NHL 19 is one of the favorite sports games, period. It uses the same animation engine as Madden and FIFA, has excellent presentation and atmosphere, and the players look like who they’re supposed to look like.
Part of NHL 19’s appeal is its accessibility. You don’t need to keep up with every iteration of the series to immediately jump in and have a good time. One of the first things it asks you to do is choose a play style based on your personal skill level. Are you a complete EA NHL rookie? NHL 19’s got your back with the option to play with a simplified rule set and NHL ‘94 controls. A seasoned vet looking to show off your puck-handling skills? The skill stick option lets you flex your muscles on the ice. Hybrid controls meet somewhere in the middle. It’s awesome how NHL 19 can be played by anyone at any skill level.
Commentary is improved over last year, too, so it doesn’t repeat as often. It feels like television commentary, responding well to the on-ice action. A great menu system allowing you to pin your favorite modes lets you drop into games quickly, and a decent soundtrack all add up to something wonderful.
It’s also overflowing with choice, from a generous number of modes (both online and offline) to a dizzying number of create-a-player options. It’s disappointing that you can only choose from premade faces, but I’m impressed at how thoroughly you can personalize your custom players, especially the different options for authentic hockey-player mullets. But it gets way more granular than that, right down to the color of the laces on your skates and the tape on your stick, which can be independently set for the shaft and the blade. Many of the customization options are locked behind tasks and challenges, but they’re not prohibitively difficult so unlocking them is a satisfying treat rather than a chore. The sheer amount of options is staggering, to the point where it’s pretty much guaranteed no two players will look the same. Somewhat confusingly, there’s more than one mode requiring a custom created hockey player, but annoyingly, you can’t use the same guy for both for some reason.