Review: NHL 14

Game: NHL 14 Developer: EA Canada Publisher: EA Sports
Release Date: Out Now  Available On: PS3/360 Version Played: PS3

NHL Story
NHL 14 marks the 20th year anniversary of the franchise. To celebrate, EA have introduced a ton of new modes to this years entry. They’ve also introduced the new FIFA Player Impact Engine and a new engine to handle more realistic fights. EA have also rewarded loyal fans with a modernised version of NHL 94 Anniversary Mode which features current rosters and updated graphics. –

NHL Presentation
For a current gen game NHL holds up exceedingly well (I cannot wait to see what next gen holds). The arenas are excellently detailed with the glass walls rattling with every heavy hitting impact on your opposing team. Players’ movements are clear and precise without a fault. Goalies are remarkably focused and hard to get past and the commentary is on par, with lots of in game references and hockey jargon.

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The soundtrack to NHL 14 blew me away with some outstanding selections from the punk, rock and heavy metal genres, just to name a few. These upbeat tunes capture the atmosphere perfectly for a hockey game and felt right at home with the adrenaline fuelled games.

NHL Gameplay
This yearly entry brings a lot of new modes to the table for NHL 14 Perhaps the biggest and best feature for me was the fight mechanic improvements, about 30 seconds into my first game I was into my first scuffle. NHL have borrowed the Enforcer Engine from the Fight Night and made it a completely different game in its own. Punches are thrown and countered but players can be pushed and pulled into prime position opening yourself or your opponent up for a ‘bruising’.

Another feature borrowed from another series is the ‘Player Impact Engine’ from the FIFA games, big hits are to be found all over the shop and it could not be more glorious and satisfying with this fantastic engine. NHL 94 Anniversary marks the 20th anniversary of one of the greatest arcade sports based games with updated graphics and a simple control scheme to match. Not to mention the matching blue ice from the classic game just to hit at that nostalgic feeling.

Talking of control schemes NHL needed an overhaul from their last game and have delivered big this year with the one touch Deke system. This new system opens the door for newcomers and casual hockey games by simplifying things as opposed to the time needed to master the layout and nail the moves in previous entries of the series.

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As custom to the NHL series, the career menu opens you up to a selection of game modes that will entice any hockey fan. First up is ‘General Manager’ mode where you can manage your favourite team over a selected number of seasons, salary caps can be enforced, players traded and contracts signed all as you organize your team to the best of your ability from the side lines. ‘Be a Legend’ allows you to play as one of four hockey greats as you play out a contract with your selected team. All the while your contracted team is hoping to bring some of your experience and expertise to the team. In game experience can be earned and spent on improving your attributes. ‘Season’ mode lets you plain and simply play out a season with your team of choice.

The biggest inclusion this year is “Live the Life” where you get to be a pro on and off the ice. You can create your own pro (with huge amounts of customization available even being able to make a female player), start off in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) or start straight in the NHL. Everything imaginable influences your progression as a pro, all from game performances to TV interviews, fans can love or hate you, contracts can be torn up or you can receive huge endorsements all based on your interactions with the world around you as a star of the NHL. This mode is without doubt a huge step forward for the series and an amazing opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the life of a NHL Player; it is called Live the Life after all.

NHL Conclusion
Instead of listing every feature that is present in this year’s entry for the NHL I have instead opted to describe the new features available for gamers this time around. The biggest and most appealing features would no doubt have to be the one touch deke system and the introduction of “Live the Life” mode, which is a great introduction for new players to the series. On that note however there is certainly enough ‘new’ to keep series fans coming back for more, whether it be for the two new engines for fights and collisions or the inclusion of the NHL 94 Anniversary mode.

Online modes are plentiful and can be completed in matches on ice or against other General Managers in GM mode. For the outgoing current generation NHL is a great advocate for what has been a great series throughout the years but at the same time opens up the door for alot more opportunity in the next generation of consoles.