I took aim and fired only to watch the puck barely move because my stick broke in two on the downswing. The player guarding me scooped up the loose puck and skated towards our goal. I hustled after him and did my best to hassle him enough where he couldn’t take the shot. I succeeded, but then I was stuck on defense playing without a stick, so I took the center to grind it out where I wouldn’t need one. I constantly roughed up the other player knowing the ref would let some dirty play go by in front of the net. My teammate stole the puck and we were off up the ice. I skated by the bench as my teammate handed out a new stick for me to grab on the fly. Once we got into the offensive zone, I banged my stick against the ice three times calling for the puck, received the pass, and let a slap shot rip. I missed the net hitting the glass, and I shattered it completely. The play stopped and I could finally let out a breath as I skated over to the bench. I would only get a short break before I’m back on the ice and at it again.
NHL 14 brings some great puck on to the ice for you to experience in all its glory. It does the best it can to make that experience feel real and keep a constant flow of action. As most people know, the difference in a sports game from one year to the next usually doesn’t amount to much. That remains true to a certain extent this time as well, but while most elements stay the same, there are some that have been almost perfected to really improve the overall experience. That would be the all new collision physics and improved skating dynamics, basically summing up to one thing: big nasty hits.
We’ll get to that a little later after covering some more basic attributes of NHL 14. Any veterans to the series will instantly understand the format of the game. Nothing too dramatically has changed, there are still your basic modes: Be a Pro, Be a GM, Be a Legend, Ultimate Team, online tournaments, and other usual suspects to be found. The game still looks beautiful and plays wonderfully. On a whole, the game isn’t all that different from its predecessors, but don’t let that fool you into skipping this year’s title. The game is solid like it has been the past few years; however, the added extras will be the deciding factor that will make you pull out your wallet and fork over your cash.
Right away you’ll notice the newest installment in NHL 14 is the 94 anniversary mode. It’s a nice little reminiscent approach to the original NHL title that was released back twenty years ago. With the simple old controls it’s enjoyable, but nothing really spectacular that will make you spend a lot of time with it. It’s more of something you’ll play with a friend once or twice, but that’s it. It has updated graphics and the current roster. It would have been far better to go 100% all the way with the classic graphics and old-school roster. Retro games have made a comeback and many people would dive into that mode and never leave. That’s just conjecture and maybe a personal preference, but it would’ve made the mode more distinguishable.
Be A Pro mode returns this time as Live The Life, but it is basically the same as previous years. You create a player and only play as that one person in every game. You can level up, and get boosters on your equipment based off how well you do in games. The difference this time is the off-the-ice experience. You have interviews and choose endorsements that affect four levels of likability: manager, team, fans, and family. It’s an interesting concept, but it really doesn’t add that much. All the answers for the interview are obvious except when they are strange trick questions. It’s a nice touch, but it’s an extra and shouldn’t be taken too seriously, especially since it doesn’t even make much sense half the time.
For example, one time I stayed on the ice longer than my shift was supposed to be. After the game I was interviewed on that subject about how I wasn’t listening to my coach, but I gave the right answer and my management rating went up. That was pretty cool to see…the first time. I continually stay out too long and after every game I get asked that same question. I gave the same answer and my rating goes up. There’s no reason for me to stop doing what I’m doing because I get more time on the ice and my rating continually going up. Talk about working the system.
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty that people want to hear about: the player impact engine and collision physics. For newcomers, the way hits use to happen in NHL is a player would need to properly time the hit-stick when he was about to collide with another player. If done properly, the person on the receiving end my take a pretty brutal hit. That was only if done perfectly. A lot of the time, the two players would run into each other, and both stand their awkwardly, because the hit didn’t register correctly. That, or players would bounce off one another, and sometimes when the hit did occur, it felt completely fake. The two players would become locked in some weird way, and the hit became something like a brief animation to watch. They were okay, but they certainly didn’t feel very fluid.
That has all been completely redone in this game to bring you completely fluid hits, but more importantly, bigger hits. My Live The Life player is a sniper but not much of a hitter. In previous games, it was almost impossible to check anyone. I’d bounce off as they’d skate by unaffected. In this game, I can lay people out. In fact, you don’t even have to time up the hit stick, if you have the speed, just running into a person will knock them over. No more charging full speed at a person only to come to a dead stop because you didn’t use the hit-stick. This isn’t just about getting big hits. It causes the game to be more realistic as well. It makes it much tougher to skate through the center or try and muscle your way past the defense. That awkward necessary connection to another player has been removed and the game feels infinitely smoother.
This includes fighting as well. In the past few games the fighting has been switched to a first person mode that was awkward at best. Play would stop, a new screen would start, and then the fight would begin. Again, NHL 14 has made the game smoother by blending everything seamlessly and ridding itself of that horrid first-person. I “accidentally” shot the puck at the net after the whistle blew, and the other team was not okay with that. The enforcer on the other team grabbed my jersey looking for fisticuffs. Remember, I’m a tiny little sniper, I don’t fight, I score goals. Luckily, my enforcer was nearby and charged in taking my place. I skated backwards – in real time mind you – as the fight began between the other players. Well, that got me itching, so later in the game, on a face-off, I hit the fight button, and as soon as the puck was put into play, the other player dropped his gloves. There was no break in the play, we simply went at it. Of course, hockey isn’t about fighting…but winning fights does restore stamina for your team so it could very much turn the tide of the game. Hey, any excuse to drop gloves.
There is one major fault with this game that was the negative in past games as well, and it still hasn’t been improved upon in any major way. The A.I. in this game is atrocious. The argument can be made that it has actually decreased for this installment. This doesn’t have much of an effect in a mode where you can control everyone, but in Live The Life, it becomes blatantly apparent. The amount of times my teammates dumped the puck into the corner instead of passing it to me when I was unguarded at the blue line makes me want to snap the disc. I’ve never played a hockey game where my team was off-sides more than this one. When I’m taking the puck up the side, they come crowd me, bringing their defense men with them. They make terrible passes, bad penalties, and they even fight at poor times. It’s like playing with children that haven’t learned the game yet.
There are a few other problems, but on a much smaller scale. Loading times aren’t really the greatest but they’re doable. The announcing is completely rehashed, there are barely any new lines the two commentators say. I even recognize some of their comments back from NHL 10. They get stale very quickly as they constantly say the same things game after game. It will only take a few games for them to get very annoying. The only other problem is how the game feels at times. It feels like there is a slight delay between passing, shooting, poke checking, and whatever else. It isn’t major and won’t affect your game all that much, but NHL 14 doesn’t feel as crisp as previous entries. That’s something only veterans will probably notice admittedly.
Let’s not be definitive and say NHL 14 is the greatest game in the series, but it is a very solid hockey game with improved skating and collision physics to make it even more eye-appealing. There are all the same modes you love in the previous games but updated. For that reason, this game can seem like a simple update for NHL 13. That may make some people wary of spending money, but rest assured, NHL 14 will certainly eat many hours of your life away. You’ll find the mode that best fits you and quickly become so immersed that you’ll come up with new lines or plays in your dreams. Big hits and seamless fighting may not be the most important element in a hockey game, but it certainly makes it a lot more fun. And if we’re being honest, you aren’t a true hockey player until you get the Gordie Howe hat trick.
This review is based off a retail copy of the Playstation 3 version of NHL 14 developed by EA Canada and published by EA Sports.
- Collision Physics
- Feels Smooth
- Idiotic A.I.
- Annoying Commentators