The start of the fall season brings back more than just football as ice hockey players across the world begin their long, hard-hitting season. The NHL, the biggest and most important hockey league today, is already in its preseason. What better way to bring in the new season than with “NHL 14,” EA Sports’ new “NHL” game.
Every game in EA’s “NHL” series improves upon the last one and “14” does not disappoint. The puck behaves realistic and bounces around more and players skate more lifelike, meaning you will no longer be able to stop, turn and skate the opposite way in a millisecond. AI-controlled skaters smartly move and position themselves, forcing players to make smarter decisions. This is the closest that I’ve felt in a sports game that the AI played humanlike.
Some previous modes have been tweaked and a new mode appears that caters to casual fans. Live the Life replaces Be a Pro Mode with off-rink decisions, immersing gamers into the world of a professional hockey player in newer ways not seen before in the series. GM Mode and Hockey Ultimate Team are deeper and more robust than ever before. The new mode included this year has been the biggest selling point for many.
This year is the 20th anniversary of “NHL 94,” the most influential and well-known hockey game of all time (Sorry, “Blades of Steel.”). Included among the games modes is a 20th anniversary mode of the game, which is basically a skin of “NHL 14” with classic controls. Seeing the stars under selected player’s bodies, blue ice and goofy organ are cool; the mode falls flat as it feels too much like “NHL 14” and not like “NHL 94.” I think this mode should have been 2D with the current rosters and old-school teams from the original game. That would’ve been the tribute that “94” deserved.
For diehard fans, “NHL 14” includes enough updates for it to be a must buy. For casual fans, they will enjoy the more realistic experience but like “NHL 94,” which isn’t a washout even though it could be much better. The game is out now on the Xbox 360 and PS3. It doesn’t look like it will be out on the Xbox One or PS4, so this may be the last “NHL” game to be solely designed around the current gen platforms before it becomes an afterthought. It is worth it just for that.