Sports games are the closest thing most people get to the authentic professional athlete experience. NHL 20 shows that EA Sports are taking steps to catch the hockey world up to the gaming standards of some of their larger market games like FIFA and Madden. Even though NHL 20 has improved leaps and bounds with goalie AI, shot animations and skating feel, there are always opportunities to make the next game better. Hopefully they can carry the positive momentum to NHL 21.
While we wait to find out first-hand, here’s what we and many other players want to see in NHL 21.
Toxic players are sadly part of the online experience. Griefing, trolling, racist or misogynistic player names can be hurdles that leave some players avoiding online games altogether. The NHL 20 community would benefit if given the power to better report or block interactions with these toxic players. Community managers could also be given tools to help assess the game socially, so that it’s friendly and accessible for players of all ages and backgrounds.
EASHL Practice mode
“We ain’t talking about the game. We talking about practice, man.” The competitive NHL community is already rallied around the idea that EASHL Practice mode needs to come back. Players shouldn’t have to test out plays or strategies in-game, risking any rank progression they’ve made.
Practice is the non-stakes proving ground the CHEL community needs to elevate the skill level of the competitive scene. Not everybody understands the limits of how much you can spam a poke check.
Skill rating separation
Players have never been tuned better than in NHL 20, but it still isn’t enough. Connor McDavid should be the god-tier video game equivalent to Michael Vick in Madden 04 or Jeremy Roenick in NHL 94. It feels that there isn’t enough of a skill jump that separates what makes particular players unique.
NHL 20 shouldn’t be afraid to use the high 90’s to separate the generational talents from the 1st liners. Connor McDavid should be 97 OVR at the minimum, and NHL 21 should right this for its release.
World of CHEL
If NHL 20 is going to pull inspiration from NBA 2k’s MyPark/Neighborhood, they might as well embrace it and develop their own hockey world. It could easily be modeled after pond hockey tournaments, or even the Hockey Day In Canada layout of a hockey village. This would keep players engaged by allowing them to skate to different events or game modes, and can help integrate open world social options like emotes. It would be a lot more fun than wasting time navigating menus.
Optimize the menus
Speaking of the menus, they aren’t a total mess, but they’re not in places where they feel like they should be. It’s like going to another family’s kitchen and the cutlery is where you’d expect the spices, and the glasses where you’d expect pots and pans. It shouldn’t take minutes to get to the EASHL Locker Room, or the obscene amount of clicks to customize a character.
As far as customizing characters, instead of pre-set menu buttons, why aren’t there sliders? Full color customization and spectrums to physical appearance could allow the player to properly put him or herself in the game, or create an absolute abomination – great either way.
On the off-chance that EA ponied up the cash for licensing rights to international hockey tournaments, it would be nice to have a Be A Pro character represent their country in the World Juniors, Olympics, World Cup of Hockey, and so on. Most of the tournaments were featured in the franchise in the past, so it’s not like it hasn’t been done before. The tournaments alone could add some much needed substance to the stale NHL single player experience.
More guest characters
NHL 20 is one of the few games in EA Sports’ catalog that adds playable characters from outside the sport, so why not double down in NHL 21? Snoop Dogg, Kyle Lowry, Juju Smith-Schuster, Adam Thielen, and mascots (Gritty!) added flavor to the online experience.
The game can benefit from adding personalities like Chance The Rapper (Lazlo Holmes), JJ Watt, Seann William Scott (Goon), Justin Bieber, Will Ferrell, Steve Carell (Michael Scott/Scarn), or Carrie Underwood.