The NHL franchise has seen its fair share of ups and downs. I can remember playing NHL 11, my first in the series, and just absolutely loved it. The skating and puck play was great and the hitting was the best I think it’s ever been in the series. Through recent years the NHL games seem to have hit a roadblock with adding any innovation into the series. Although not all bad, NHL 19 falls victim to this.
I have not played an NHL game since NHL 16 and it was nothing too special. So after two years, I decided to jump back in and try out the beta for NHL 19. The biggest new feature was the addition of the CHEL, just a coined term used for the series. A space housing several games modes where you can create a character, play to unlock cosmetics and level up your player. It’s an interesting direction that I thought was pretty neat. The presentation of it all is really good and it does a decent job of creating an engaging atmosphere. In the CHEL you can participate in drop-in threes, 1v1v1 and the most popular mode: EASHL. All of these modes level up your character, which gives you access to traits to improve your player.
Alongside traits, you unlock different player types ranging from “Two Way Forward” to “Enforcer Defenseman”. These types will change up your attributes so you can easily deke around opposing players or knock them into next week. It’s a simple system that lets you create a somewhat custom build for your skater.
The biggest things I noticed during my first drop-in game were the controls and gameplay. Knowledge from the last time I played kicked right back in. Like nothing changed. There seems to have been no noticeable update to the gameplay, as I was having no problem getting back into shooting, passing and hitting. Whether or not this is negative, depends on what you want, but I would’ve liked to have seen some sort of update on how you play the game. The hitting did seem better, compared to previous iterations of the game, but other than that expect the same in terms of gameplay.
During my time with the beta, I experienced a very good amount of crashes and freezes. There would be times where I’d be in the middle of a match and then the game stops. It happened multiple times. I know it’s a beta, but it did not make me feel very confident for a stable launch.
Overall I would have to give the beta one big “meh”. It was fun to play some hockey again and I enjoyed most of my games, but with all the crashes and technical issues, it really took away from the experience. I will keep my eye on it though and we will see how the final puck drops.