NHL 20: Gameplay Impressions From Videos Released Across the Web

A few days ago, gameplay started being released for NHL 20 from various sites like IGN and Game Informer. In the article below, I will specifically touch on some of things that I noticed in the New Jersey Devils versus San Jose Sharks videos.

New Commentary Crew
The producers of NHL 20 have stated that this year they’ve overhauled every aspect of the broadcast package. Everything from the commentary to the graphics to the replay cameras to the intros and outros have been revamped. Immediately, the first thing you’ll notice is the new commentary crew that brings a fresh new tone and energy to the commentary booth. James Cybulski is the new play-by-play announcer and Ray Ferraro, formerly the third commentator in previous years, is now the main color commentator.
In NHL 19, EA said they could only get about 30 hours of session time with the previous commentary team. In NHL 20, they spent over 10 times that in the booth to get the quantity and quality of commentary that sets a new foundation for years to come. While former commentator Mike “Doc” Emrick is a living legend, the new voice in NHL 20 is a welcomed addition to help freshen up this aspect of the franchise.
New Graphics Package
For NHL 20, the entire broadcast graphics package got a fresh coat of paint. EA says that the new package is designed to be higher energy and higher impact for players and viewers alike. It boldly celebrates your players’ and your teams’ big moments.
The first thing I noticed was the score clock, which since forever has been in the top-left corner of the screen. In NHL 20, it has been moved to the bottom, imitating the real-life tickers you see on television. The immediate benefit is all the screen real estate up top that’s reclaimed for gameplay.

Opening Shift

If you keep your eyes on the San Jose Sharks left winger (at the time stamp in the game from the picture above), you see him skate all the way from his left wing spot to the bottom right of the goal line. Basically it looks like players are just running around and trying to fill spots. No real structure, no real strategy.
In the first period video, there was a total of three goals scored. All of the goals were scored by the New Jersey Devils, and all of the goals were almost identical and basically the same kind of goal we’ve seen a million times over the past decade in this franchise. EA has really made a big deal about signature shooting and more control and authenticity so it would have been nice to see some new goals in our first peak of gameplay.
There are a couple things here that were disappointing with this first goal. First, the two San Jose Sharks defenders basically skate backwards into each other, come to a complete stop and let the attacking New Jersey Devil forwards skate right by them to the net. Secondly, the New Jersey forward who ends up scoring looks like he passes the puck into the net. Now, I’m not sure if it is supposed to be a new quick off-balance shot animation or not, but from all angles I’ve seen it seems like the goal was scored on a slow-moving pass.

With the second goal, it’s another disappointing example of CPU AI. The play initially starts on the outside with the Devils forward centering the puck to the front of the net for a one-timer/redirect goal. This goal is frustrating because as you can see above the San Jose Sharks defender is actually in pretty good position. However, he is just inexplicably standing there with his stick off of the ice and not boxing out/tying up the New Jersey Devils forward. Also, this is yet another “one-timer goal” that we have become accustomed to with the NHL series.

This final goal is virtually identical to the first goal that was scored. Again, the two San Jose Sharks defenders basically skate backwards into each other, come to a complete stop and let the attacking New Jersey Devil forwards skate right by them to the net resulting in a two on zero. The play this time finishes off with a cross-ice pass to the backdoor for an easy tap-in goal. A goal that we’ve seen over and over for the last bunch of years. No signature shots. No new scoring setups. Sigh.
Final Thoughts
I do like the new presentation and overlays. Although it won’t necessarily validate the $60 purchase, it does add a fresh feel to the game and series. New commentator James Cybulski does a good job with the commentary, and it is much more in tune with the gameplay than previous versions with Mike “Doc” Emrick.
I do want to see more before I make my final decision on purchasing NHL 20, but it is very head scratching that EA released video when there is so much wrong with it, especially when some of things wrong in the video contradict the things EA has been touting as new features (things like improved goalie threat analysis). Regardless, the open beta has begun so you can dive in as well if you want to check things out.
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