NHL Threes is the latest mode introduced in the 2018 incarnation of EA Sports’ NHL series. It’s fast-paced 3-on-3 hockey that moves away from the simulation towards an arcade vibe that leaves you thirsty for more.
It’s not just that you can play as NHL team mascots that makes it fun, but the hits are bigger (and more frequent) and the charismatic rink announcer will elicit a few chuckles from his quirky one-liners.
The announcer is a nice change within itself considering how boring and stale the commentary of Doc Emrick and Ed Olczyk has become in the main game.
The rules of the game have been simplified in an effort to maximise the goalscoring, and therefore, the fun. The blue line is gone so there is no offside and faceoffs only occur at the start of a period. If play has to reset after a goal is scored or the goalie covers up the puck, it’s a quick restart from a standing position.
Tactics can come into play through these quick restarts, whether you’ve got the puck or not. Depending on your skill level, if you have the puck you can deke around the defenders and drive towards the net to score a top-shelf highlight reel goal. If you’re starting without the puck, use the body to take out your unsuspecting opponent, leaving you open to attack with a 2-on-1 breakaway as seen in the tweet above.
There are no on-the-fly line changes either, but you can substitute a player during the intermission – the action is non-stop until the clocks runs out.
The biggest fun factor is the ‘Money Puck.’ Suddenly the next goal can be worth 2-3 goals – which is crucial when wanting to crush your opponent…or start the greatest comeback since the ‘It was 4-1’ game 7 when the Boston Bruins knocked the Toronto Maple Leafs out of the playoffs.
A negative Money Puck could see your opposition lose 2-3 goals. That’s one way to earn a shutout for your goalie and gain a few bonus points!
Before the game there’s a coin toss to see who will decide the rules of the game. A winner could be decided by reaching a goal limit, or a regular 3-period game. Money Puck can also be turned off, but that goes against the spirit of NHL Threes. Typically goal limits will make the game last longer but consider it like a game of tennis, especially if you choose the ‘must win by 2’ option.
As I mentioned in my NHL18 review a few weeks ago, in the future I would like to see NHL Threes developed into a standalone game because there is so much potential here to appeal to hardcore and casual hockey fans alike who aren’t so concerned with having a realistic simulation.
You can either play online or couch co-op with friends, or enjoy the mode’s very deep single-player campaign. And when I say deep, I don’t mean there’s a cinematic storyline like other current generation sports games, but rather there is a lot of teams across the Pacific, Central, Atlantic, and Metro divisions to beat if you want to unlock everything.
You start off as the fictional ‘Fridge Raiders’ team with a roster of lowly skilled nobodies but as you progress through the campaign, you will be able to unlock better players to improve your team. Performances are rated with a 3 star system. The more stars you earn, the more you will unlock. Depending on the opposition, you could unlock a new stadium, jerseys, logo, mascots, or a hero player.
Halfway through the first part of the campaign, the Pacific division, this is how my starting lineup is shaping up.
NHL Threes will truly shine best playing couch co-op with your mates. You can play with the complete skill-stick controls, a hybrid of stick and button, or the classically simple NHL94 control scheme. Tailor the controls to your liking and in no time you’ll be off scoring goal after goal while leaving a trail of crushed bodies behind you.
Now all EA need to do is add flaming pucks and brick wall goalies.