NHL 18 Threes Mode Is Almost As Good As NHL Hitz

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NHL 18 Threes mode is fun, but makes me want a new NHL Hitz game EA/Cheltips.com

The beta for NHL 18 is available to play on PS4 and Xbox One, introducing a new game mode to the perennial hockey series. Called Threes, the game mode is a three vs three game of hockey (with goalies) that does away with a number of rules traditionally found in the sport.

To make hockey even faster, Threes does away with many of the more technical penalties. This means there are no offsides, or even a blue line. There’s no icing, no goal crease and barely any faceoffs. Heck, if you have the mode set to a score limit (Threes, by default, is set up to be a ‘first to score seven points wins’ situation), periods don’t even really matter.

There is also the addition of the “MoneyPuck.” This mechanic changes how much a goal is worth, depending on what color the puck is. If it’s a standard puck, a goal will be worth one point. If it’s a gold puck, a goal will be worth two or even three points. Blue pucks will give the team scoring the goal a point, and take away two or three points from the opposing team. To know what puck is currently in play, there’s a small diagram under the score/time block in the upper left corner. Additionally, the LED boards on the ice will show the puck modifier at any given time.

Penalties seemed to be less frequent than a regular game of hockey, with the refs only calling major, flagrant violations like huge trips. When a penalty is called, the game automatically goes into a single-shot shootout instead of putting anyone in the box. This is a smart way to keep the action fast without holding anyone up too long with fewer players, faceoffs and everything else.

Threes also has surprising depth. The players have a number of different attributes, with gamers having the option to change lines up during every period break. Finding the right blend of skills for the situation, whether that be a strong defense, fast-moving offense or some blend of other skills, will definitely help a player get the edge over his or her competition.

While playing, I noticed more goals coming from the outside compared to a normal game of hockey. With fewer players on the ice, passing isn’t as important and setting up plays becomes more challenging. Taking sniper shots from the outside was more efficient than rushing the net, especially when your AI teammates seem to group up right by the net, making it impossible to even try to pass with the defense swarming them so closely.

There is also a major difference in the presentation from traditional hockey games as well as a change in the commentator. The new presentation is fun, highlighting the arcade-y aspects of Threes. This means huge jets of flames come shooting out of nowhere with each goal scored, as well as cool designs on the ice instead of plain white.

Unfortunately, the new commentator specifically for Threes isn’t quite as interesting, instead sounding like a hired DJ for a children’s party. He feels the need to constantly pump up the virtual crowd by reminding them they are watching Threes hockey, while spouting out one-liners made to sound “cool” and “hip.” I get that the normal commentators wouldn’t work with the game mode, but this guy just sounds like he is trying way too hard, especially when he incorporates the crowd into his dialogue.

While Threes is a bunch of fun and a new way to play NHL 18, it had me wanting to play NHL Hitz instead. NHL Hitz went all-out with throwing the rules away to instead have a fast-paced arcade hockey experience. Threes seems like it wants to be that, but also holds itself too tightly to traditional NHL gameplay to be a full arcade experience. There would probably be issues with the NHL if EA made a game mode with absolutely no penalties, so it looks like I’ll have to dust off my Gamecube to relive proper over-the-top action on ice.

So what do you think? Are you excited to try out Threes when NHL 18 releases on Sept. 15? Do you have fond memories of NHL Hitz like I do? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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