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NHL

20 Oct 2020

NHL 21 Review: How new features push hockey sim gaming forward

NHL 21 Review: How new features push hockey sim gaming forward

EA's newest hockey sim has plenty of new features to explore. Here is our review in progress so far!

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First Impressions

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General Gameplay

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Be A Pro

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Franchise Mode

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World of Chel

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HUT - HUT RUSH

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Verdict

NHL 21 is here, and with some time to explore all of the new changes in the game, it's time for our review!

Let's go over our experiences so far, and how the game stacks up in the EA NHL series.

First Impressions

You can read over our very first impressions of NHL 21 here, but we've had a good amount of time since to really get into the game.

With that said, here's our breakdown so far of the new features - and our NHL 21 review in-progress.

General Gameplay

NHL 21 brings a fresh new gameplay feeling to the ice, and it starts with the new and improved AI.

NHL 21 Gameplay Svech

AI movement was drastically improved this year, which means more intelligent team movement, and better defense as a result.

Along with this, new superstar moves makes top level players really stand out in-game, making for a more realistic experience. When Alexander Ovechkin is on the ice, you'll feel it, and the pressure is a welcome addition.

Be A Pro

Without a doubt the highest point of NHL 21 right now is Be A Pro mode.

NHL 21 Be A Pro Scores Likeability Followers

NHL 21's career mode received a ton of new features and upgrades this year, and each really personalize your player's journey through the league.

Whether it's forming relationships with teammates, coaches, and the media, or making important decisions that have real ramifications, everything you do feels consequential this year.

Franchise Mode

NHL 21 Franchise Mode received some new features as well. These features include new trade value assessment (that properly values stars), draft class customization, and trade deadline decisions to make.

Franchise Mode Stanley Cup

There could certainly be more growth in NHL 21's Franchise Mode to fully reach the levels of some other top sports franchises like NBA 2K and MLB The Show.

But these changes add customization that allow players to control how their Franchise Mode world grows.

World of Chel

World of Chel is perhaps the area with the most growth potential in NHL 21. With some new additional features helping to customize players in the game mode, things are looking up.

NHL 21 World of Chel Traits

For starters, players will have to choose different traits that will differentiate their playstyle from others.

These add a good amount of replayability to World of Chel, and make the climb to grow your player and rise up the ranks even more enjoyable!

HUT - HUT RUSH

Like most players, our first move entering NHL 21 was to open our pre-order HUT packs.

After all, the feeling can only be compared to Christmas morning.

NHL 21 HUT packs

Getting into HUT gameplay, and especially HUT RUSH gameplay, there are some pros and cons.

For starters, HUT RUSH feels like a refreshing take on gameplay, scoring on style as much as shots hitting the back of the net.

Unfortunately the game mode deserves some more balancing, as it rewards some spamming of moves like dekes that eventually drag. But we expect this will be cleaned up over time.

Verdict

NHL 21 is a huge improvement from last year, and some game modes have grown tenfold.

NHL 21 Be A Pro Conversations

The biggest growth for the series has come in Be A Pro mode, and improvements to AI across defense and general movement.

These are complimented by upgrades for Franchise Mode, World of Chel, and some amazing graphics (which will only get better running on next-gen consoles)!

While the NHL series can still catch up with some other sports franchises in certain areas, this game is a treat for hockey fans, and even worth picking up for general sports gamers.

RealSport Rating: 3.5 Stars (out of 5)