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NHL 14 Review


Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Canada
Release Date: September 10, 2013

Hockey season is nearly upon us, and with it comes the return of the popular EA Sports NHL franchise in

NHL 14


The recipient of over twenty-six “Game of the Year” awards in its history, EA Sports NHL has been a staple of the gaming community for the past two decades, and for the last three years it’s been the only hockey game on the market.

As fans of the Madden NFL franchise know, however, when EA has a monopoly on a specific market, the product tends to suffer. And while the NHL franchise has, on the whole, been a good-to-great product over the years, the last few editions have suffered from a sense of staleness.

Before NHL 13, the skating engine had remained unchanged for years, the control scheme untouched, and the putrid fighting mini-game became more of a punishment to gamers than a commodity. By the time last year’s edition had been on the market for just a few months, NHL fans wanted something different from EA. They wanted to be shown that the team at EA Vancouver actually cared about what they had to say about the previous games.

Well, the team from British Columbia, Canada heard the complaints from fans, and used them to fix the issues that concerned fans in NHL 13. Well, most of them at least.

On ice, the game has never played better.

From the improvements made to the skating engine to the way players control the puck, or don’t control it if your puck control skills are poor, NHL 14 just plays like a hockey video game should.

The passes look authentic, the shots look realistic, and the hits – I can go on for hours about the improvement to the hitting in the game.

The collision engine is where the game sees its biggest improvements overall.

Gone are the days of mini me taking out the giant with a clean body check. Now, a player must be the right size and strong enough in order to perform a successful body check.

And with the updated collision and physics engine comes a brand new fighting engine built from the same engine that powered the Fight Night boxing series.

The new third-person fighting engine brings the fights to life, and makes an aspect that fans love fun to play again.

Fights don’t start just because you press the Y or Triangle button (you can still start them that way). Fights now start spontaneously. If you give a cheap shot to a team’s superstar, expect to drop the gloves. Shoot the puck at the goalie after the whistle and you better be ready to throw down.

It makes fighting fun again, and is one of the best new aspects of the game.

Of course, the best addition to NHL 14 is the new “NHL 94: Anniversary Mode”. From the blue ice to the star around the player’s feet, NHL 94 mode creates a major sense of nostalgia for every who ever played what many call the best hockey game ever made.

The best part is, you don’t even have to have ever played a current-gen NHL game in your life to be able to enjoy the awesomeness that is NHL 94 mode. The simple controls and the removal of the game’s rules makes it easy for anyone to pick up a controller and have a blast playing a hockey game how it was back in the early 90s.

Another game mode that isn’t exactly new, but received a massive overhaul is the Be-A-Pro mode, now known as “Live the Life”.

“Live the Life” allows a player to create his own player, and take him through the ranks from the CHL (Canadian Hockey League) to the NHL in hopes of becoming a star. I know, it sounds the same as it’s been for the past few seasons. But where this mode differs from years past, however, is players can no perform off-ice tasks for their players.

Things like pre- and post-game interviews, endorsement deals, and public events all effect how your player is received by the team, the league, and your community. You want to be a jerk to people, well, then your respect level will fall. Work hard and produce? Then you may just become the most popular guy in the locker room.

It makes a mode that had become dry over the past four seasons fun again.

Despite the amount of fun the game is to play once you get on the ice, the overall presentation of the game is where this player was left with a more-than-sour taste in his mouth.

Aside from the main game menu, the menu systems in the specific game modes remain the same as they have been for the past few seasons.

In Be-A-GM mode, everything remains in the same categories as before, and no new options were implemented. In fact, the Be-A-GM mode has gone relatively untouched since last season. It would’ve been nice to see updates to scouting or trade negotiations, but alas, none of that came to be.

One has to wonder whether or not it’s EA not having enough time to update the menu system, or if it’s just laziness.

Where the menu did see some changes is in the updated Live the Life, formerly known as Be-A-Pro, mode. Since there are new off-ice tasks for players, the menu in the mode has been updated to show the new options players now have in the mode.

One of the modes that the menu system caused of a lot of problems with was GM Connected which is NHL’s version of an online franchise mode.

In NHL 13 the menu was slow, unresponsive, and near impossible to navigate. With NHL 14, the menu system isn’t as slow or unresponsive — though it is still pretty bad – but the menu is still pretty impossible to navigate. You really have to dig in order to find out where you stand, and who’s leading the league in different statistical categories.

Again, did EA just not have the time, or were they lazy knowing the next generation of consoles is right around the corner?

In the game, Gary Thorne and Bill Clement continue to give the same dry, dull, and boring commentary that they have since becoming the announcing duo when NHL made the jump to the current gen. If only we could somehow get Clement to go back to doing commentary in the game like this.

Overall, NHL 14 is the best hockey game released in quite some time. The way the gameplay flows on the ice is how a hockey video should play – although the AI could use a dose of smart serum – and there is never a dull moment on the ice when playing.

Unfortunately, the presentation issues and lack of changes to Be-A-GM mode stop this from being the best game it could possibly be. Still, with it only releasing on the current generation of consoles this year, NHL 14 is a game that is worth the pick up if only for the fun you have on the ice.