Recently, I was invited by EA to a special virtual NHL 21 hands-on demo hosted by EA Sport NHL 21‘s creative Director William Ho. During this virtual event, I was granted access to a Xbox One retail build for 24 hours to play the revamped Be a Pro mode. However, before I dive into Be a Pro mode, let’s talk a little bit about NHL 21‘s cover athlete Alex Ovechkin and his contributions to the game of hockey.
EA Sports NHL 21 Details
NHL 21 cover athlete Alex Ovechkin
Ovechkin is quite possibly the most influential player on and off the ice over the past 15 years. On the ice, Alex is a true original. He has 706 goals, including the goal against the Arizona Coyotes that inspired a new generation of stars to unlock never before seen moves. Off the ice, he has introduced a new wave of personality and expression from his charisma to his yellow laces and tinted visors.
15 years ago, nobody did the things that Ovechkin did. Hockey was totally conservative with team being first. However, with Alex’s creativity, outspoken personality and passion to win, he single handedly changed the game of hockey.
When the team at EA Vancouver set the creative direction for NHL 21, it only made sense for the team to view all of the game’s major pillars through Ovechkin as the creative lens.
Be a Pro revamped
This year, Be a Pro has undergone a massive upgrade that allows you to carve out your unique NHL career just like Ovechkin did. Going for the Calder trophy, winning the Stanley Cup or building relationships, earning respect and establishing your personal brand.
The development team at EA Vancouver poured a lot of time and resources into upgrading Be a Pro for NHL 21. After you enter Be a Pro and create our own unique player, the first thing I noticed was the new hub. Now, everything that you need to see and do is in a single screen. From the season calendar to upgrading your player is on the left hand side of the screen. And, the complete run down of your player’s status and active objectives are on the right.
As a result, this makes it faster to see what you need to get to in order to do what you want. And, you can hit the ice or sim through dates very easily now.
As you hit key moments and turning points in your career, you engage in various conversations with different characters. For example, your coach will give you feedback on your last game’s performance. Your choice of responses affects your relationship with the coach. Will they give you a line promotion and more ice time? Or, do you try to persuade your coach to try you out on special teams? Your responses to these types of questions determine what types of opportunities you get and will have to capitalize on while you are on the ice.
Many conversations with the media and management let you make promises of performance. You can make a safe choice if you aren’t sure that you’ll come up with a big goal or have a 3 point night. Or, you can boost your confidence and personal brand by making bigger and bolder promises.
For example, in one conversation with the media, I described myself as the future Calder trophy winner before I even played my first game. As a result, that meant I had to impress by being the first star of my next game to get the media on my side.
Hundreds of story beats
NHL 21 has hundreds of story beats that cover all of the major moments in your rookie year and beyond. Your agent mentors you from the juniors to the draft in the NHL pointing out objectives and opportunities along the way.
You can go back and forth with management about team goals versus individual milestones you are trying to achieve. Additionally, you can hang out with teammates on road trips and accept challenges from your captain to build team chemistry.
In-game coach challenges
To give you even more chances to perform, NHL 21 has something called coach challenges during games. For example, in certain situations, your coach will ask you to change the course of the game. From landing big hits to setting the tone early to getting that go ahead goal when you’re in deadlock. Coming through on these types of challenges help you progress faster.
Perform to progress
Progression in NHL 21 is tracked in new ways this year. First of all, your line progression is now shown. That means you know exactly how your last game’s performance affects how close you are to getting promoted or demoted to different lines. Furthermore, NHL 21 introduces likeability metres, 3 of them to be exact.
Teammate likeability increases how much your linemates trust giving you the puck. Next, management likeability accelerates your progression to those top lines. Finally, brand likeability opens up endorsement offers and salary perks that give you other ways to level up your player.
NHL 21 looks like it will be a barn burner on Xbox One and PS4 this fall
While the NHL season just ended with the Tampa Bay Lightning winning the Stanley Cup, NHL 21 is gearing up to hit PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in just a couple of weeks. I had a blast with Be a Pro and the upgrades and additions added to this year’s game are impressive.
I cannot wait to get my hands on the final version of NHL 21. Luckily, that won’t be long! EA Sports NHL 21 launches on October 16, 2020.