The open beta for EA Sports' next installment in their critically-acclaimed (save for their 2014 release) NHL franchise went live Thursday and remains available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One owners through August 8th. As a lapsed fan of the franchise, I took advantage of this opportunity to get some early impressions of this year's game.
The biggest takeaway from the beta is the new NHL Threes, which provides a more arcade style of gameplay akin to Anniversary Mode in NHL '14. The added wrinkle in this feature, compared to that of Anniversary Mode, is the new Money Puck which adds variety of bonuses when scored. Goals can be worth double, or triple their usual amount, or in some cases, can subtract from your opponent's goal total, which proves quite beneficial as you're playing to a specific goal total (first one to seven goals wins). I felt right at home playing this, as I am far more familiar with the arcade iterations of the franchise as opposed to the more realistic style of play this series is known for. The beta also includes an online versus mode of the game's far more established hockey-sim. The presentation of this game is where EA shines as it captures the broadcast quality feel you come to expect from a sports game in 2017. A few lines of commentary seemed out of place, but nothing too jarring that would remove me from the game entirely. The players themselves look and move great, and the control are remarkably tight for a game that has many complex mechanics. While it's not a game that I can pick up the controller and master, I look do look forward to the opportunity of spending more time with the full game down the line. NHL 18 releases September 15th, 2017 for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. For more information, check back with us at www.48minutesnetwork.com