EA Sports NHL 20: Our Review

Young man playing a video game ice hockey game with earphones on.
The EA Sports NHL franchise of games has followed in the shadow of their other sports titles like FIFA and Madden for many years. There has always been a dedicated following for each NHL game but it included a host of frustrations, most of which have gone unanswered since NHL 13.

Last year’s NHL 19 brought a sharp turn in the right direction, but NHL 20 is certainly one of the best ice hockey games EA has ever released. It is not perfect by any means, but there is enough here to entice sports fans to put on their skates for a change.

NHL 20 builds on the strengths of NHL 19, both in terms of gameplay and certain game modes. Hockey game fans and casual gamers will certainly find something in this NHL game that they will enjoy, while still being frustrated by certain details over time. This NHL 20 review will help you to decide whether this is indeed the best NHL game EA has released to date.

Gameplay

As with any NHL review, we need to begin with the gameplay. Ice hockey has been a difficult sport to capture in games due to its pace and intensity on the ice. Too often players in hockey games look too sturdy and slow compared to the real-life example. The shot selection has been limited, the computer AI brainless, and the collisions and speed generic.

EA Sports overhauled the gameplay engine in NHL 19, and it has been refined further still in NHL 20. The RPM Tech has made the ability to score one-timers a plausible reality. Before it was frustratingly difficult. NHL 20 also added signature shooting styles which makes the game more realistic and recognizable.

From a defensive standpoint, the goaltender AI has been improved. It now offers full threat analyses and a new puck cover system. This has improved positioning, rebounds, redirects, and covers.

The speed of the game is great, and these improvements are noticeable. That being said, the computer AI still has room for improvement. Sometimes the computer teammates will not take the puck when it is nearby, and the goalie can take too long to react when the puck is between his skates.

On the whole, though, the gameplay is great. There is room for improvement, but there are far fewer moments of frustration this time around. The improvements will be building on the work done to make the gameplay better, rather than fixing a clear issue.

Commentary

Apart from the RPM Tech, another noticeable change during games is with the commentator team. NHL 20 sees a changeup, with Eddie Olczyk and Doc Emrick being replaced by Ray Ferraro and James Cybulski. Olczyk and Emrick are exceptional commentators in real life, but the match atmosphere has often seemed flat in past NHL games.

Microphone for match commentary with the pitch in the background.
Ferraro and Cybulski liven the game up more. Ferraro was a bench commentator since NHL 15, so he has had a few seasons to warm up. EA made the decision in part because of Ferraro and Cybulski living near to the EA Vancouver studios. They hope to record more audio with the duo to keep the plays and commentary as unique as possible.

The change in the booth has divided opinion, but most agree that the current duo add more excitement to the plays.

Game modes

Perhaps the biggest criticism for NHL 20 is that there are too many game modes. There are about 13 different modes and the poor UX of the menu design means that you might never try some of them out. The loading speed between some of the menu items and their depth can make for a frustrating exploration of the game.

You can pin your favorite game modes to your main menu, but it doesn’t seem as intuitive as it could be. It seems like EA is clearly focusing on certain game modes and ignoring others. Yet they still appear alongside their revamped NHL 20 modes. Perhaps they are phasing the best game modes in and only removing the others once they become redundant? Sports titles are released every year, and it can be difficult to have a complete overhaul in one year, but the menu navigation and game modes can be refined.

The best game modes are the Franchise Mode and the World of Chel. Franchise Mode in NHL 20 is perhaps one of the best of any sports game available. The depth of tactics and coaching makes it a firm favorite for almost all NHL game fans. There is also an improved scouting service in Franchise Mode that will make building your team’s playing identity smoother and enjoyable. Fifa fans have been crying out for an improved career mode for years and might scratch some of their tactical itches with NHL 20.

Ice hockey players mid-match, with a puck being shot at the goal.
The World of Chel was launched with NHL 19 and EA has improved it for NHL 20. It features different game modes like EA Sports Hockey League (EASHL), One’s Eliminator, Three’s Eliminator and Pro-Am. What the World of Chel brings is a personalized ice hockey experience, where your created player can play online with and against other players. The venues vary from ponds to ice rinks and there are great kit options you can unlock through challenges.

One critique would be that the EASHL doesn’t play well if you need to use computer players to make up your roster. You’ll be destroyed thanks to their poor defending. The Eliminator games are new additions for NHL 20 and offer a great tournament mode to enjoy online. It has been billed as a battle royale mode, and its arcade structure makes it one of the more enjoyable aspects of the World of Chel.

The worst game mode is Be A Pro. It has seemingly not been worked on and is leagues behind other sports games for this player mode. It has none of the personalized interactions you might want, and will leave you begging for a Story Mode, which NHL 20 does not offer. It’s better to ignore Be A Pro altogether.

Another critique from NHL 19 was that the in-game purchases were too expensive. NHL 20 has made it slightly more affordable, but you’ll need to be a die-hard NHL player if you hope to unlock the most prized items without spending.

All in all, with the work done on Franchise Mode and World of Chel, you can bet any sports fan will enjoy playing NHL 20. If Be A Pro or a Story Mode is what you’re after, perhaps another sports game would be a better choice.

NHL 20 vs the NHL

The signature shooting styles in NHL 20 does make the game closer to the real thing. With the NHL 2019-2020 season underway, you might start watching different teams to see who some of the up and coming players are. In the same way, you might scout someone in the game and want to see if he is as good in real life.

If you want to be more invested with the NHL, you could also look into legal online sports betting. Sports betting is a great way to enjoy the sport and be rewarded for your knowledge of the teams and players.

There are many sports betting websites that offer sports betting odds for who the NHL 2020 Stanley Cup winner will be. You could also bet on sports betting lines of weekly fixtures.

Learning how to bet on sports with an online sportsbook is simple and safe. There are many sports betting tips available online that will help you know what type of odds you should bet on and how much you should wager. Your experience in NHL 20 could give you valuable player insights that could inform whether the sports betting sites have good odds or not. If you’re interested in online sports betting, register with the best online sportsbook so that you have access to a great range of games and odds.