NHL14 Review

It’s that time of year again hockey fans.  Time to get your skates sharpened, your sticks taped, and time to put the biscuit in the basket.  EA Sports’ latest iteration of the fastest game on ice attempts to break away from last year’s shortcomings by revamping their fighting engine, cranking up the physics engine, and providing a little fan service with the addition of NHL94 Anniversary Mode.

Gameplay:

I’ve been an avid fan of EA Sports’ NHL series since I first hit the ice in NHLPA Hockey 93. Although the series has come a long way from the days of manually updating rosters and one button shooting, it still has a few things to learn in the way of presentation. Don’t get me wrong, the on ice gameplay in NHL14 is impressive to say the least. The skating and tweaked physics this year facilitate the most realistic hockey simulation to date, bar none. Thanks to the Player Impact Engine, players collide and react as accurately as you’d expect to see at any rink around the NHL. Unfortunately, the shortcomings become all too apparent off the ice.

Getting the first game misconduct for its inadequacies is EA’s new “Live the Life” mode. I found it to be a halfhearted endeavor into the life of an up and coming NHL rookie. Between games, players are interviewed for pre-draft, pre-game, post-game, and also participate in news interviews. In theory, the intention of these interviews is to pull you into the life and choices of an NHL rookie. In practice, the interviews do exactly the opposite. They felt canned and more of a distraction than anything.Answering interview questions results in either an increase or decrease of your “Likeability” in four areas: Fan, Teammate, Management, and Family.  As your career progresses, Off Ice Events like going out with teammates to celebrate a big win can occur which may negatively impact your player’s standing with one of the aforementioned categories.  Conversely, successfully micromanaging the categories will trigger Endorsement deals resulting in more money and trophies.Players need not worry about micromanaging or interviews with EA’s inclusion of NHL 94 Anniversary Mode.  This mode is a nice bonus if nothing else.  Although I feel that this mode would be more adept for a handheld like the PlayStation Vita.  It lends itself well to the big screen multiplayer environment with simple controls and huge bone jarring hits.   The legendary arcade feel of NHL 94 is in check with no penalties, offsides, or icing which results in a recklessly paced goal festNHL 94 Anniversary Mode is loose and frantic giving players plenty of opportunity to celebrate bountiful goals while the classic arena organ reminds us of the days of old.

In the NHL 94 Anniversary Mode as well as the standard game modes I felt that I wasn’t in total control of my players all the time. Occasionally my player would veer off to the left or right when trying to beat out the icing or in the midst of a check attempt. It seemed to me that EA has turned up the assists this year. This is an unwelcome feature indeed.Following last year’s abysmal attempt at fisticuffs, EA has touted their new “Enforcer Engine” as it incorporates the Fight Night technology. While it is the paramount in the series’ fighting simulation, I grew tired of it rather quickly. With every stoppage of play the players would lock up with the potential to throw off the gloves. Being a devoted Blue Jacket’s fan, I’m aware that players tend to lock up around the goal from time to time but really EA… do I need to see this animation after every whistle? If nothing else, this overly aggressive temperament could have been reserved for the playoffs or at the very least, rivalry games. Instead of inundating players with their new toy, EA should have kept the noodle knocking down to a minimum. In this case, less would have been more.New this season is the one touch deke technology. Instead of the button + right analog stick combination found in previous years, players can simply press the deke button to fly past defenders and to freeze goalies in their stance. To be honest, I’m still having trouble getting the hang of the new deking system. At this point, I’m not 100% sure I like the change.

As with most of EA Sports titles late in this generation, Ultimate Team is making its annual appearance again this year.The Hockey Ultimate Team mode has been revamped with a new community focused season mechanic. Players play through up to 10 game mini-seasons in an attempt to climb through the droves of Hockey Ultimate Team players from all corners of the globe. If you’re good enough, your home grown team of hodgepodge players may end up in the playoffs, earn a division title and if luck (and skill) would have it, take home the League Title Trophy.With each game, players earn EA Pucks to use to purchase more team members in the form of player cards. A newly added and welcome addition this year is earning EA Pucks for every game you play. Whether it’s in the Hockey Ultimate Team mode or in your career, players are earning with every game. Of course, with all of EA’s Ultimate Team game modes, you have the option of paying real money for cards to build your elite team.

Graphics:

Graphically, NHL 14 is impressive. As I stated earlier, the collision physics make use of the Player Impact Engine used in the FIFA series. Sticks, players, and the puck react to each other in a realistic manner just as you’d expect. The players animate seamlessly as they transition from play to play. The animations of even the off puck players are convincing and convey that on ice atmosphere.Players show damage from fighting and for the most part, resemble their real life counterparts. Conversely, while the graphics are better than they’ve ever been, I did notice a bit of slowdown in the Be A Pro mode’s on ice camera. It wasn’t necessarily a game breaker but noticeable for sure. Another grumble I have is that I would really like the ability to import my likeness into the game using EA’s Game Face. Both Madden and FIFA take advantage of this feature. I’m puzzled as to why the team behind the NHL series hasn’t included it.Sound/Audio:

The sound this year hasn’t changed much from last year. The commentary team, Bill Clement and Gary Thorne have a few new lines of forgettable dialog. The problem is that the new dialog is drowned by the recycled tired commentary from the last few years. It’s definitely time for change.

It’s that time of year again hockey fans. Time to get your skates sharpened, your sticks taped, and time to put the biscuit in the basket. EA Sports’ latest iteration of the fastest game on ice attempts to break away from last year’s shortcomings by revamping their fighting engine, cranking up the physics engine, and providing a little fan service with the addition of NHL94 Anniversary Mode.

Bob

Gameplay:

I’ve been an avid fan of EA Sports’ NHL series since I first hit the ice in NHLPA Hockey 93. Although the series has come a long way from the days of manually updating rosters and one button shooting, it still has a few things to learn in the way of presentation. Don’t get me wrong, the on ice gameplay in NHL14 is impressive to say the least. The skating and tweaked physics this year facilitate the most realistic hockey simulation to date, bar none. Thanks to the Player Impact Engine, players collide and react as accurately as you’d expect to see at any rink around the NHL. Unfortunately, the shortcomings become all too apparent off the ice.

Getting the first game misconduct for its inadequacies is EA’s new “Live the Life” mode. I found it to be a halfhearted endeavor into the life of an up and coming NHL rookie. Between games, players are interviewed for pre-draft, pre-game, post-game, and also participate in news interviews. In theory, the intention of these interviews is to pull you into the life and choices of an NHL rookie. In practice, the interviews do exactly the opposite. They felt canned and more of a distraction than anything.

LiveTheLife

Answering interview questions results in either an increase or decrease of your “Likeability” in four areas: Fan, Teammate, Management, and Family. As your career progresses, Off Ice Events like going out with teammates to celebrate a big win can occur which may negatively impact your player’s standing with one of the aforementioned categories. Conversely, successfully micromanaging the categories will trigger Endorsement deals resulting in more money and trophies.

Life_Meters

Players need not worry about micromanaging or interviews with EA’s inclusion of NHL 94 Anniversary Mode. This mode is a nice bonus if nothing else. Although I feel that this mode would be more adept for a handheld like the PlayStation Vita. It lends itself well to the big screen multiplayer environment with simple controls and huge bone jarring hits. The legendary arcade feel of NHL 94 is in check with no penalties, offsides, or icing which results in a recklessly paced goal fest.

NHL14 Top Down

NHL 94 Anniversary Mode is loose and frantic giving players plenty of opportunity to celebrate bountiful goals while the classic arena organ reminds us of the days of old.

NHL94 mode

In the NHL 94 Anniversary Mode as well as the standard game modes I felt that I wasn’t in total control of my players all the time. Occasionally my player would veer off to the left or right when trying to beat out the icing or in the midst of a check attempt. It seemed to me that EA has turned up the assists this year. This is an unwelcome feature indeed.

5 for Fighting

Following last year’s abysmal attempt at fisticuffs, EA has touted their new “Enforcer Engine” as it incorporates the Fight Night technology. While it is the paramount in the series’ fighting simulation, I grew tired of it rather quickly. With every stoppage of play the players would lock up with the potential to throw off the gloves. Being a devoted Blue Jacket’s fan, I’m aware that players tend to lock up around the goal from time to time but really EA… do I need to see this animation after every whistle? If nothing else, this overly aggressive temperament could have been reserved for the playoffs or at the very least, rivalry games. Instead of inundating players with their new toy, EA should have kept the noodle knocking down to a minimum. In this case, less would have been more.

Deke

New this season is the one touch deke technology. Instead of the button + right analog stick combination found in previous years, players can simply press the deke button to fly past defenders and to freeze goalies in their stance. To be honest, I’m still having trouble getting the hang of the new deking system. At this point, I’m not 100% sure I like the change.

As with most of EA Sports titles late in this generation, Ultimate Team is making its annual appearance again this year.

HUT_smallThe Hockey Ultimate Team mode has been revamped with a new community focused season mechanic. Players play through up to 10 game mini-seasons in an attempt to climb through the droves of Hockey Ultimate Team players from all corners of the globe. If you’re good enough, your home grown team of hodgepodge players may end up in the playoffs, earn a division title and if luck (and skill) would have it, take home the League Title Trophy.

HUT Progress

With each game, players earn EA Pucks to use to purchase more team members in the form of player cards. A newly added and welcome addition this year is earning EA Pucks for every game you play. Whether it’s in the Hockey Ultimate Team mode or in your career, players are earning with every game. Of course, with all of EA’s Ultimate Team game modes, you have the option of paying real money for cards to build your elite team.

Graphics:

Graphically, NHL 14 is impressive. As I stated earlier, the collision physics make use of the Player Impact Engine used in the FIFA series. Sticks, players, and the puck react to each other in a realistic manner just as you’d expect. The players animate seamlessly as they transition from play to play. The animations of even the off puck players are convincing and convey that on ice atmosphere.

KO

Players show damage from fighting and for the most part, resemble their real life counterparts. Conversely, while the graphics are better than they’ve ever been, I did notice a bit of slowdown in the Be A Pro mode’s on ice camera. It wasn’t necessarily a game breaker but noticeable for sure. Another grumble I have is that I would really like the ability to import my likeness into the game using EA’s Game Face. Both Madden and FIFA take advantage of this feature. I’m puzzled as to why the team behind the NHL series hasn’t included it.

Stick Check

Sound/Audio:

The sound this year hasn’t changed much from last year. The commentary team, Bill Clement and Gary Thorne have a few new lines of forgettable dialog. The problem is that the new dialog is drowned by the recycled tired commentary from the last few years. It’s definitely time for change.

Tav

Multiplayer/Co-op:

As per usual with an EA Sport titles, a noticeable lag plagues the online portion of NHL 14. Personally, I can’t seem to adjust to the delay in normal passing and shooting. Granted, its better this year, but still not as perfect as the single player experience. With that said, aside from a few matchmaking tweaks, the online gameplay is for the most part, unchanged from last year.Final Thoughts:

If you’re looking for the new and shiny in NHL14, you may be disappointed. While the core gameplay is solid, the innovations attempted in NHL14 are a shot wide of the net for sure. However, I can’t wait to see what EA Sports brings to the next generation of consoles with their beloved NHL series. Although their latest entry into the current generation consoles isn’t the pinnacle that it could have been, EA has certainly laid the groundwork for a franchise that could surpass even the best sellers like FIFA and Madden.

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