EA Sports are a company that has a lot to boast about. Not only are they the number one source of all sports games, but they are damn good too. FIFA, Madden, Tiger Woods, and NHL are all games that are nearing perfection. Year by year these games are updated to resembles their respective real-life counterparts. For the last few years, NHL has had strong outings under the EA Sports moniker, and number 14 doesn’t appear to be any different. It’s quite frankly a superb addition to the series. Read on to find out why.
Now bear in mind, I am not familiar with hockey. My knowledge extends as far as knowing that Wayne Gretsky is a person, seeing the Mighty Ducks, Mike Myers rather enjoying the Maple Leafs, and I’ve heard of the Stanley Cup. With that in mind, you’d think I would have some trouble with the playability. This is most certainly not the case. I found myself up by 18 goals by my second game, with the need to bump the difficulty up to hard and adjust some gameplay sliders. The fact that someone as oblivious as myself could pick up a controller and feel as though I were a god on the rink is truly a testament to some amazing development.
The controls work very much like FIFA, the left bumper performs some close control movement known as ‘dekes’. The right stick is used as a trick stick. Again, just like FIFA. I often use it to wind up a fake shot to trick the opposition. The fluidity of the movement in this game is actually astounding. I’m unsure as to whether the player impact engine is carried over from FIFA, but it certainly seems so. It makes smashing into and gutchecking opposing players an absolute, incomparable joy.
Let’s talk about the most interesting part of the game…the fights! Oh lord, do we ever love the fighting. NHL 14 utilises the Fight Night Enforcer Engine. Now you may think what I thought when I heard this, that it works just as Fight Night Champion does. That’s not the case. It merely uses the engine for a more refined set of fisticuffs. You use the right stick to punch your fellow goon, flicking it up to jab and down to uppercut. The left stick is used to push or pull on your foe’s jersey. Pushing the jersey helps you dodge incoming punches., and I will tell you this, nothing feels better than pulling your opponent towards you, and devastating them with a tooth shatteringly vicious uppercut. The A.I. also instigates these fights more than you do. However, spot one of your team-mates taking a hit that you deem to be too rough means that you can press Y to throw your gloves down and skate towards the scumbag that did it.
Right from the start, the game allows you to set your hospitality settings. You can choose between simulation or hardcore simulation. The differences between the two is not as marginal as it seems as manual passing and more or harder collisions are the result.
There are several modes in the game. Be a Pro mode has been replaced by the aptly named ‘Live the Life’ mode. It works the same as the Be a Pro modes in FIFA or Pro Evolution work. You start your career as a young upstart in the minor leagues or a reserve team. You begin in the CHL, and if you’re good enough, you will move on to the NHL draft. Then again, you do have the choice of just starting straight in the NHL. This choice does however negate all sense of achievement you might acquire.
Now this next mode is where ingenuity and brilliance come in. NHL 94 Anniversary Mode is a stripped down version of NHL 14 that is made to play like and resemble the classic and much-loved NHL 94 from the SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis. To be fair to EA Sports, they could have released this mode as a stand-alone HD remake and pulled in a ton of money. Instead it’s thrown in here to give this great title a hell of a lot of value for money. This mode is so much fun, and it’ll be hard to go back to what is an amazing 2014 based game after this hilarious arcade fun.
NHL 14 has also adopted Ultimate Team from the FIFA series. It works just as FIFA does, except the currency is no longer known as gold coins. Instead you will be playing to earn yourself some pucks. I know, cute. Just like FIFA, without spending real life cash, you’ll have a hard time building up any kind of worthwhile squad. But if you’re willing to invest hours upon hours, eventually you can have a team to boast about.
Now, I attempted to give this game a go online. I tried several times over many days so that I could give this review an honest score. However, every game I attempted to play had next to 0 latency, and was literally unplayable. I did chalk this up to me being in the UK and hockey being a predominantly North American sport. I could be wrong there, but after some quick google searching, it appears online lag and latency isn’t an issue most mention. Therefore I will simply state that the lovely people in the United States and Canada just couldn’t handle my British Charm.
So to sum up, I will say that NHL 14 is not only remarkable, great fun, easily accessible, intuitive, and amazing value for money, but it’s also a sports title that should be held in high regard as a placeholder that all sports games should emulate. I would go as far as to say that NHL 14 is EA Sports’ best current title. NHL 15 should be one to really look out for once the title arrives on the next generation.
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