NHL 20’s cover will be graced by Auston Matthews, the young superstar center for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he will help bring one of the game’s key new features to life, publisher Electronic Arts announced Wednesday.
“Growing up I always admired all the players who got to be on the cover of the game. This is a very cool honor and I am proud to represent my organization,” Matthews said in a news release. “I’m also really competitive, so now I can’t wait to fire up NHL 20 in the locker room and play against my teammates.”
Matthews burst onto the NHL scene as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, and as a teenager, he won the Calder Trophy in that season as the league’s best rookie. He has been an All-Star selection in each of his three seasons in the league so far. Earlier this year, he signed a contract extension that will keep him in Toronto through the 2023-24 season.
As in the past, EA made the cover announcement during the NHL Awards, the league’s annual ceremony recognizing the top performers from the most recent season. The publisher also debuted a gameplay trailer for NHL 20.
This year, developer EA Vancouver is building on NHL 19’s introduction of Real Player Motion (RPM) Technology, an animation system that’s designed to make the game look more lifelike. NHL 20 will offer a feature called Signature Shots in which players like Matthews, P.K. Subban, and Alexander Ovechkin will have their recognizable shot styles brought into the game. In addition, the developers are working to implement improvements to animations for passing and puck pickups as well as entirely new shot animations. These are the kinds of gameplay areas that people tend to complain about every year, of course.
EA Vancouver is also adding to World of Chel, the online suite that was such a success in NHL 19, with a new survival-style tournament format for NHL Ones and NHL Threes called Eliminator that allows up to 81 players to duke it out in a bracket. And Hockey Ultimate Team will have a new mode, Squad Battles, that’s lifted from the FIFA series.
Finally, EA is freshening up the presentation in NHL 20, another perennial problem area. The publisher touted a “revamped broadcast package” that “delivers new play-by-play and color commentary.” There are no specifics in the news release, but Ray Ferraro, who provides analysis during interstitial segments, said in December that he was recording lines for commentary in a “completely new format.”
NHL 20 will arrive in the series’ usual mid-September window, with a release date of Sept. 13 on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. People who pre-order the Deluxe Edition or Ultimate Edition will be able to start playing three days early on Sept. 10, while an EA Access trial will be available starting Sept. 5.