NHL 14

Posted On: 9/16/2013  Publisher: EA Sports

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The leaves are getting ready to change, the NFL is back in full swing and the NHL season is right around the corner. This all means itís time for this yearís installment of EA Sportsí iconic NHL franchise. Itís hard to believe itís been 20 years since NHL debuted and I remember it well playing game after game on my Sega Genesis. The franchise has come so far and continued to grow more and more realistic as each year passed by. This year is no exception and once again we have a fantastic hockey title on our hands and one that hockey fans will definitely enjoy.

NHL 14 has plenty of new and old bundled into one fantastic package. For those looking to feel some nostalgia you can play the NHL Anniversary mode which takes todays current game and puts an NHL 94 spin onto things with visuals, sounds and gameplay from the ever popular classic. While the aggression level has been turned up, old school hockey is prevalent throughout the game and the fan favorite game modes are better than ever. My personal favorite is the Hockey Ultimate Mode but thatís followed up closely by the revamped Be A pro mode. More on the modes in a bit.

Visually, NHL 14 looks superb which is nothing shocking at all as the bar was set a few years ago by the EA franchise. Player models look fantastic, deeks are smooth in animation and the gameplay is fluid. What really goes hand in hand is the smooth gameplay with the seamless play by play commentary from Gary Thorne and Bill Clemente. Presentation from the menus to in game stat layovers is spot on with what you would expect in a real television broadcast and it really adds to the realism in my opinion.

 
 

The gameplay has once again been tweaked and perfected. The only real issue I have with the game is that the aggression seems to be a bit high as players drop the gloves on a very regular basis. I do however love the fact that if you shoot at the net after a whistle you are guaranteed to be in a fight thanks to a defender protecting his teams integrity. I really had to chuckle the first time a fight occurred after I randomly shot on net post whistle. Just awesome.

The fighting uses EAís Fight Night technology and gives you a third person perspective on the action. You can grapple the entire time and wait for your moment to lay in a good hit or you can choose to just swing away at your opponent but leave yourself open for a knockout punch. The after effects of a fight on the participants is very cool with visual facial damage such as bruises, cuts, etc. You will definitely look like you have been in a fight if you get tagged a few times in the face.

And the last visual I want to mention is the NHL 94 Anniversary mode that adds in a visual look that pays homage to the classic title from 20 years ago. Blue Ice, player stars, numbers for names and 16-bit music and sounds really put the nostalgia into the game as its mixed with the present day gameplay and player models. This visual style and game mode is fantastic and really make me appreciate the franchise and where itís come over the last 20 years.

 
 

True Performance Skating is back and even better this year with over 1000 new skating animations for both puck handlers and defensemen. The ability to perform one-touch dekes really helps out the lesser skilled players but also gives those veteran gamers even more control. And for those of you that like to play goalie or at least need a solid net minder you have no worries. The entire goalie system has been tweaked and made better allowing goalies to be even more responsive than before, but donít worry as there are new ways of scoring such as screening the goalie and just beating him with a great deke. Ití definitely not a walk in the park to score a goal, at least itís not for me.

NHL 14 has no shortage of game modes either. Youíve got everything from the Hockey Ultimate team mode to online and offline be A pro modes. In the new Be A Pro mode you can live the life of a player going through the ranks of professional hockey answering to the media, making decisions and selecting endorsement deals. You can choose to start out in the CHL and work your way up to the NHL, or perhaps you just want to jump in the shoes of an existing star in either of the leagues. Thatís totally up to you.

If you want to play online you can head to head matchups or choose to play in the EASHL, Hockey Ultimate Team or perhaps a GM Connected League. Youíll have the option to play through seasons in all of the online modes so itís your choice as to what type of game mode you want to play. The EASHL is very popular among franchise veterans as this allows you to become a legendary player online, win actual cups and be named to online all-star teams. The HUT mode also has a season mode now where you can take your fantasy card team online against others across the world in an organized fashion.

 
 

There are even more options in the game modes like the NHL Moments and Play Now features available throughout the game. Youíll have to peruse through the extensive menu system and see everything that is available to you because this review would end up being a book if I tried to cover everything. There is not a whole lot wrong with the game and my real only issue was the aggression level when it comes to dropping gloves on the ice. Itís fun for the first few times, but gets old quickly. Sue you donít have to drop your gloves, but I just want to keep the game moving rather than sit there and wait for the fighting animations to end. I still have to play with the settings as I am sure there is a way to tone it down a bit.

Itís a no brainer that this game is every hockey fanís dream. The presentation, gameplay, and game modes are fantastic and this will definitely keep you busy for the next 2 years. There is word that there will not be an NHL 15 and while it makes sense I am not completely sold on that notion so weíll wait and see. But if that is in fact the case, NHL 14 will definitely hold you over until the next installment, even if that is 2 years from now. I do hope they support a full update when the 2014-15 season rolls around, but for now letís not worry about that and just play some hockey. NHL 14 is the real deal. Without a doubt, this is real hockey and a hockey fan's dream game.

 
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