- Publisher: EA Sports
- Developer: EA Sports
- ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
- Genre: Sports
- Pros: Fluid Mechanics, Addictive Gameplay
- Cons: Is It THAT Much Better than NHL 13?
So, where does “NHL 14” fall in this truly unique time in sports game history, where the games are all undeniably accomplished but not notably more so than the year before? As I said, on the high end. More than most 2013 sports games, I didn’t feel like I was just playing last year’s iteration with new rosters. And I was reminded how the “NHL” series features some of the most fluid gameplay in sports game history and some of the most stunning depth. It feels like any league that’s ever been created and every schmuck who ever picked up a hockey stick can be played in some form in “NHL 14.” And the game has an addictive, propulsive pace. Just one more game. One more game. It hooks you in like a great sports game should.
What’s new, right? That’s what most people want to know in the world of sports games. The game feels more fluid. Puck/stick control, passing, skating – it has a smoothness to it that hockey fans should adore. The developers boast over 1,000 new skating animations and a strengthened “NHL Collision Physics” dynamic, and, while those kind of claims are often hard to actually feel in the game for other titles, you can sense the visual upgrade this year. The game also seems more reliant on fighting than ever before with EA’s “Fight Night” mechanics brought into this series through the “Enforcer Engine” . They break out constantly and can undeniably shift the tone and control of a game. I won a fight near the end of a brutally close battle and scored seconds later, coming off the adrenalin of the fisticuffs for both my players and the home crowd.
Nostalgic fans of the “NHL” franchise will embrace the opportunity to play their favorite sports game old-school with the inclusion of “NHL 94 Mode,” which allows you to play with current players and physics but the original version of the game’s controls. It’s not just controls, the “94” mode includes bigger goals, hits, and more old-fashioned gameplay. It’s a clever addition.
The game also includes “Live the Life Mode” this year, a variation on previous year’s “Be a Pro” career modes. It’s an expansion of the on-ice experience to include interactions with teammates outside of the game, relationships with fans and management, and more. Being a modern NHL player isn’t just about practice and gameplay. It’s a lot more than that. However, I’m not sure that’s the life people really want to live. Doing media interviews is not something I need replicated in a video game. I just want to get on the ice.