NHL 18 Review: After 6 Weeks With The Game

Over the past few weeks, I’ve put a good amount of hours into playing NHL 18. It’s the latest edition in EA Sports’ annual hockey sim franchise, and if you’ve played one of the recent ones, many parts of NHL 18 will be familiar to you. The developers at EA Canada have made some good progress in filling out the game since it’s unacceptably spare launch on PS4 and Xbox One a few years ago, but the game still doesn’t quite live up to its potential as the only console hockey game out there.

One aspect of this review which, in my opinion, reflects an issue with the game’s development is that I play primarily offline. I’ve dabbled in EASHL and HUT over the years, but the high bar for competition makes playing online, at least if you want to do well, demanding in a way that’s reminiscent of hardcore shooters like Call of Duty. You either play a lot, or you get your butt kicked by people who do.

So I play primarily single player, and it’s clear EA can be strained in putting the proper resources to those modes along with a robust online game. The game is much better than it was years ago, but it’s still nowhere near as detailed as more popular franchises like Madden or FIFA. Between an annual release schedule and the need to develop online and offline modes, you can see how it’s difficult for everything to get the love it deserves.


Anyway, those are some broad thoughts on the future of the franchise, but NHL 18 is still a game worth playing if you’re into hockey. Let’s go over some positives and negatives, focusing mainly on single-player stuff.

The gameplay in general feels good

This is the main thing EA Canada nailed from the start of the transition to this generation of consoles, and the game still feels really good. The physics are impressive, the goaltending is much more realistic than older games, and it still captures the speed that differentiates NHL from its FIFA brethren.

Player ratings make way more sense

They’re not quite perfect, but the effort to make ratings more sensible this year has been a boon for franchise mode. There are way fewer players in the 82-88 range, and that makes elite players stand out in a more realistic way. There’s a wider talent gap in the NHL than the old ratings system had.

This also goes for developing prospects in franchise mode. You can now easily pick players in the top five of the draft who will become superstars in short order, just like we see in the real NHL. That used to be more difficult in the old game, and it was never really clear why certain players would reach their potential while others didn’t. The development system isn’t as good as in Madden’s franchise mode, where your on-field effort directly corresponds to increases in players’ ratings, but developing a team through the draft is much more satisfying in NHL 18 than before.

Also, you can now turn off notifications for your scout asking where to go. You used to have to do this every six weeks in the sim and it was a pain.

Threes is a blast

One of the issues with the game’s move toward hardcore sim gameplay is that it’s made the game less accessible for people who just want to pick up and play. Threes is EA’s solution to that, and it’s a great way to hop into a hockey game with friends who haven’t played NHL in years without skipping a beat. It’s essentially NHL Arcade Mode. It’s good.

Back on the Ice with NHL 18

EA Sports continue their new season of sports sims adding this year’s ice hockey extravaganza, NHL 18, to the line-up.

A favourite of mine, EA’s NHL series has been entertaining fans for nearly 25 years. Whilst the first current-gen iteration was a bit feature-poor, in subsequent years the franchise has gone from strength to strength.

The fast pace and sometimes vicious contact between players is what make EA Sports’ NHL games so exciting. It’s a game that has the depth of football, but the speed of basketball, all topped off with the brutality of rugby.

But, whilst every year I look forward to the new season of EA Sports title, it is with some apprehension. Are we getting something new this year or is it just a roster update?


NHL 18 misses out on the campaign modes that are currently en vogue amongst sports titles, which is a bit of a shame. In FIFA 17 and, most recently, Madden NFL 18, the single-player story campaign has given the games a more personal touch. Despite this disappointing omission, NHL 18 still brings enough to the table to make the latest entry in the franchise worth a look.

NHL 18 features all your usual play modes, allowing quick games, NHL seasons, franchise management and, of course, NHL Ultimate Team.

New for this year is NHL Threes. The three-on-three gameplay opens up the ice for faster-paced arcade-style action. You can play a multi-city tournament, a single game or against an online opponent.

Threes pits two team of three players plus goalkeepers against each other with the first to score seven points being the winner. Points are scored with each goal, but consecutive goals can score double points or even deduct the opponent’s points. This results in high scoring games with teams requiring consist performance to win. Action comes fast, with no face-off and penalties for infringements. The game continues with extra periods until one team hits the magic seven points.

Gameplay-wise there have been some tweaks. Players seem to move better on the ice, with more weight and the deke controls is bit more manageable. Of course, you can still go back to the NHL ’94 controls if you are feeling retro.

NHL 18 caters to newcomers via a very comprehensive set of training videos and interactive drills from Team Canada. These tutorials are essential if you’ve not played NHL before, and also a good revision tool if you’ve been away from the franchise for a while.

Visually, there’s not much difference from last year. This is perhaps due to NHL 18 still using EA’s Ignite engine. Madden NFL and FIFA have transitioned to the Frostbite engine, the same used to power most of EA Games’ other titles.

Whilst a graphical overhaul would have been nice, NHL 18 still features a slick TV-style presentation, complete with NBC branding and top commentary from Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk. NHL Threes, notably, features an extremely excitable un-named MC whose sole job is to work the crowd into a frenzy.

On the whole NHL 18 delivers. There’s still room for improvement in order to bring it up to the heights of its EA Sports stable-mates Madden NFL and FIFA. But, still, I enjoyed it and I think you will to.

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NHL 18 Hockey Ultimate Team: Best Centers And Faceoff Guide

Your center, be they on the first line or fourth line, are always your second most important player on the ice – with the most important being your goaltender – so it is vital to have skilled players at center on each line. From goal scoring centers like Sidney Crosby to defensive centers like Patrice Bergeron, all centers offer something different, but which ones should you have in your team?


In this guide, we will show you how to execute faceoffs, who the best centers are, the best centers for faceoffs, and who contribute to the faceoff boosting synergy.

Everyone looks for different skill sets, or rather playing styles, in their centers. Some prefer ones who can score, others want the centers to be assisting the wingers, and some want their center to be defensive. On each player card, you see a three letter code which indicates the player’s playing style. With centers there are four that occur throughout the top players, and another that some of the lesser centers possess.

First is PLY or Playmaker, these will act in a way which benefits them getting the puck and moving it to a more desired scorer, as well as having some scoring ability themselves.

TWF or Two-way Forwards are your more defensive centers, ones who will position themselves well at both ends of the ice.

SNP or Snipers are the ones more primed to scoring goals and will get into space that puts them in better scoring positions.
PWF or Power Forwards work well all over the ice but peak in physicality.

GRN or Grinder is a non-existent class within the elite centers, but is on one of the better faceoff men, who you will read about later on in this guide. Grinders are all about defence and physicality.

Whilst you will most likely want one of your centers to be a Sniper to boost your scoring, you will need high calibre faceoff winners, if not in all four lines, in at least three. The center is the man who wins you possession, and you can’t score without possession.

On NHL 18, a player’s faceoff skill is determined by their poise and faceoff stats combined. Whilst a player like Evgeni Malkin may have an overall of 90, his faceoff ability is nowhere near that of Jonathan Toews, Patrice Bergeron, or even Brian Boyle. Whilst your skill in the duel will be the most influential factor to you winning in the faceoff circle, you will want the huge advantage that some players can give you.

So here are the top centers in the game, ranked by their faceoff ability.

A quick way to beef-up your faceoffs through the lines would be to invest in Paul Gaustad for Line 4, Mikko Koivu for Line 3, Ryan Kesler for Line 2 and Jordan Staal for Line 1. It would only cost a few thousand coins (three or four games worth of winnings) to get these four in and give you a huge advantage in the faceoff circle. Then, eventually, you can upgrade to the faceoff gods like Patrice Bergeron, Jonathan Toews and Ryan Getzlaf.

The only synergy on NHL 18 Hockey Ultimate Team that boosts both faceoffs and poise is Faceoff Master (FM). Others like Passing Playmaker (PP) and Tape to Tape (TT) also boost poise, but only Faceoff Master boosts the faceoffs stat.
There aren’t any coaches cards that contribute to Faceoff Master, as they only contribute to team synergies, so if you want to unlock the added plus four to your team’s faceoffs and poise stats, you’ll need to account for four points worth of Faceoff Master players in your team.

As you would expect, those possessing the Faceoff Master synergy are mostly centers, but there are a few wingers who also help make up the numbers. Here’s a chart of the only players that you’d really consider having on NHL 17 HUT team who have the Faceoff Master (FM) synergy.

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