By the start of my second year, I was somehow named the New York Rangers' captain, a rare honor traditionally reserved for a respected veteran and locker-room leader. I had managed to reach a 76 overall rating - appropriate for a sophomore season, though by no means impressive - but apparently hadn't raised my profile enough with the fans to unlock worthwhile perks. (Some are gated only by funds, but others are gated by social media followers; maddeningly, the game doesn't say how many followers you need.) This disconnect makes these ostensible milestones feel arbitrary and meaningless - what's the point of the brand likability rating if these other obstacles exist? - and saps any desire I might've had to bother pursuing impactful perks or the salary necessary to afford them.
Having said that, I've once again spent the bulk of my time playing World of Chel. That's because my favorite mode, offline Be a Pro, hasn't changed since NHL 19 (and it's not like EA Vancouver gave the mode much love last year, mind you). I understand the realities of making these multifaceted games on an annual schedule — resources are limited, and it's simply not possible for the developers to overhaul everything every year. However, Be a Pro has been sidelined for ages, and it looks even more stale in light of the experimentation we've seen recently in single-player career modes from Madden, FIFA, and NBA 2K.
These are the kinds of upgrades you expect if you follow an annualized sports franchise. Yet I feel more impressed at the fact that EA Vancouver was able to build an online suite for NHL 19 that didn't just draw me in with the shiny trinket of outdoor play, but kept me going despite the frustrations that are sometimes inherent to online gaming.
Every piece of Videoball feels crafted for competition, and even when I was getting whipped by the game's AI opponents, it was a joy to play. With the pinpoint control and endless playability of the best arcade sports experiences, the small team at Action Button Entertainment has invented something wonderful and new in Videoball.