Better career, more fun

NHL 21 Review – Ice Ice Baby

Sports Games
NHL 21 review - An improved Be A Pro mode and other new features provide more fun

Back on the ice. After Madden and FIFA, a new NHL is finally coming up. (Image Credit: EA Sports)

Now it's getting cold in the sports game autumn because EA Sports is sending us on the ice in NHL 21. What the new ice hockey simulation has in store for us and whether fans of the series can look forward to exciting new features will be clarified in our review.

Besides FIFA 21, Madden NFL 21, and NBA 2K21, ice hockey fans can finally look forward to a new offshoot of the NHL series. In our review, NHL 21 proves that only a few, well-thought-out changes can lead to great results.

Quick Facts about NHL 21

  • Developer: EA Sports
  • Publisher: EA Sports
  • Genre: Sports game
  • Release: 16.10.2020

Video credit: EA SPORTS NHL via YouTube

NHL 21: Back on the Ice

NHL 21 can completely free itself from the problems that almost all sports games suffer from. Year after year a series with few innovations is reissued at full price. Some fine-tuning here, new jerseys and players there, but otherwise? It plays like last year.

Fortunately, this is only partly true for EA Sports' NHL 21, because the (few) innovations in the ice hockey simulation add a lot of fun to the game. The most exciting improvement this year is the Be A Pro Mode, which has been neglected recently. The career mode, in which we create our own ice hockey player and use him to become the star of the North American ice hockey league NHL, is completely overhauled. The new story and the decision-making options are work great in the game.

Video Credit: EA SPORTS NHL via YouTube

In discussions with representatives of the press, management, and players, we have many options to choose from this time, which for example improve our relationship with the team or our image in the press. Proceeds may also be invested in new houses or luxury properties or donated to charity - which is of course good for our own reputation.

Your career finally gets that long-overdue personal touch. Even if not all cutscenes are convincing in terms of quality.

Our player in conversation with the coach. A lot has happened on the Be-A-Pro mode in NHL 21

Thanks to new conversations and options, the Be-A-Pro mode feels noticeably better. (Image credit: EA Sports)

Fun on the Ice: The Gameplay of NHL 21

A lot has happened in NHL 21. After the somewhat disappointing version of last year, the game has improved in terms of gameplay. NHL 21 plays more fluently and realistically than before, which is mainly due to new skating moves, skill moves, and an improved AI.

Since there was not much to complain about in the gameplay anyway, the improvements are limited this time. That's not tragic, because the new movements and the already fluid feel of the game make NHL 21 a great reflection of winter sports. Hard passes, counterattacks, and powerful one-timers go off excellently, and since the goalkeepers are not as strong as in previous years, well-played attacks finally lead to more goals - and that's exactly what we're on the ice for, right?

The goalies in NHL 21 let the puck through more often now. That makes for fun

The goalkeeper AI has been improved, but still the goalies are no longer overpowering. (Image credit: EA Sports)

Another successful innovation is the HUT Rush mode, a separate component of the Hockey Ultimate Team (the NHL counterpart to the popular FIFA Ultimate Team). Here we complete various skill challenges against the AI or human players in the best arcade manner.

In a weekly leaderboard, we earn additional rewards in the form of packs and more. A fun and successful addition to the already motivating HUT mode, which should appeal to advanced players. Since NHL 21 also offers a convincing overall package in terms of scope, it's easy to understand that from a technical point of view, hardly anything has changed compared to its direct predecessor. Sadly, EA Sports does not provide NHL 21 with a next-gen upgrade like FIFA and Madden.

NHL 21 HUT Rush gameplay. The new arcade game mode in Hockey Ultimate Team convinces

The new HUT Rush mode focuses on fast arcade matches - and it's fun! (Image credit: EA Sports)

Our Verdict on NHL 21

After the disappointing NHL 20, NHL 21 is making amends this year. The action on the ice has been noticeably improved and this time it's even more exciting. The most interesting new feature, however, is the refurbished Be-A-Pro mode. It doesn't yet come close to the story of FIFA, but thanks to decision options it captures your attention. Then there's the HUT mode, which may not be as realistic but definitely cranks up the fun factor. Add to that the addition of HUT Rush, and you've got a recipe for success.

Those who have missed out on the NHL series in recent years, or are in the mood for a few quick ice hockey matches, will be delighted with NHL 21. For the next offshoot, however, we would like to see urgently needed technical improvements.

For more news from the world of gaming and esports check EarlyGame and the EarlyGame YouTube channel.

Original article by EarlyGame's Philipp Briel.

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