NHL 18 is the latest entry in the long running EA Sports franchise and strangely the odd one out with getting its enhancement update late in comparison to the other similar sporting titles. This is most likely due to less focus for development and that it isn't on the Frostbite engine like Fifa or Madden is. Whatever the case; it's nice to see the NHL 18 Xbox One X enhancement arrive and while the change is singular, it's a big deal for the game. So what we get here is a 4k resolution change, that's it and while HDR would have been nice this is a great shift for the game.
It makes the sport of hockey look that much more realistic and it feels like quite an apparent tweak. The character models are more colorful, the gameplay feels more vibrant. Right off the face off you can take a look at the ice and visually see the pooling of water along the surface with that unique shimmer. Having played hockey most of my life, it's definitely a detail that you would notice before initial puck drop or after the cleaning between periods. That's talking real life folks, it's very authentic water pooling. The ice then continues to change almost like it regularly does though with more detail.
The ice shavings are now much more visible across the chipped ice and it really does seem like an incredibly high detailed texture surface that is getting dynamically cut up over time. The speckled pool of fresh water against those ice shaving is incredibly detailed, I was blown away by it. It almost makes everything else look significantly more fake, such as the rough animations of the players and the very unsmooth cutscene animations. These really need to be polished out at some point and would they please fix the damn cape like player jerseys! The game all plays rock solid and again the players look much more realistic against the ice which is great.
Keep in mind that this is at its core essentially a fresh coat of paint as opposed to revolutionizing the experience and since this version has so much more content than the previous entries its finally getting back to that high level of play we had prior to the start of the current generation. I did notice visually that some things do look rougher, outside of the rinks the metal bars appear more jagged as do many of the surrounding details, that was disappointing. The before game feed videos also look almost rough with noise and those could use some higher quality footage replacements going forward. Overall the game has never looked better anywhere else and the Xbox One X NHL 18 iteration boldly sticks out. I look forward to the developers taking the game to hopefully Frostbite and building it with 4k in mind for the next year.
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