NHL 14 Review: an icing that doesn't penalize retro or new players from playing
- Posted September 13th, 2013 at 12:45 EDT by Timothy Nunes
- PSU Review Score
- Avg. user review score:
You must be logged in to rate a game
EA Sports takes its NHL series in a more realistic direction with a new skating system. While it's accompanied by some other authentic hockey features, it may turn off casual fans as they struggle to adapt to a slower game.
- Terrific presentation
- Improved A.I., especially goalkeeping
- A more authentic experience
- Slow skating may turnoff casual players
- Slow load screens and laggy menus
- Some animation and engine glitches
Playing online is now a borderline universal endeavor, where you can play all game modes online with your friends with a potential of having 12 people playing in the same EA Sports Hockey League, or EASHL. What the EASHL does far above standard online services is that it focuses on an entire experience rather than one thing here and another there. Here, the general manager aspect is on the front burner right alongside your created character, which combines perfectly the GM Mode and your created player; GM Mode still exists on its own, if you’re more inclined to focus on that side of hockey instead.
One unfortunate staple to EA Sports games is the laggy menu navigation throughout. Considering that EA Sports games are placing a more diversified focus on an RPG aspect, having such a slow and unresponsive menu makes for quite a lethargic, dull experience. The menus themselves are fairly well thought out, but a combination of software delay and slow servers makes both offline and online navigation take twice or thrice as long as it really should, resulting in an experience that is better taken in sittings rather than in marathons like RPGs. Again, this might be my preference, but, one way or another, progress in presentation as well as execution is almost expected in today’s consumer base.
If you’ve been out of the game for a good while, this might be the time to jump back into the NHL scene, as EA Sports has provided a game mode to accommodate the hockey standards of yore. Coined NHL 94 Anniversary Edition, the mode has an over-the-top camera presentation and narrows down the controls schemes and even the rules of the game; that means no offsides and no icing. The oldest hockey game I’ve ever played was Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey 98, and that game was the first thing that came to mind when I saw my player highlighted with a star instead of a circle, so the nostalgic retro feel is vibrant. I wouldn’t say there’s much longevity to this mode, but it combines the old with the new in a way that can bring players who left the game a long time ago with players who haven’t ever played the game.
AI is always an issue with games that featured simulated human interactions, plain and simple. Unfortunately, we’ve seen a lot of games with a lot of good and bad simulations. Now, I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on hockey and its intricate workings, but I never felt like I had much of a team working around me. When I watch live games, the players are constantly responding to what’s going on with the puck and those who handle it. However, on most occasions, players would take a position relative to where the puck was on the field and stick to that rather than making offensive pushes or defensive reactions. Higher difficulty makes for more actions and reactions that counter the lack of sophisticated AI, but it’s still there, and it will be more prominent for those who have played the games over the years.
EA Sports, after years of change and experimentation, has generated something that brings in players both old and new in a way that even other EA Sports games haven’t done. Even though NHL 94 mode doesn’t go too far or last very long, it’s a genuine method that makes NHL 14 accessible to more and more people across many facets of past experiences, or lack thereof, than any other sports title available. The online aspects of the game are on a positive track as well, but the unresponsive menus and unsophisticated AI still make their appearances. NHL 14 is an exciting experience that hockey fans of any age can pick up and play.