Destiny 2: Forsaken Review In Progress – Update 2

Update 2: After hitting a bit of a roadblock the faulty challenge reset, I’ve worked my way to 530 power, completing the Blind Well and Ascendant Challenge in the Dreaming City (as well as the Nightfall and other weekly challenges). After this week’s reset, I should be able to try the Raid. Look for my impressions of the late-game activities in the final review later this week. — Kallie Plagge, 9/17/18

Update 1: Due to known issues with Forsaken at launch–specifically a faulty weekly challenge reset–my progress in Destiny 2 has been stalled. I still have not had a chance to pursue late game activities. Depending on what the fix is and when it comes, I may not be at a high enough power level for the Raid on Friday, which means the final review may be delayed. The original review in progress is below, covering the story content and other side activities I have had access to. –Kallie Plagge, 9/10/18

A year after Destiny 2‘s launch, its third expansion, Forsaken, is now live. I’ve played around 12 hours so far, completing the story missions, trying the new Strikes, and messing around in the new Gambit mode. Like with the base game–and unlike with the previous two expansions, Curse of Osiris and Warmind–there’s a lot to sink your teeth into in Forsaken at launch. Stay tuned for updates as we go and the final review once the Raid drops.

If you played the last two expansions, you shouldn’t have too much trouble coming back in. I started the Forsaken campaign at 337 power and was able to fight my way up to over 460 by the end of it, helped along by grinding Heroic Strikes and Gambit matches. As usual, the solo grind is the toughest, while Fireteams of two or three can run the story missions cooperatively to speed up the process (even if you’re all underleveled). For newcomers, you’ll be able to auto-level one character and start the Forsaken campaign right away, though you have to own all the previous content to actually play.

Forsaken isn’t necessarily the best entry point for new players, though, mostly because you won’t care about the story at all if you don’t know who Cayde-6 is. His death is the catalyst for your whole journey, and the goal this time isn’t saving the world; it’s revenge. But if you do like him at all, it’s Destiny 2’s most engaging story yet. The crux of the campaign is hunting the eight Barons, powerful boss-like enemies from the new Scorn race, who helped kill Cayde. The Fallen hate the Scorn, too, which puts you in a shady partnership with a mob boss of an alien named Spider who can help you track them down (for a price). The darker motive is refreshing after taking on the objectively, obviously evil Red Legion in the base game, and the boss-focused structure cuts down on the busy work that plagues other Destiny 2 campaigns.

Each of the Barons has their own style and traits, with some being more memorable than others. The Rider is, unsurprisingly, a big vehicle fan, and you spend most of that mission and fight zipping around an open-ish area on a Pike instead of locked in an arena. The Trickster’s level is rife with bombs that look like engrams and a lot of creepily playful taunting. A few of the Baron missions follow the more traditional Destiny level structure, with minions to mow down until you reach the boss room. Altogether, it’s an interesting and rewarding campaign–it has both variety and an overall sense of cohesion, and each step feels significant in building toward the conclusion.

The new Scorn enemies are a welcome addition, too, and feel distinct from the other enemy types. They generally move quickly and can overwhelm you if you’re not careful; one crab-like type scuttles around and explodes upon dying, while another charges you with a flaming mace-like weapon and is very intimidating up close. You don’t have to change up your approach too much, but learning to fight them–finding their critical points and figuring out how to maneuver around swarms of them–further sets Forsaken’s missions apart.

Though we haven’t had too much time to dive into Forsaken’s new weapons and gear, the new weapons system, which launched just ahead of the expansion, can force you to try new things. The cost of infusion is higher than before, so if you’re trying to go as quickly as possible to get Raid-ready, you’ll have to give up your old exotics and legendaries for basic gear that drops at the new, higher power levels. The standout addition is the combat bow; it’s surprisingly powerful, versatile, and very fun to use. You can shoot accurately from impressively long distances if you hold down the trigger, and you can do decent rapid-fire damage up close, helping the new weapon type hold its own among flashier space guns.

New Strikes are always welcome for those who are tired of running the same ones, but the Forsaken Strikes (including the PS4 exclusive) aren’t terribly different from any other Strike–you kill a bunch of mid-tier enemies and then fight a boss. Like in Destiny 2 as a whole, Strikes become more interesting with Nightfall modifiers that increase the teamwork necessary for success.

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The better side activity is the new Gambit mode. It’s largely cooperative PvE with the occasional PvP twist; you’re split into two teams in mostly separate maps, racing to collect and bank a certain number of motes from fallen enemies, and if conditions are right, one team member can “invade” the other team’s map to screw with their progress. I still have to play it more to see if it can really keep my interest, but it’s a creative combination of elements that are usually kept separate in Destiny 2.

After being let down by Curse of Osiris and Warmind, I’m enjoying Destiny 2 again. The biggest question right now is how long that will last, but there’s plenty to keep me occupied before the Raid drops.

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Wasteland 2: Director's Cut Nintendo Switch Review

One of the most beautiful facets of Wasteland 2 is its wistful, austere writing. Taking lots of inspiration from tabletop RPGs, Wasteland 2 masterfully brings the best bits of open-ended roleplaying games to the digital realm, bringing the genre’s hallmark nuanced scenarios, deep roleplaying, and rich, atmospheric description along. Several years after its release, it’s coming to Switch, and even now it’s among the best in the recent roleplaying crop.

The Director’s Cut, an updated release that was a free upgrade for most console players, is the edition getting the Switch treatment. There are thousands of lines of added spoken dialogue, but the text still does most of the heavy lifting. The bigger additions are the smoother graphical presentation as well as having more minutiae with which to customize your characters. Perks and Quirks, for instance, give you the option to swap a boon for some persistent disadvantage. While that sounds counterintuitive in a video game, it pays dividends in the actual role-playing: It gives you the ability to further refine your squad and encourage yourself to think a bit outside the box as you work around the traits. For some, that might be a turn-off, but Wasteland 2 embraces it.

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You are, from the start, invited to craft your own troop of folks with whom you will travel the wastes. You can (and probably should) come up with your own backstories and use those to build out your squad. You don’t have to, of course, but having a written paragraph or two, as well as hand-crafted motivations, Wasteland suggests, will help tie you to the world and your team of avatars. And damned if it isn’t dead-on. While Wasteland 2 definitely offers up a decent chunk of narrative assistance for those who want to keep things simple, this is an adventure that pleads for you to give your all and is willing to reward the effort.

As you might suspect, your squad’s goal is to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. And, as is so often the case, it’s obvious that the end of civilization came in the nuclear flavor. Soon after the opening, your crew joins up with the Desert Rangers, one of the only semblances of civilization that has emerged from the chaos.

Your group struggles alongside the people you encounter, and you can be assured that their lives are exactly as dour as they seem. By giving the people you encounter such depth–which, admittedly, still can often descend into cartoonishly exaggerated moral extremes–it can be a genuine struggle to be cruel. Still, kindness isn’t the panacea you’d perhaps hope.

One moment stood out to me when I first played Wasteland 2, and it’s just as haunting today. As I wrote in my original review: “One particularly tough scene had me slowly watching a woman die as she begged my squad to put her out of her misery. Trying to show an ounce of mercy in an otherwise cold and macabre place, I agreed. A child saw me and ran to tell his family–another group I had agreed to help by finding their stolen pigs. They were terrified of me, and left their home without food and water. They probably died.”

Those consequences are made all the richer by your investment and your choice to engage with what the game has to offer. There is an unusually broad number of solutions to just about any problem, and it’s often better to examine as many possible angles as you can before acting. Still, there’s an anarchic resignation that underpins everything. No matter how you act, you’ll often cause collateral damage. That posits a rather severe world, but then again, this is a hypothetical where people really did poison the planet and vaporize one another.

The fuzziness of it all tests your characters, too. And they can (and should) be rewritten as you go. Wasteland 2 doesn’t just hit you with these conditions to wear you down, but to see how your characters respond. This is trying, it is exhausting emotionally for your crew. How do they handle that? Will their spark of optimism be ground away by the relentless struggle, or will it live on? More importantly, why?

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The breadth of options to approach any given scenario or various other challenges is vital to backing that up. While the game has been touted as one where you can kill absolutely everyone, that really isn’t wise and is a self-indulgent waste. In much the same way, it is possible, however unlikely, to make it through just about all of the game without killing people. That’s less exciting for many, but it highlights the real point. The array of choices you can make are a means to an end–how would your character respond to this grim world?

To that end, combat is also remarkably diverse. In much the same way that your team can flex to meet the needs you encounter, combat, too has a lot of different ways to approach problems. At its most basic, when you shift into fights, you’ll be arranged into a turn order and you proceed maneuvering through the area until all hostiles have been dealt with. Non-lethal options exist, but many of your foes are mutants, robots, and other rough-and-tumble, battle-hardened mercenaries. Maintaining control of the field against enemies willing to pull out high-yield explosives is a challenge, to say the least.

But that also hints at the relevant outcomes from the fight. Wasteland 2 is an RPG first, and your battles will have narrative consequences. As a result, your goals are often a little more refined than “blow it all up.” And those going that route will be hard-pressed to care for the members of their team, who are just as vulnerable to the searing hot shrapnel from a stray grenade as your target is–so what you have is an array of options that are constrained by practical considerations.

Wasteland 2 seamlessly translates the myriad diplomatic and social options into a wide set of combat styles and approaches.

How much collateral damage are you okay accepting? How much risk are you willing to accept? When your crew starts bleeding out, will you run a medic over to patch them up, putting both at risk, or press the offensive? These options also have their own contexts within the narrative. How you use your party’s skills to address puzzles and challenges in the main arc will have a big effect on if and when someone comes after waggling their creaky, rusted rifles.

Wasteland 2 seamlessly translates the myriad diplomatic and social options into a wide set of combat styles and approaches. Once again, more investment in the weapons your team carries and uses yields dividends. Having a few different types of weapons and the ability to support each, as well as an understanding of how to use them, allows your group to tackle just about any problem–regardless of whether they marched into or couldn’t talk their way out of it.

In fact, the only substantive complaints are longer-than-comfortable loading times and the lack of extensive touchscreen support for the Switch edition. Given that much of the combat is tactical, and that a touchscreen works as a damned fine substitute for a mouse, the feature is an apparent omission that prevents the Switch version from being the best yet.

Wasteland 2 is still a very special outing. If you haven’t spent your time in this irradiated desert just yet, this is one of the best times to do so–especially since the portability of the Switch reissue lets you take the journey on long treks of your own, or as a dense RPG to curl and nestle in with, as you might with an excellent book. On such a screen, the interpersonal dramas feel a bit more intimate, the tension of sneaking your way pay this or that NPC a bit more tangible. Plus, in the Switch’s handheld mode, the rather dated-looking visuals aren’t so grating. All-told it’s a phenomenal port and still one of the better RPGs in recent years.

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Zone Of The Enders: The 2nd Runner – MARS Review

Zone of the Enders got a bit of a bum rap as a series overall, being more famous as the game that came with the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo than anything else. Those with the patience, however, would discover one of the most distinct mech games of the day, with more than a heaping dollop of trademark Hideo Kojima madness therein. The 2nd Runner is an improvement on the original in many ways, to be certain, but held against modern standards, Zone of the Enders comes off awful rusty.

There is a story, but it’s nigh incomprehensible, even with the caveat that Kojima’s fingerprints are all over it. Having prior knowledge of the original doesn’t help much either. Basically, two years after the events of the original Zone of the Enders, a miner named Dingo Egret on one of Jupiter’s moons finds the frame-mech hero, Jehuty, buried beneath the surface. When the evil army BAHRAM nearly kills Dingo trying to retrieve the armor again, Jehuty is forced by a rebel spy to join with Dingo, keeping him alive using the mech’s life support until they complete their mission of blasting the army straight to hell.

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Ideally, you’d be able to simply barrel past the story and get to what’s good, which is the mech combat, but The 2nd Runner’s pacing stutters along. Every stride the game hits is interrupted to deliver more nonsensical ranting on unstoppable power, duty, and the nature of war. Soured even further by English voiceovers that are one step removed from Symphony of the Night-level broad theatrics, the story is a irritating rash all over what should be a fairly straightforward mech combat experience.

Simplicity, really, works in the game’s favor. You have a sword, a laser, a rocket-assisted boost, and a shield. Each stage progresses on a fairly linear path, with tiny corridors and loading areas opening up into massive arenas where, for the most part, you’re expected to kill everything that moves. Your enemies are generally either flying grunts around Jehuty’s own size that go down easy, or swarms of tiny annoyances you can take down en masse by using a special missile barrage. That’s generally the gameplay loop, and it only gets more exhilarating the more cannon fodder the game throws at you.

ZOE shows its age most is in its control scheme. It’s not necessarily unworkable, but it involves unlearning 15 years of developers figuring out elegant ways of moving around 3D spaces. Two face buttons control elevation, while the dash button is unintuitively set to the shoulders. Despite much of Jehuty’s moveset relying on dashing, and fast counter-maneuvers to get in and out of an opponent’s space, the motions required to do so feel awkward, even in the new “Pro” configuration that remaps the shoulder buttons and subweapon selects.

The 4K bump in resolution and soundscape enhancements are certainly noticeable, but aside from introducing brand-new textures to the mix, ZOE was always going to wear its PS2 roots rather boldly. Honestly, the game would lose something without that trademark Kojima Productions cinematic judder during intense moments. Instead, Konami went the next step, allowing the entire game to be played in VR. It’s a great idea, one that’d be a welcome experiment for a lot of older titles–there’s certainly an extra level of immersion, and the aforementioned new soundscape really comes to life in VR, forcing you to use your ears more than your eyes to figure out where enemies and projectiles are coming from.

ZOE shows its age most is in its control scheme.

The control scheme still mucks things up quite a bit, however, and not being able to see your special moves as you use them is a pretty big detriment in busy stages. The game does try to mitigate this, keeping a holographic representation of your avatar as it would be in the regular game on the right-hand side of the cockpit, but taking your eyes off the action is a bad idea, especially during the game’s frantic boss fights. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to; bosses have a bad habit of getting up close and personal. In a crowded area, the only thing stopping you from being cornered and slashed to death in three hits is the kind of situational awareness the VR mode doesn’t inherently give you. There is a special VR difficulty mode that makes dealing with enemies easier, but it swings the game too far in the other direction towards cakewalk territory.

While Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner pushed the envelope when it first launched, it’s more admirable for the ways in which it tries to inject depth into a formula that never required it to be successful. There are certainly ambitions to be appreciated, and Konami has at least put some effort into preserving the experience as it was, for better or worse. Still, those ambitions aren’t enough to fight the feeling that it hasn’t been outclassed several times over in the years since.

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Undertale Review – Nintendo Switch Update

Editor’s note: Three years after its initial release on PC, Undertale has found its way to the Nintendo Switch–and of course, the game is every bit as charming, challenging, and harrowing as it was the first time around. Undertale may seem like a straightforward retro-style RPG, but it subverts player expectations every chance it gets, which never gets stale because of clever writing and an evocative chiptune soundtrack. Thankfully, it plays just as well as it does on other platforms without any performance hitches or bugs after putting about four hours into this version. Like its console counterparts, you can fill the screen with an adaptive border that thematically fits with the location you’re in (Undertale plays in a 4:3 aspect ratio). Dodging enemy attacks in the bullet hell-style defensive phase in combat works just as well with the Joy-Con analog sticks.

Undertale isn’t afraid to break convention, and because it does so in a way that’s thoughtful and humorous throughout, the result is an emotional rollercoaster that fills us with determination. — Michael Higham, 14 September 2018 [We have updated the score to reflect our experience with the Nintendo Switch version, in addition to the PC, Mac, and PS4 versions. The original review follows below.]

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Undertale’s opening cinematic hints at a cliche RPG where you awake in a mysterious world and embark on a journey in hopes of returning to your normal life. Despite the familiar premise, you quickly discover that looks can be deceiving. While many games can take a heavy-handed approach to teaching you the basics, Undertale does so in a way that not only introduces you to the tone of the game, but teaches you not to accept anything at face value. The first character you meet compels you to play nice, but as the cheerful music turns to sinister laughter and your new “friend” declares you an idiot, you get it: expect the unexpected. Undertale makes a name for itself with unusual storytelling techniques and combat mechanics, setting itself apart from the games it seems to imitate. It’s also cleverly written and constantly subverts your expectations. There are so many wonderful experiences in store that are tempting to spoil, but to go into too much detail would ruin the element of surprise: one of Undertale’s best assets.

While it seems to be a game that’s designed for RPG fans first and foremost, a lot of Undertale’s jokes have universal appeal. A pair of comically incompetent skeletons regularly spout puns and jokes while attempting–and failing–to halt your progress, and the social ineptitude exhibited by one character when they try to express their feelings for another is a regular source of laughter. With clever characterization and unexpected responses to actions we’ve been conditioned to view as predictable, Undertale elicits laughter and delight with ease.

You’re encouraged to stop and engage with NPCs rather than charge through the story, and you should, because the varied and entertaining cast of monsters reveal valuable information about the wider world. This quality isn’t unique, but here, it leads to unusual exchanges that are filled with great quips, simultaneously poking fun at games and human nature alike. The script tip-toes into parody, but an air of earnest thought lifts it above mere mockery. Silly as it can be, Undertale delivers poignant observations that challenge the status-quo.

It’s also the sort of experience that encourages you to come back for a second or third round. This is especially true because, over the course of roughly five hours, you make a lot of decisions that impact the world around you. The importance of choice is often felt during combat, which lets you pick between fighting or talking your way out of conflict.

Sometimes the secret to winning is a little bit of love.
Sometimes the secret to winning is a little bit of love.

Trying to pacify opponents is a far more rewarding experience than simply fighting, and its a process that’s unique to each type of enemy. To earn their favor, you have to analyse an enemy’s behavior and figure out the right course of action. In one scenario, you can attempt to befriend a violent dog, in another, you might want to cheer up a ghost with low self-esteem; your success will depend on your ability to empathize and react. Navigating social puzzles is a refreshing change of pace for what seems like traditional combat, and the variety of distinct, entertaining enemies you engage with helps stave off a problem that’s all-too-common in other RPGs: repetitive random encounters.

Because not all enemies are easily wooed, you eventually need to defend yourself regardless if you intend to fight or not. Undertale handles this with a quirky mechanic that feels out of place at first, but it eventually grows on you because it makes combat engaging and unpredictable in a good way. Enemy attacks appear as waves of projectiles that fly within a square pen, and as they fly by, you have to steer a small heart icon out of their flightpath to avoid taking damage. It’s an unusual mechanic, but it’s simple to understand and rewarding in the sense that it lets your reflexes-rather than statistics or dice rolls–dictate the outcome of a fight.

The variety of distinct, entertaining enemies you engage with helps stave off a problem that’s all-too-common in other RPGs: repetitive random encounters.

Even within combat, Undertale layers on the humor. Sometimes you’re dodging bullets, but you also need to watch out for frogs, arms with flexing biceps, and even the tears of a depressed opponent. Linking the shape, size, and behavior of projectiles with enemies’ personalities keeps things challenging, and opens the door for even more laughs as you fend off absurd attacks.

Hey, what are friends for?Hey, what are friends for?
Hey, what are friends for?

It would be a crime not to mention Undertale’s soundtrack, which is loaded with beautiful bit-based melodies that blend perfectly with the action on-screen. Each boss gets its own theme song, which do a great job of enhancing their particular personality. These tracks in particular bring energy and vigor, putting you on the edge of your seat as you try to fight or befriend your opponent. Outside of battle, tracks set the appropriate mood, too, from the quirky jingle in Temmie Village, to somber melodies that build tension near the end of the game. Regardless of its retro style, Undertale’s soundtrack has timeless appeal and is great at evoking emotions.

Without spoiling the many ways it will screw with your expectations, it isn’t possible to truly capture how wonderful Undertale is. You wouldn’t know it with a passing glance, but it’s one of the most progressive and innovative RPGs to come in a long time, breaking down tradition for the sake of invention, with great success.

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NHL 19 Review — A Barnburner

With its brand-new pond hockey mode, introduction of legendary players like Wayne Gretzky, superb controls, and multitude of ways to play, NHL 19 successfully and impressively captures the spirit and culture of ice hockey. It has issues, including a lack of meaningful changes for veteran players, but the solid foundation makes NHL 19 an excellent hockey game.

One of the biggest new additions to NHL 19 is “World of Chel.” An evolved version of the EA Sports Hockey League, World of Chel is an online hub featuring multiple modes, with character progression for your skater tied together in one place. The most notable mode within World of Chel is Ones, a game of 1v1v1 played on ponds and lakes. With shivering spectators in heavy coats on the sideline, no whistles, imperfections on the ice, and numerous collectibles like hoodies, beanies, and parkas to unlock and equip (that you can only get via regular progression), NHL 19 effectively captures the general aesthetic and vibe of playing outdoors. An over-the-top and colourful announcer who makes many silly quips and references to hockey culture helps the experience feel appropriately lighthearted. The 1v1v1 setup makes each two-minute match satisfyingly tense and highly replayable, though there are some downsides. For example, it’s only half-ice, so the puck frequently gets jammed where the walls meet. With matches only running for two minutes, it’s frustrating to spend time digging the puck out of corners. It is also disappointing that Ones is online-only; there is no local play, an omission that stands out when NHL 19’s numerous other modes support couch co-op.

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Returning from last year, and remaining the franchise’s most exciting and engaging mode, is the ridiculously over-the-top Threes. This mode pits teams of three against each other in fast-paced and chaotic games with arcade-style scoring multipliers and the ability to play as the league’s different mascots. NHL 19’s standard modes feature true-to-life professional teams, players, stadiums, announcers, and visuals with an impressive attention to detail, but I kept coming back to Threes more than anything else for its constant action and delightfully wacky tone.

Aside from Ones and Threes, new this year is a Pro-Am mode that lets you take on NHL legends of past and present in a series of challenges. This mode, in addition to the impressively robust Franchise, along with Ultimate Team, Shootout, Be a Pro career, and online head-to-head, combine to give you numerous distinct and compelling ways to play. Be A Pro serves as NHL 19’s career mode, and it delivers a satisfying path from low-level hockey to the pros. It lacks the depth found in the story modes of other EA Sports games like Madden and FIFA, but it is rewarding all the same to build your character and grow and expand their skills over time.

Franchise mode returns, and it remains a deep experience. New for NHL 19 is a more involved scouting system within which you can recruit, hire, and fire amateur and professional scouts to look for new talent by player, region, and team. A further layer to the new scouting mechanic is a “Fog of War” system that hides a player’s true rating if you don’t scout enough. These new features, as well as the numerous returning ones like morale meetings, trades, salary cap considerations, and more, combine to make NHL 19’s franchise mode possibly the deepest in the GM experience across EA Sports. Ultimate Team is also back, and with Legends like Gretzky and Lemieux now in the mix, creating a dream-team is even more absorbing, though its inclusion of microtransactions may irk some. Given that there are so many different modes in NHL 19, it’s nice that the menu lets you pin four different modes to the home screen for quick access.

The on-ice action in NHL 19 looks and performs better than last year. EA’s new Real Player Motion tech that was used in Madden NFL 19 and NBA Live 19 is also implemented in NHL 19, and it helps add a strong sense of realism to the animations and physics. Skating in particular looks incredibly lifelike; some of the standout animations include seamless transitions from forward to backward skating, fluid crossovers, the kick of the leg during a fake shot, and how a player will situationally chop a puck out of mid-air or into the goal. The hitting physics have also been updated; a well-timed open-ice check will now deliver a crushing blow that causes the other player to crumple to the ice. The system is sophisticated enough to dynamically adapt to the awareness of the other player, meaning hits are gnarlier when the targeted skater doesn’t see it coming and can’t brace for it. On the presentation side, NHL 19 looks like a TV broadcast with finely detailed character models and crowd animations complete with rowdy fans holding red Solo cups, along with NBC Sports hosts Eddie Olczyk and Mike Emrick back providing excellent commentary.

NHL 19 nails the controls with a weighty and responsive feel. Moving the puck around is easy and intuitive, and with vibration feedback for passes and hits. Possessing the puck is critical in NHL 19, and the controls give you the tools you need to do so at a basic level and also with a huge amount of style and skill. The Skill Stick and Hybrid controls provide an amount of depth that allows more dedicated players to show off their skills with superstar dekes like windmills, spin-o-ramas, and advanced toe drags, to get around defenders and light the lamp. These dekes, of which there are many, can be strung together, which creates fun scenarios–especially in online games against other humans–to keep the defenders guessing. Alternatively, the two-button NHL 94 control setup is a fun return to basics for hockey fans looking for a simpler experience. Whatever scheme you’re using, NHL 19’s excellent controls make it feel wonderful to move players around the ice, complete tape-to-tape passes, dangle around opponents, and rip shots into the net.

NHL 19’s drive to become a complete hockey game is further helped by the addition of NHL “Legends” as playable characters. Thanks to EA reaching a deal with the NHL Alumni Association, the names and likenesses of numerous hockey icons like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Patrick Roy, and Mark Messier, as well as even older players like Jean Beliveau, are now in the game. There is a great attention to detail; Gretzky’s trademark half-tucked in jersey is replicated in the game, while there is period-accurate gear, too, as players from the ’50s and ’60s like Beliveau do not wear helmets and use wooden sticks with no curve on the blade. With its use of legendary players, NHL 19 delivers the fun fantasy fulfillment of pitting Gretzky against current NHL superstars like Alexander Ovechkin and Connor McDavid.

NHL 19 further expands its reach by faithfully incorporating and letting you play as teams in other real-world hockey leagues. The AHL, national teams, and numerous international leagues from Europe and other parts of the world at different levels of professionalism are represented. This contributes to help make NHL 19 feel like more of global hockey game that represents the sport at more levels and in more regions.

NHL 19 succeeds mainly because of its best-in-class controls, authentic presentation, multitude of different ways to play, and its overall excellence in capturing the essence of hockey culture. The pond hockey mode is a fun new way to play with friends in beautiful outdoor environments, but it’s the only brand-new feature, and that may disappoint veteran fans.

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