Sports

The Ignite graphics engine shows its age in EA’s NHL 20. Photo: Charley Dutil/Fulcrum

Fans will have to wait for the addition of Frostbite engine, French broadcast team, and GM Connected to join EA’s NHL series

Electronic Arts (EA) officially launched NHL 20 on Sept.13. The 32nd edition in the EA NHL series features Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews, a controversial pick among fans who root for the 30 other NHL teams but share a love of hating the Leafs. 

Along with Matthews, the game features an array of changes. The first shift casual gamers will notice is the new broadcast team of James Cybulski and Ray Ferraro. Regardless of Cybulski’s lack of experience in an NHL broadcast booth, his enthusiasm is a welcome sign. NHL 20 still does not offer a French broadcast team, despite countless demands from francophone fans of the series to cast longtime Montreal Canadiens broadcaster Pierre Houde to feature in the game. 

Another addition to the 32nd edition is the new Eliminator mode, a battle royale inspired contest where players face off on a number of outdoor rinks across the world and try to outscore opponents to move on to the next rink. The Rideau Canal is on the lineup of outdoor rinks but sadly the University of Ottawa wasn’t recreated as part of the decor, so don’t expect to see the Faculty of Social Sciences Building in the background. 

EA also added a new shooting engine and improved goalie animations in NHL 20, giving the game a more realistic feel. The biggest difference seems to be in the passing of the puck. It feels a little more sloppy and less orchestrated than NHL 19, which is especially good for modes like EA Sports Hockey League (EASHL) since it gives it more of a beer league feel. It also creates a lot of turnovers and scoring opportunities seemingly out of the blue.

However, ‘’CHEL’’ still runs on the old Ignite engine, meaning the graphics aren’t up to date for 2019 video game standards. Most of EA’s sports series like FIFA already run on the newer Frostbite engine and look much better than NHL.

Hockey Ultimate Team is still a pay-to-play mode, as it’s still nearly impossible to build a good team without buying in-game purchases. EA still hasn’t reintroduced the fan-favourite GM Connected mode that was in the game on the last generation of consoles. 

Finally, the impact of hits on players has also been reduced, which lots of gamers have complained about. Poke checking is also useless as almost every attempt ends up tripping the player and giving the other team a powerplay/penalty shot.

Overall, NHL 20 feels better than 19, but it’s lacking three features that would make it a truly great NHL game: the Frostbite engine, GM Connected and an option for a French broadcast team.