If you’re going to make fighting a focal point of your hockey game, you’re going to want to get someone who knows how to throw a punch and EA got some of the best – they got the Fight Night guys.
NHL 14 is easily the hardest hitting hockey sim you’ll ever play; the hits shake players to their core and the fights are more satisfying than ever but underneath it all NHL 14 is the gaming equivalent of a veteran player starting to show his age. This is still the most satisfying and authentic hockey experience around (partly because it’s the only one) but this year’s game features a lot of missteps and modes that just don’t seem to work quite right.
Platform:PS3,Xbox 360, PC
What works: Hitting people and fighting feels great | still the best on ice product on the market
What doesn’t work: Engine is beginning to show its age| New modes feel clunky and need work| fighting happens too often in some games
The enforcer engine, which powers NHL 14’s big hits and fights is the star of this year’s game, and rightfully so. Be honest, as much as you love the finesse and skill that brings you to the hockey game, it’s the brutality and chance of fighting that keeps you in your seat and NHL 14 delivers like none before it. Built on the Fight Night engine, NHL 14’s Enforcer Mode is a welcome change. Fighting is no longer locked to the first-person perspective that’s been the staple of the NHL games for years and instead the action takes place third person right there on the ice. The mechanics are much more fluid now thanks so a simplified control scheme that relies on the thumbsticks to control the action. The enforcer engine also makes fighting more natural as you don’t have to accept a request for a fight anymore, it just sort of happens more often than not.
There is a downside to the engine though as the game is always incredibly eager to fight. Every event, be it small check or cheap shot seems equally able to send someone on the opposing team into a tizzy and ready to fight. When each game is filled with fight after fight, the games start to take nearly twice as long and NHL 14 becomes less of a pick up and play and more of a major time investment. When you edit or create a player, you’re given the option to choose how often they fight, but it doesn’t seem like it matters as before long, everyone will fight. It’s a fun mode of course but it gets old very fast when it happens so frequently.
One of NHL 14’s other big additions this year isn’t new at all, in fact – it’s almost 20–years-old. This year’s game celebrates the history and legacy of NHL 94, one of the series most loved entries. The mode is incredibly accessible since it relies on the 16-bit era controls and uses a mix between the classic visuals (blue ice and all) and those of this year’s game. The controls and settings can be transported over to games in other modes making NHL 14 easily accessible and playable for nearly anyone. It’s a lot of fun to be able to playa against anyone, regardless of their experience.
All of the modes you’d expect make their return to this year’s game and some are more successful than others. Be a Pro has been given a makeover and is now Live the Life; the only difference being that the game takes a lot more time for off the ice activities like press interviews and endorsements. The mode isn’t as fleshed out and streamlined as the 2K’s NBA games as everything happens via menus but its still a fun time to try to build up a player, or heck – even build him down. There’s also a new GM mode for online play which works in theory but feels clunky and hard to navigate most of the time.
NHL 14 is a great hockey game, but as a $60 package, it leaves a lot to be desired. It’s mechanically sound and features the best on ice product of in recent years but the engine is starting to show its age and a lot of the newer modes and features feel clunky and in need of improvement (except for the enforcer engine). That being said, it’s still the best way to experience NHL action without being there. Now get out there and hit somebody!