A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that NHL 18 is a sports game that's a hockey simulation. It can be mildly violent at times, such as body checking someone into the boards or engaging in a fistfight on the ice. If you're OK with your kids watching NHL games on television or in person, then you'll likely be OK with them playing this sports game, though the difference is that they're the ones doing the hitting in this game. Online gameplay is unmoderated, so players can be exposed to inappropriate content. There's also a large amount of product branding found prominently across the entire game, and players can use real money to pay for additional downloadable content.
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What's it about?
NHL 18 lets you play as or against your favorite National Hockey League team -- and now it includes the Vegas Golden Knights expansion team, new arenas (including T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas), and locations in Scandinavia, Russia, and western Europe. You can choose whether you want to play against the game's artificial intelligence, against someone beside you, or online. EA Sports has also brought back its EA SPORTS Hockey League (EASHL), but instead of five-on-five players, you can choose to play three-on-three, opening up more ice for you and your teammates to get creative. On a related note, EA Sports added NHL Threes, a faster-paced and more arcade-like experience that lets you choose to play online or offline, co-op or competitive, and with a full single-player campaign mode where you compete in a circuit-style tourney against other teams (and unlock objective-based rewards along the way, like new teammates, jerseys, logos, and more). Franchise mode is also back, but with a new feature called Expansion Draft, where you can create and draft a 32nd NHL team, allowing you to select the best players from the league, build a roster, and shake up the league. Run an authentic expansion draft where you select the best players from across the league, build a unique roster, and create an arena, a jersey, a logo, and a mascot. EA Sports has added new moves this time around, such as offensive and defensive maneuvers like "deke" moves, heel drags, poke checks, and even the ability to string some deke combos together.
Is it any good?
This hockey game is great fun, but even with all the new features, it doesn't feel radically different from last year's game. When it comes to all sports games, some years are better than others, and yes, NHL 18 is as good as it gets, with a main new mode, some extra moves, and extra on-ice training for newbies. But if you laid down $60 last year, you might want to try NHL 18 at a friend's house or at a store first to see if the new content justifies the purchase.
While there are new tweaks to the EASHL, Draft Champions and Be-A-Pro mode, and it has a deeper franchise experience, NHL 18's most newsworthy feature is NHL Threes, the arcade-like three-versus-three game mode that allows for faster action, bigger hits, dramatic shots on goal, and fun additions like special "money pucks" that let you gain an edge on the rival team. Along with co-op and competitive options, there are unlockable arenas, new announcers, mascots, and other goodies here. Visually, the game is better than last year's offering, but not by much. In fact, there may be fewer between-period visual extras, such as replays, unique crowd shots, and so on. In short, there are some improvements to NHL 18, but don't expect to be body-checked by them. But you shouldn't be disappointed, either. It's a heck of a hockey game with a ton of modes and options to keep you entertained all year round.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether it's worth it to buy an annual sports game. If the developers release a free downloadable update to account for changing team rosters, do you really need to buy one every year? Can you skip a year or two, or do the new features and better graphics justify the purchase?
Talk about how commercialized sports games are becoming. Is the pursuit of realistic gameplay worth the in-game commercials, ad placement, and messages that are constantly bombarding players? Is that just part of sports today?
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