Let’s forget about bubbles and games without an audience. This year, NHL 21 did not need great innovations to give guilty pleasure to hockey and video game fans: it suffices to allow in the virtual world what is today impossible in times of pandemic.
New things, there are quite a few in the new edition of the venerable franchise NHL, launched in 1993 and developed by the Vancouver studio of EA Sports, available this Friday. But these are essentially technical improvements that make players more realistic, with an increased panoply of typical feints and gestures and a markedly improved artificial intelligence.
All this under the cries of the virtual crowd, with surprisingly relevant comments from the two analysts, giving an atmosphere that the poor real games of the last Stanley Cup series were far from having.
Seven new combos
First observation: the resumptions of important games and goals are very successful, changing the angle of the camera and alternating between slow motion and normal speed.
Seven new feints have also been added to the long list of key combinations. Honestly, we couldn’t master them all because the combinations are so precise and must be executed with perfect synchronism. With the button L1 then R2, hop, your player makes a pass to himself by ricocheting off the back of the net. Do you dream of counting by sticking your puck on your stick and sliding it behind the goalie’s back, what we call “Michigan”? It’s now available if you manage to combine your right controller and the L1 button the right way. We did it once, a spectacular accomplishment.
Try, while holding the L1 key, the terrible feint popularized by striker Nikita Kucherov. It consists of letting the puck slide between the goalie’s pads while pretending to dribble with the puck. This one, we never succeeded.
Live like a pro
You can choose from the start between 12 game modes, the same ones that fans of NHL. The classics, without fuss, are the immediate matches and the full season. This is still our favorite way to get into the game, with the rosters that were from last spring, which can be changed with exchanges. For beginners, we always have access to a training camp that will allow you to refresh your memory to learn how to combine the eight keys and the two joysticks of your controller.
A nice surprise awaits us in the Go Pro Career mode, which EA announces that it has revamped. This is actually what could come closest to an RPG in hockey mode. You must first build your own player from fifteen models proposed, which will then evolve in one of the three minor leagues proposed, including the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Unlike other modes, you only control one player in matches, just like in real life, and you have to wait for the coach to send you onto the ice or a teammate to pass you to see some action. action.
Your performance influences how the public, players and management perceive you, allowing you to better position yourself for the National League draft. But there’s more: you need to answer some questions from your agent, reporters, or coach, which will establish whether you are a team player or a self-centered star. This aspect is quite interesting and opens the door to many future possibilities.
Retro fashion coming soon
The other mode that has been upgraded is Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT), which allows you to build your dream team with current players and legends and send them online against others. opponents. Obviously, since EA’s servers were not active for reviews, we were unable to complete the test. This year, we have added a new mode, HUT RUSH, which allows you to taste this mode without having to build a whole team on your own.
For buyers of NHL 21 In pre-order, we also announce for October 30 a retro game, NHL 94 Rewind, which uses the pixelated graphics of the famous original game with current players.
The verdict: a good vintage again this year, even if we are far from the hundreds of improvements that EA Sports usually announces for its franchise NHL. The small touches made further improve the quality, speed and intelligence of the game, and the Career mode now makes it possible to have fun even off the ice.
Obviously, it is easy for the newcomer or even the one who has abandoned his console for a few months to get lost in this ocean of combinations, keys and different modes. You can choose simplified modes, losing suddenly some of the subtleties of the game, or restrict yourself to a few hours of training.
It’s still for a good cause.
Card: NHL 21
Developer: EA Sports
Release Date: October 16, 2020
Tried on PS4, with a copy provided by EA Sports
Rating: 4 out of 5