NHL 21: First Impressions - Gameplay, Early Access, EA Play Trial, Editions & more

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You can play NHL 21 now via early access!

Let's go over how to get on the ice, and our first impressions of the game heading toward launch day.

NHL 21 Early Access


If you're looking to play NHL 21 now, there are several options.

The first is a 10-hour trial players can receive from subscribing to EA Play. This trial isn't like the traditional demo, offering all of the game's features from the start.

READ MORE: NHL 21 Release Date: Pre-Orders, Early Access, EA Play & more

For more permanent early access, players can hit the ice by pre-ordering the Great Eight or Deluxe Editions of NHL 21.

First Impressions

Now that you know how to start playing NHL 21 now, let's dive right into our first impressions of the game so far.


NHL 21 gameplay is looking sharp this year, and we haven't even seen it on next-gen just yet.

NHL 21 Gameplay Svech
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THE SVECH: New superstar moves add depth to NHL 21 gameplay

New superstar abilities add a nice layer of depth to the game, and a constant feeling that top players truly are a different breed.

READ MORE:NHL 21 Price: Editions, Pre-Orders, Release Date & more

New reworked AI movement also makes for a more realistic gameplay experience on both sides of the puck.

Be A Pro

Perhaps the biggest upgrade in NHL 21 is in the Be A Pro game mode.

NHL 21 Be A Pro Scores Likeability Followers
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CHOOSE WISELY: Be A Pro now has dynamic scoring based on your decisions

EA put a lot of development into the NHL series' career mode, and fleshes it out with plenty of new features like relationship scores, decisions, and more.


READ MORE:NHL 21 Gameplay Trailer: New Skills, Moves, Transitions & more

This is by far the biggest upgrade Be A Pro has ever had, so career mode players will thoroughly enjoy the experience.


NHL 21 introduced a new approach to Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT) gameplay by adding HUT RUSH.

READ MORE:The Fastest Skaters in NHL 21

HUT RUSH brings new and exciting gameplay to the game mode, rewarding players for creating big moments and making stylish moves.


The game mode also introduces some unique side-content like playable mascots.

Franchise Mode

NHL 21 made some changes to Franchise Mode in important areas like trade value, and draft class customization.

NHL 21 franchise mode trade value
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KNOW YOUR WORTH: Updated trade value adds more realism to Franchise Mode

While these upgrades are appreciated, Franchise Mode could've received even more to catch up with that of other major sports franchises like NBA 2K and MLB The Show.


READ MORE:NHL 21 Cover: Cover Star, Rating, Editions & more

Still, Franchise Mode has improved, and the added depth helps balance it to a more realistic experience.

World of Chel

There's plenty of depth to World of Chel that will take some time to fully experience.

NHL 21 World of Chel Traits
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CHOOSE YOUR STYLE: Traits allow players to choose between different stat tradeoffs

This includes the progression systems, specializations, and evolving meta.

READ MORE:NHL 21: Closed Technical Test Replaces Closed Beta

From what we've seen so far, the new systems in World of Chel add a good amount of personal depth to a mode that desperately needed it.