Be A Pro mode has always been a standout in any EA Sports franchise title, as it offers a window into the soul of what it is like to be a professional athlete. And while it may not have been perfect, NHL 21’s attempt is the closest any title has come so far to realizing the latent potential of the mode.
Contrary to past iterations in NHL’s Be A Pro career mode, this year focuses on the story behind your player as much as it does the actual gameplay. Commentators and radio show conversations devote entire segments of dialogue to your rise (or fall), detailing your stats and debating on whether you’re a good enough player based on what happens in each game.
Alongside this, you’ll also interact with your agent, staff, and other players via text generated exchanges. In each interaction, you’re presented with different dialogue choices that influence your Brand, Teammate, or Management scores.
Improving these scores leads to creating and completing objectives that you can use to add to your overall rating and skill level. More than that, though, the new conversation system adds an important layer of immersion to Be A Pro that the NHL series has been severely lacking.
The main knock against this is that the game really should have voice actors. Yes, EA has been known to have pretty cringy voice over when it does try in sports titles, but they’ve also proved they know how to bring people in that add to the experience as well.
James Cybulski and his guests are the best examples of this. The radio show interactions he and his guests have –while a bit exaggerated– feel authentic and add to the atmosphere without sounding cliched. Every time I heard his voice after a game I couldn’t help but listen in to see what they thought of my performance.
While it may seem like a small feature to some, people who enjoy story-driven content are much more likely to be immersed in their player’s career when there is a little relatability implemented. Sure, I’ve never been hounded by reporters in the locker room, but I have at least seen players answering these type of questions duirng a post-game interview after watching a game.
These small implementations help move the experience even closer to real life. In doing so, NHL 21 can attract role-playing fans to their title while solving the age-old EA issue on how to innovate a yearly title that is little more than a roster update at the moment.
If EA can continue to make Be A Pro mode grow across their portfolio, or at least in the NHL series, they can justify releasing a new game every year. Just get rid of the text-message system and hire some quality writers and voice actors, please.
If you want more explanation regarding the technical aspects of the mode, or just a breakdown of NHL 21 as a whole, be sure to check out our full review for the title here.
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