of features, depth, support, presentation, customization, servers, you name it. Hell, some NHL features from old Sega versions are better than today. It’s time to catch up.
This is an extremely important year for the NHL series and if they fail on the most primitive of levels, omitting basic features that are in all other sports titles, then we can only pray a competitor takes advantage of EA’s self-destructive failure with the NHL series and we soon see another legit hockey sim option.
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