NHL 20: Improvements from the Beta

The NHL 20 beta was released on July 26 and closed on July 31, giving hardcore NHL gamers a chance to get a feel for the newest edition in the EA series. Just like with every beta version, there are noticeable improvements but also some things EA can work on to improve their game for the release on Sept. 13.

Related: The Rise, Fall and Rebound of EA Sports NHL

The beta mode this year gave players the opportunity to play in The World of CHEL and Online Versus, and as a whole, the NHL gaming community had a positive reaction to the game. However, there are some things that EA can improve upon to make it the best NHL game over the last few editions.


In the game, holding down LT/L2 will increase the speed of the pass. However, in the beta version, the passing was about half the speed of NHL 19. The issue here is that you would set up plays in front of the net to score, but it would easily be intercepted by a defenseman who had enough time to get to the front of the net.

Nathan MacKinnon, NHL 20
Nathan MacKinnon, NHL 20 (Courtesy of EA Sports)

The biggest issue with the passing in the NHL 20 beta version was how unrealistic it felt. Players today can snap passes tape-to-tape at high speeds with ease, but even when holding down LT/L2 for a long period of time, it felt like a normal pass as opposed to a visibly hard pass. This should be a simple adjustment for EA, but it’s also necessary because most players prefer the faster gameplay.

Goalie Rebounds

One thing that stuck out like a sore thumb was how often the puck ricocheted out of play. It was fine for a few plays, but it seemed like every shot that wasn’t low against a goalie flipped up and over the glass. While this does happen on occasion in the NHL, it doesn’t happen every play and each one slowed the game down significantly.

Jonathan Quick, NHL 20
Jonathan Quick, NHL 20 (Courtesy of EA Sports)

For new players, this can be a serious issue because it takes away from the excitement of the game. Players want to play a high-paced, action-packed game, and if the puck goes out of play after every shot on goal, it makes it really hard to stay in the game and continue to be interested. To solve the issue, EA can have huge, wind-up slapshots go out of play here and there, or even shots off the post, but having the puck simply go off the glass in the corner will be better for everyone. It keeps the game moving and the action going, but it also will keep players interested since they have to keep their players active.

Loose Pick-ups

Loose pickups are something EA has been trying to improve on for a few years now. In NHL 19, as a player is receiving a pass in stride, players can feel them stutter or even stop to get the pass and then pick their speed up. In the NHL 20 beta, however, players would continue striding as they picked up the puck with both hands or even one hand, but there was an issue with this in the beta because it simply wasn’t consistent.

Sidney Crosby, NHL 20
Sidney Crosby, NHL 20 (Courtesy of EA Sports)

There were times where the pickups were amazing because you could create an endless amount of plays from them, especially if an elite player like Connor McDavid or Alex Ovechkin was performing the animation. There were times, however, where a perfect east-to-west pass was right on the tape, but it would bounce off the stick and away from your player. Obviously, skill level plays an important factor, but I think there needs to be a little more consistency about what passes are easier or harder to pick up depending on the skill level of the player in the game.

Announcing and Scoreboard

Personally, I have no issue with the scoreboard being moved from the top of the screen to the bottom, but I found it tougher to pick up regarding power play time, offsides and icings. A lot of times, the user had to figure out if they were offsides which can be tough if you aren’t sure if your players tagged up or not. The same goes for icing — some plays that may appear to be icing aren’t always called, and vice versa.

Elias Pettersson, NHL 20
Elias Pettersson, NHL 20 (Courtesy of EA Sports)

As for powerplay time, it is clearly visible on the NHL 19 scoreboard, but in the NHL 20 beta, it was sometimes hard to pick up and keep track of. As for the announcing, it was a nice change and a little more dramatic which can entice newer players, but there were times where it felt overdramatic. James Cybulski, the new announcer, can make seemingly meaningless plays feel like Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, and that’s fine, but EA might need to decide which kinds of plays merit more dramatic announcing than others.

Related: NHL 20 Gameplay Trailer: Features & Analysis

As a whole, EA has made some great changes form NHL 19 to the NHL 20 beta version, but now it’s a matter of tying up the loose ends and putting the finishing touches on the final product. The NHL gaming community is excited for the newest installment of the series and, hopefully, EA can come through with a great product in NHL 20.