NHL 14 - PS3 Review
|30/8/2013||EA Games||EA Sports||EA Canada||1-?||2-12|
Ice Hockey has always been an interest of mine. Despite the fact that, living in Australia, there is no Ice Hockey League in our sunburnt country (actually there might be, but not where I live), and that NHL isn't televised in Free-To-Air TV I have always been keen on the sport, and always keep a keen eye on the video game releases. In fact Ice Hockey was one of the first games I owned on the Atari VCS, and then on almost every generation since then I have owned, and played, whatever game was out. It was somewhat surprising to me then to discover that I have never played the sport on PS3, but here we are, in the twilight of the consoles life I'm about to hit up EA's NHL 14.
|NHL 14 is an action packed Ice Hockey game.|
As I pointed out in the opening of this review I haven't played an Ice Hockey game for quite some time, and as such I'll admit I'm coming into this game as a bit of a newbie - although I am familiar with teams, players, rules and previous games which gives me a bit of a head start.
So this is an Ice Hockey game, and just like in real-life it's a game not just about scoring the goals, but also beating your opponent with the biggest hits, and even punches during the fights. Developers EA Canada really have the fluidity of the sport, and perhaps more importantly player momentum, feeling just right in this game. Player AI is also pretty adept at keeping the game moving in a realistic fashion however there were moments when I was ready to pass the puck in an open forward line only to see my teammates hanging back and failing to break from the defenders.
|Collisions on the ice are inevitable, and brutal.|
As I mentioned at the top of this review I don't see nearly as many Ice Hockey games on TV as I would like so avid fans may have a different opinion. As a casual fan and keen gamer this recreation of the sport is the best I've ever seen and the most impressive aspect has to be the collision detection for big hits on players. Actually it's not just the big hits that knocks them to the ice, but even the smaller nudges and bumps to put them off balance or move them off their skating line.
New to NHL 14 is the "Live the Life" mode which is essentially an online career mode where you take full control of the team both on and off the rink - you'll manage your players stats, answer questions in interviews during the season which can affect your likability with fans, teammates, management and family, and hit the ice to score the winning goals. We played this mode extensively for this review - certainly much more then others - and feel that after dozens of matches we're still a long way from becoming a superstar.
NHL 14 does include online gameplay although we struggled to get into more than a couple of matches - this will likely be a game best played online with friends so you can set up game times. From what we did play, however, the game was moderately lag-free but we struggled to get Australian opponents, or at least ones with good internet connections, so just be warned. Another new online focused mode in this game is "GM Connected" which allows you, and many friends, to participate in a team management game over several years.
|The NHL 94 mode is very cool, very retro.|
NHL 14 also introduces a new fighting engine called "Enforcer" which was used in the Fight Night boxing titles and gives the title some authenticity when the players drop their gloves. While I can't compare it to previous NHL games, although I can confirm that the fights no longer take place from a first-person perspective but rather a third person perspective, what I can say is that when fights happen it's quite a battle to defeat your opponents, but it's also quite an entertaining distraction from the action on the ice. I would though, have liked the camera, to zoom in a little more then the default view which is quite distant.
One big inclusion to this years title, and one which we absolutely loved, was the NHL 94 Anniversary Mode where you can pretty much travel back in time and play the game with the simplified rules and controls from two decades ago. It was that very game which we owned and fell in love with back on the Sega Megadrive, so for the developers to replicate that gameplay here, albeit with beefed up graphics, was very cool. The simplified controls certainly mean you lose some of the finesse and control of later control schemes, but it is actually a wonderful mode to introduce youngsters to Ice Hockey games.
|Time to test out the new Enforcer fighting engine.|
As you can see from the surrounding screenshots the visuals in NHL 14 are quite impressive and as slick as one would expect from a major EA Sports title. Player models are quite detailed, although when they get all their gear and helmets on it's hard to differentiate until you get to close-ups, while the players animation is superb. Stadiums, and even the crowds, look pretty impressive while the menu presentation is also pretty slick as one would expect from an EA Sports title.
We did, however notice the odd hiccup here and there with dropped frames both during the menus and in- game, but overall this remains slick enough not to mark it down too harshly.
Sonically NHL 14 is decent, but somewhat lacking at times too. First of all the crowds sound pretty good, but if you're playing away they are often too quiet when you score a goal despite the fact that you can see fans of the away team going crazy in the crowd. Commentary from Gary Thorne and Bill Clement is decent with mostly accurate calls coinciding with the on-screen action. Having said that, the comments do become repetitive and start to annoy after a few matches.
|NHL 14 is a wonderful Ice Hockey title.|
Faring worse is the very limited music selection in the game with only a dozen tracks available for the menus and in-game however it is possible to switch to your own library stored on the PS3 Hard Drive, which we did after a short period of time. Oh, it was also amusing to hear Dropkick Murphy’s version of "The Boys Are Back" which also featured in the Australian Football League promotions for the 2013 season.
It has been some time since I played a NHL title, and it was a very enjoyable experience to go back to the franchise with NHL 14. As expected the audio-visual experience impresses, and without a next-gen version available this is as good as it's going to get for quite some time. Even for non-Ice Hockey fans this is a title sure to provide plenty of fun.
Review By: Dave Warner
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|GRAPHICS||NHL 14 is an impressive looking title with great stadiums, decent player detail, and slick animations and menus. Overall, impressive.||86%|
|SOUND||The audio is solid, but commentary becomes repetitive and very limited music selection.||71%|
|GAMEPLAY||It's slick, it's fun and it's pretty brutal with fights. Plenty of customisation to suit your preferred game style (arcade or simulation) and NHL 94 mode is great fun.||90%|
|VALUE||There are plenty of game modes, including online play and NHL 94 modes, which makes this good value.||80%|
|OVERALL||NHL 14 is a very entertaining, highly polished, title that provides hours of entertainment. We haven't played an Ice Hockey title for some time, but this is one we won't be putting down soon. Definately a game worth checking out.||85%|