It was during the NHL’s magical 1992-93 season (captured beautifully in Todd Denault’s A Season in Time) that I was first exposed to EA’s hockey video game, by a hockey fanatic named Marc Brunengraber. Their second edition, NHLPA ’93, was the first to have a license with the players’ association, and the ability to control the likes of Pat LaFontaine and Brett Hull – insomuch as their “likenesses” amounted to little more than a pixellated name alongside their avatar – was intoxicating. The game was for a brief moment even more popular and successful than the Madden franchise (remember Tecmo and Joe Montana Football?), and it’s retained its hooks on me… 26 years later, here I am reviewing the latest edition of the franchise, NHL 19.

It’s the new bells and whistles that you’ll hear about in the commercials and advertisements…

And yes, it’s definitely a ton of fun to play on the frozen pond…

But it’s that last sentence – as relates to the core gameplay – where NHL 19 shines the brightest. Control of the players has gotten meaningfully more precise since the prior iteration (NHL 18), and the result is a truly magical game that makes playing solid positional defense every bit as exciting as scoring a picturesque cross-ice one-timer goal. The graphics are fantastic – both crisp and smooth – and NHL 19 is a truly immersive playing experience across the board.

Here’s a look at a goal scored in the final seconds of a game between the Canadiens and Senators (I’m controlling the Habs)…

And here’s a look at a play in a game between the Rangers and the Bruins (I’m controlling the Blueshirts)…

Those are the second and third games I’ve played, respectively, on the “Pro” setting. I won the Rangers-Bruins game 4-0, so a higher difficulty level is probably needed, but all three games I played were consistently competitive. Most importantly, the game was super fun to play. I’m looking forward to stepping up to All-Star, but I’m guessing Superstar will be more work to play than I’m seeking.

If I have a beef (at all), it’s with the commentary. By the third game, I felt like I was hearing the same phrases over and over, and it became clear that the play-by-play’s entertainment value was going to be short-lived. Luckily, my PS4 makes it easy for me to incorporate Spotify into my NHL 19 experience, substituting music for the announcers. And incorporate I did. Here, for your listening (and playing?) enjoyment, is my NHL 19 playlist on Spotify (subject to change)…

Overall, NHL 19 is as worthy a sequel as EA has released in many years, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that NHL 19 is the best sports game currently on the market. It is leaps and bounds better than the glitchy Madden 19, and the solid-but-unspectacular MLB The Show has plateaued a bit in recent years. If NHL 19 has any competition for “best sports title,” it comes from the FIFA series, but in this reviewer’s opinion, the high-octane flow of video game hockey gives it the decided edge.

Rating: 5 Pucks (out of 5)

About The Author

Kevin founded Inside Hockey back in 2002, and over the past 13 years has written well over 1,000,000 words about hockey, including his contributions to Inside Hockey, the New York Sun and numerous other publications. In addition to the written word, Kevin also co-hosted the Inside Hockey Radio Show with James Murphy (and NHL legend Kevin Stevens).

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