The coolest game on Earth is back for the EA’s newest NHL release, and it packs a punch. Harder hits, dramatic saves, and a more realistic overall game experience comprise this stellar iteration of the series, and although at times it may seem overly similar to last year’s game, the devil is in the details (and the devil equates to an incredible achievement in sports game development). Here’s the lowdown:
Let’s move along to a less controversial aspect of the sport, i.e. where the athletes actually do what they’re paid to do: skate, pass, shoot, and score. The skating mechanics are more finely tuned than in previous years, and there are some key improvements regarding your players’ game sense and responses to important situations. For example, the visual field of your defensemen has widened considerably, mimicking the eyesight of a real person, which allows you to stay with in-rushing forwards far more effectively. Last year, if a forward went too far to one wing while a defender skated backwards down the middle opposite, the defender would essentially ‘lose sight’ of him, then find himself on the forward’s heels after getting easily circumvented.
In terms of game modes in NHL 14, there’s a lot to love here. You’ve got the highly touted NHL 94 Anniversary Mode, which upon first glance doesn’t seem too far-removed from regular gameplay (other than the famous and semi-gimmicky blue ice surface). But, once you give it a few tries, it can actually be pretty fun. There’s an emphasis on almost comically heavy hits, slapshots that you spend 10 full seconds winding up for, and red and blue stars to indicate what player you’re currently controlling. Again, the whole thing is fairly gimmicky, but I’m glad they included it as a small nod to how far the series has come over 20+ years of constant development. It’s actually pretty amazing when you think about it, given how insanely life-like the whole experience has become.
Speaking of the sound design, it was thorough, though not overly impressive. The commentators (Bill Clement and Gary Thorne) have a bunch of recycled lines, and Most people are probably a bit sick of their voices at this point, but it seems clear that they locked down those roles with a tasty contract a while ago. The music, as I mentioned, fits the mood well, and seems to have a higher number of different songs than last year, which obviously makes for a very welcome boost in variety. The hits, shots, and pad-on-pad collisions all sound great, especially with a good subwoofer. That’s really all there is to say about it, but it forms a pretty key part of the overall product, without the thoughtfulness of which the game would feel kind of flimsy. At any rate, if you have any interest in hockey games whatsoever, then you probably already own this, but if you don’t, go out and get a copy – you’ll have an absolute blast.