When I played and reviewed NHL 13 last year one of the first things I thought was “how are they going to improve upon NHL 13?” The game was near perfect in terms of gameplay and modes and I really had no idea how the team at EA SPORTS was going to improve any aspect of NHL 14. As the information began to come out it was evident that the development team wasn’t satisfied. The improved skating motions, better AI and huge improvements in the Be-a-Pro mode (now Live the Life) are easily seen as soon as you dive into a game. A product that the a develpoment team beleives in will be a better product and it is easily evident to anyone who has played the NHL series that this team, led by Sean RamjAagsingh, really cares and wants to put out the best product they can.
Much has been said about the fighting, skating and AI improvements in NHL 14 and as gamers finally get their hands on the game they will see for themselves what the video teasers showed. A better AI and better goaltending lead to a game that plays like a true NHL game. Hockey is not an easy sport to translate to a videogame but the team at EA SPORTS has made it look easy. The core of an NHL game is teammate and goalie AI and both are light years ahead of where the series was just 2 years ago. Players move to open ice, cover players in their own zone and play an all-around better game that you’d expect from an NHL caliber player. I don’t see any true hockey fans having a single complaint this season.
A few other highlights:
Your CPU teammates anticipate the play and react to you better.
CPU opponents will play a stronger game in both zones and capitalize on any mistakes you make.
Fighting is much better and feels natural.
The difference between elite players and 4th liners is easily seen.
Goalies play just like their NHL counterparts and play their angles perfectly.
Players who just cross the blue line and shoot will not have much success.
The NHL IQ is amazing and adds to the already industry leading AI.
Wow. The videos showcasing the new skating motions gave some indication that the game’s look and feel had approved but actually playing the game you can see just how improved they are and just how fluid and lifelike they look. The goalies look more like their real-life counterparts and move even better than in NHL 13. The in-game stat pop-ups look great and offer up a wide array of stats. I found that fighting motions were vastly improved and finally look realistic.
I still can’t think of a sports game offers the variety of modes that are available in the NHL series. Connected GM mode, Season, HUT, EASHL, shootout and Live the Life all offer a great experience to gamers. The wide range of modes gives gamers a different experience and helps the game stay in the system longer. Many gamers play the series far into the real NHL playoffs and beyond. In fact, I asked the team how they determine what modes to focus on in an earlier interview which can be read here and the how team use mode usage data to know where to improve the product. The NHL 94 mode is a fun throwback and is a great party game for gamers with friends.
NHL 14 is the undisputed champion in a crowded field of sports games. You may as well clear a space in the rafters as NHL 14 is a Hall of Fame title.