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*Note: This article will be focused on game play aspects, not game modes. An article talking about game modes will come out later.*
It's been a little over a month since EA released their annual NHL game and I realize it's a little late to be doing a review. Most people have already decided whether or not they're getting the game. I wanted to give EA a chance to smooth out the game before I reviewed it. So, if you're still on the fence, hopefully this review helps. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's get to it.
The Good:EA has done a brilliant job with the skating, hitting, deking and fighting mechanics of NHL 14. The second year of True Performance Skating has not disappointed as the physics-based system does a wonderful job of simulating real life first strides, pivots, and turns. I felt NHL 12 made the skating too easy, while NHL 13 made it too difficult. NHL 14 is the perfect mix of the two and the results are extraordinary.
The next feature that Electronic Arts got right is the hitting. The hits are bigger and better than ever before and I'd be lying if I said they weren't fun. The sheer joy I receive from decking a player isn't healthy, but oh well. I'm also a huge fan of the new feature in which you just skate into a player to hit him (without using the right stick). Although it does make hitting easier, I think it's balanced and just way more comfortable.
Another gameplay feature that I especially like in NHL 14 is the deking. The new one-touch deking system has not disappointed. The dekes are smoother, easier and more comfortable, and there's a larger variety of them. My personal favorite is the toe drag, while skating up the ice with Pavel Datsyuk. There's nothing like it.
The final aspect of NHL 14 that I enjoy is the new fighting mechanism. EA took a huge risk by completely changing it, but I think it worked out well. The new enforcer engine implements unwritten hockey rules into the game, which is great, and the fighting itself is much improved. Long gone are the days when one could just abuse the right stick to win a fight. Fighting is now much more strategic and realistic with defensive maneuvers such as tugging and blocking being more important. Also, punching is harder as it has to be timed. Counters and well-timed punches do a lot of damage. There are also uppercuts now which is a nice bonus. All in all, fighting has changed a lot since the last NHL, but I believe its taken a step forward.
The Bad:Although Electronic Arts has done a lot of things right, there are also some things it has messed up on. These include passing and the player ratings. Let's start off with the passing shall we? I can't quite place my finger on it, but there's something off about the passing. The passes don't always go where I want them too and it seems they are constantly overpowered or underpowered regardless of the amount of time I hold the button. I have talked to others about this issue and most of them agree, but they can't quite identify the issue either. Nonetheless, there's something wrong with the passing and hopefully it gets fixed as soon as possible.
The other component of this game that I'm not a huge fan of is the ratings. A lot of them are alright but there are also quite a few that don't make sense at all. Let's start with the picture. Parise (or Parisee as he likes to be called) is a great player, but he is not worthy of an 89 rating. I'm sorry but a player with 38 points in 48 games and a +2 rating last year should not be an 89. Other overrated players include Neal, Gaborik and Girardi. I don't know what EA Sports were thinking when they came up with some of these ratings, but they clearly weren't thinking straight.
There are two features in this game that make me want to pull my hair out and have almost ruined this game for me. They are the goal scoring and the goalies. These two are closely related to one another and extremely frustrating. The way one scores goals in this game is not right. Cross-crease passing plays, one-timers and shots with screens in front rarely work. Want to know the best way to score a goal? It's simple. Just take slapshots... from anywhere. I've been waiting since day 1 for EA to fix this issue but they haven't. All one has to do is take a slapshot from anywhere, no screen or aiming required and it has a better chance of going in than a cross-crease play. Want to know the other way of scoring goals? Pass the puck to the goalie. You heard me, pass it. The amount of times someone has scored on me like this is unreal. Once, someone passed it to my goalie, who had the puck for ten seconds before it squeaked in. I swear EA has designed this goal-scoring system just to irritate me.
There are a lot of things EA got right with NHL 14 such as the skating, hitting, deking and fighting. But, there are also many things they screwed up on like the passing, ratings, goal-scoring and the goalies. The game is already really fun, as it is, but if EA fixed these issues it would be amazing and nearly flawless. I really hope they do as the goal-scoring and goalies, in particular are very frustrating. Overall I'd give this game an 8/10 and a B. If you're a hardcore NHL, I'd recommend you buy it. If you're a casual gamer, but believe the pros outweigh the cons, then snatch it up. As for me, I'll continue waiting for EA Sports to fix these issues.
Follow me on Twitter @WarraichRoop