The newest installment of arguably EA’s most stable franchise is here, and it does not disappoint. Not much, as far as I can tell was taken out of NHL, and honestly, not much really needed to be. Instead, EA Canada decided to streamline the menus and beef up the content, much to my liking. The on-ice product is noticeably better, due to the addition of the Player Impact Engine from FIFA and the Enforcer Engine from Fight Night. Even if EA Canada stopped there, the improvement would have been enough to warrant a new game. But instead of being satisfied with a more realistic product, they upped the ante with the Be A Pro mode, retooled and renamed as Live the Life mode. It adds a much-needed personality and depth to the experience of playing in the NHL.
The inclusion of the Player Impact Engine, based on the physics engine used in the FIFA series is a subtle but meaningful addition. Checking is now handled automatically and manually, with the left and right stick, respectively. Simple skating into another player is enough to produce a check, but this will often result in simple nudges and jostling for position, unless skating at high speeds. stronger hits can be doled out with the right stick, but beware of incurring charging or cross-checking penalties. Careful to keep the game balanced, EA Canada added one-touch dekes to the offensive repertoire, allowing for a quick change of direction to avoid those big hits.
With a renewed emphasis on player interaction, an overhaul of the fighting system was also needed. Fights can still be instigated pre and post whistle with the Y button, but big hits can also cause play to be halted while retaliatory ensues. A simple control scheme with surprising depth makes fights in NHL 14 frantic but strategic, requiring more than button mashing to win. Cosmetic and lasting Injuries can result, from black eyes to broken noses, and not just for the loser. Winning a fight will replenish your teams energy, rile up the crowd (if you are at home), and give you momentum to either get back into the game or finish of your opponent for good. Fighting is now more fun than ever before, and more important to boot.
Those who primarily play offline (myself included) will love the revamped and renamed Be a Pro mode, now titled Live the Life. While the core of Live the Life is the same, a few new wrinkles add some much-needed personality and diversity to the game of hockey. After most games you will have an interview, with questions ranging from your own play to the play of your teammates and opponents. Simple multiple choice answers are mapped to the face buttons, with responses ranging from humble to dismissive, and sometimes even combative. Also, your player will engage in random off-ice events, ranging from a night out with teammates to your in-laws spending the night. Your response to the events will affect your Likability meters. There are four separate meters that measure your Likability, from Fans and Teammates, to Management and Family. There is more to this than meets the eye, as a high rating for Management will increase your chances of being named a team captain, and will reduce the likelihood of you being sent to the minors or being put on a lower line. Beware of low ratings, as a low Teammate rating will cause your teammates to stop passing you the puck, even when you call for it.
+ New additions are solid and useful
+ No loss of previous quality
Real World Grade
– Another year, another game, albeit with improvements