NHL 14 is the latest annual addition (and edition) of the EA Sports NHL franchise, developed by EA Canada. This is the twenty-third instalment of the NHL series and anyone familiar with the franchise knows to expect an all-encompassing high quality true-to-life NHL experience.
What You Need to Know
NHL 14 is EA Sports’ answer to the ice hockey addict’s every need. Featuring casual quickplay, NHL Moments (where you can recreate some of the greatest NHL moments in history), General Manager simulations, online hockey leagues, and even the chance to live the life of your own pro hockey player, EA Sports presents what it believes is the complete NHL package.
NHL 14 has upgraded the collision physics, meaning bigger, meaner hits and truer-to-life collisions. The ubiquitous fighting in NHL 14 now packs the all-new Enforcer Engine (featured in Fight Night) so you can get your ‘Rocky’ moment in style. The one touch dekes are also improved through a new, more responsive deking system controlled only with the left stick and one button.
You can now also Live the Life of an NHL player both on and off the ice where decisions you make and the things you say affect how your team, GM, fans and family feel about you. Finally, there’s a throwback to classic old school NHL arcade action in the NHL ’94 Anniversary Mode which teleports you back to when there were no rules and the focus was just on shooting and skating.
What’s the Same?
It’s still an NHL game and NHL hasn’t changed that much in a year so you still get all the standard high quality features you’ve come to expect and enjoy from previous editions. You can simulate a season as a GM, play in a league, climb the ladder to stardom as a pro player, play in online season tournaments, engage in some heated one-on-one, two-on-two, three-on-one, or four-on-none quickplay local action as well as online multiplayer. Customising the camera, the rules, the general game settings and the teams is also still available for those that like to tinker.
You’ll Enjoy NHL 14 If You Liked…
If you enjoyed previous releases in the NHL series, you’ll still enjoy this one. If you did not enjoy previous releases but are an avid fan of NHL, there’s still probably something new or refined in NHL 14 to motivate you to consider buying this, whether it’s Live the Life mode, the refined collision physics, or the NHL ‘94 Anniversary Mode. The latter mode is definitely an incentive for older gamers in the franchise that may have fallen out with the more realistic and rules-burdened current releases.
What I Liked
- 5.) NHL ‘94 mode is fantastic! It brings old school mindless NHL action to the new generation – instead of worrying about offside rules, penalties, and so on, you can just knuckle down and get into the action straight away.
- 4.) The opportunity to relive or recreate history from classic NHL moments – there’s a scenario mode where you are presented with highlights from NHL history and you get to relive those moments, such as scoring a hat-trick in the final four minutes of the last period with a certain player.
- 3.) One-touch dekes are a nice way to get some impressive shots off and hopefully score too. An easier mechanic for the less nimble-minded NHL gamer.
- 2.) The body checks and collisions are fun to watch and even more fun to execute and now, thanks to the new interface, they’re easier to perform too. Instead of relying on the right stick to angle into an opponent you can also simply skate into them at speed! What could be simpler than that?
- 1.) The realism in the game is certainly a highlight. While playing out the game for this review my wife walked into the room and wondered why I was watching NHL on TV instead of reviewing whatever game I had to review!
I created the most unlikely NHL player ever imaginable – a fifty year old South African, 1.70m tall and weighing 127kg. My agent told me I was being scouted for the big league in my first play off game so I had to produce something magical – and I did, my hephalump scored the opening two goals. That was awesome!
What I Didn’t Like
- 5.) No online multiplayer for NHL ‘94 mode. Sure, you can play it locally with four players but what if you don’t have any friends nearby? Playing NHL ‘94 on your lonesome is pretty dull.
- 4.) The tutorial isn’t very helpful. Trying to practice certain moves and combinations is quite difficult when there doesn’t appear to be anywhere in the game to rehearse them.
- 3.) The Live the Life mode isn’t as fleshed out as it could have been. There’s very little to inspire you about this mode and even the presentation is riddled with errors in the dialogues so it’s difficult to get excited about it.
- 2.) There’s no Team South Africa to play! How heart-breaking is that? Imagine playing from the bottom of the international table (we don’t even have frozen lakes, after all) and climbing to the top – imagine being able to live that moment! Well, you can’t.
- 1.) The much hyped Fighting Mode is silly. The fight mode itself may be slightly better than previously but it’s still not that much fun.
Least Favourite Moment
There seems to be a greater level of strictness when it comes to dishing out penalties. Whenever I tried to body check players near the boards I’d end up getting silly (and for a South African non-NHL aficionado, confusing) boarding penalties.
You can play in online tournaments such as EA Sports Hockey League, online playback submissions (you can submit your highlight reels online), social integration with Facebook, Hockey Ultimate Team and a really fun collectible card feature. There are also club challenges, a hockey shop and managing team chemistry between lines.
The Bottom Line
NHL 14 brings more of the same high quality NHL sports action you’ve come to expect from EA Sports and despite it adding some new features and engine revamps onto NHL 13, it’s still more or less the same experience. If you’ve been on the fence or have skipped a few years of NHL games then NHL 14 is certainly a strong contender but if you’ve got NHL 13 already then it will be up to you if you want to upgrade to NHL 14.
NHL 14 was reviewed on the Xbox 360