Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to visit EA Canada in Burnaby, chat with creative director William Ho, and go hands-on with NHL 20. While this year’s version of EA’s perennial hockey title offers many new features and improvements on existing game modes, I want to share my thoughts in particular about the on-ice skating experience and the new franchise mode features.
RPM Tech Everywhere
In NHL 19, EA introduced the concept of RPM Tech, their real-player-motion technology designed to make controlling skaters more natural. The initial pass covered skating and hitting and it was certainly a step in the right direction. In NHL 20, this technology is extended to cover shots, goaltender behavior, and puck pickups.
Signature Shots are a new concept whereby EA has painstakingly detailed the shots of roughly 20 NHL superstars. While we don’t yet have a complete list of players with Signature Shots, we do know that notables such as Auston Matthews’ toe-drag wrist shot and P.K. Subban’s unique windup made the list.
Signature Shots will certainly make for a cooler experience on the ice, but the real beauty of the extended RPM Tech is in how players pick up the puck. Whether a pass isn’t quite on the tape or you’re picking up a loose puck, skaters will no longer need to awkwardly slow down and drift to ensure a successful puck recovery. Instead, the animations have been added to allow skaters to use their upper body to adjust to the position of the puck without losing skating ability. This makes for a much smoother experience and cuts down on the number of frustrating moments.
Goaltenders can now also take advantage of much smarter and more realistic animations during their save attempts. No longer will they be easily fooled by shots from the point and they will smartly attempt to direct rebounds out of harms’ way. The first time you see a goalie throw up his shoulder in desperation, you’ll be quite impressed.
Some Love for the Franchise Mode
As is traditions, new game modes and expansions to CHEL are included in NHL 20, but I’m a fan of the more traditional modes, such as Be a Pro and Franchise. So it’s great to see several improvements being made to NHL 20’s Franchise mode that include increased coaches, scouting and, finally, a Trade Finder.
NHL 19 introduced the concept of scouting and NHL 20 adds another level in the form of a full coaching staff. All coaches have their own set of stats and attributes, and head coaches have a vision for the team. You can now determine the synergies not just between linemates but also your players and their coach. As a GM, do you build your team around the coach you’ve chosen, or do you look for a new coach that best fits your style of players? These choices add a welcome layer of complexity to team management.
One of the most popular commentaries fans like to make about their favorite teams is what player to acquire or dump. If only trades in real life were as easy as they are in video games, eh? In NHL 20, you no longer have to guess at what trades another team might be willing to accept. You can now offer up a package from your team to another and see what they would offer in return. Vice versa, you could inquire with any other team and see what they would want for a particular player that you have your eye on. This new Trade Finder should help make you feel a little bit more like a real GM and build the team you desire.
The new RPM Tech expansions and Franchise Mode improvements will launch with NHL 20 starting on September 10th for Early Access editions and globally on September 13th for all players.