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NHL 14 - Playstation 3
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2013
Platform for Display: PlayStation 3
This will be broken up into two sections: The actual product review and ideas to improve the play for next year:

PRODUCT REVIEW:

Since it's release, NHL 09 has left many hockey-mad gamers "chasing the dragon." Though the title came out, revolutionized hockey video games, and monopolized the hockey game market; many players have been wondering if EA will ever manage to outdo itself again. When I reviewed NHL 12, I indicated it was comprehensive, but that the overall gaming experience left a lot to be desired. I originally wrote a gushing NHL 13 review based off the demo until the gameplay pulled me back to reality and forced me to give it an average review; which lead to me testing this out one more thoroughly so I didn't repeat the same mistake again. So how does NHL 14 fare? Some of the gaming could stand improvement, but this is the best title since NHL 09.

One of the improvements that EA touted this year is that the goaltending AI has been refined to do a better job at anticipating the shot. This may not seem like a huge deal to your casual gamer, but this is an IMMENSE BOON for anyone who plays the goaltending position regularly (like myself.) I can finally say that the goaltending AI doesn't want to surrender a goal on every 9 shots taken by the computer. Instead, you're now in control of making sure you've covered the angle (which is a challenge in itself) while your goaltending AI does a better job of stopping the shot. This, along with the anticipation feature that was introduced in NHL 13 and the butterfly function, allows a human-controlled goaltender to be in the game just as well as the computer goaltender. There are certainly some defensive deficiencies that the AI-controlled players on the human-player team experience (more on that later), but the improvements in the goalie functions allow for you to overcome that through most games.

The new fighting engine flat out ROCKS! Though the fighting is in third-person now instead of first-person, the fighting now occurs as a direct result of what happens in the game and not just through instigating a fight using the Triangle button. Take a shot at a goalie when the whistle's blown or lay out a massive hit to a star player? You better be ready to defend yourself! What's more is that there can be multiple altercations at once, so if you're playing with and against others online, it's entirely possible to have a full-on line brawl. The fact that there can be multiple fights at once makes it better than in the games of the past, but there aren't any instigator penalties handed out for third-man-in fights and players aren't thrown out of a game if there's a second altercation (this should be changed to both make it true to life, but your casual gamer probably won't care either way.)

Be A Pro has had a facelift as of this season and is now known as Live The Life. In addition to playing out your pro's career, you're now tasked with saying and doing all of the political things a player does to ensure their popularity improves amongst the fans, management, teammates, and their families. Say the right things and your endorsement deals begin to appear, fans chant your name, your teammates and family love you, and management wants to give you the contract you deserve. If you say the wrong things, you'll end up traded to a different team, which can have a detrimental affect on other things. Though most of this was spot on, one thing I didn't care for was that any answer that bashed the team somehow raised the player's popularity amongst the fans. Maybe I'm a minority, but I'm not going to cheer for a guy who bashes his team. Otherwise, the new features make an already fun game mode even more fun to play.

The Be A GM feature has had some revisions as well in this year's game. You can set the trade difficulty to be separate from the difficulty of the gameplay and the difficulty of the franchise mode. You can also grant the AI more control to administer the team to the point where the only necessary human interaction is scouting; as even goalie rotation can be handled by the AI now (I suppose EA could have simulated scouting as well but what's the point of playing the game if the AI's going to play if for you?) Thanks in part to the lower salary cap, there's a significantly better chance of catching a big free agent during the off-season then there was playing last year's title. However, as the salary cap inflates, teams will be more likely to retain star players through the ability of being able to bury salary without giving other teams the option to claim the players; leaving either depth-role prime-aged players or veteran-aged castoffs with declining ability as the only options to be made available through free agency as the game goes on. The fact that teams can circumvent the waivers through the pre-season roster management presents a hole in the game that can stand to be patched; I'll make a suggestion for this later on. The only other problem with the Be A GM mode is that injuries intensify the deeper your roster is; so it's like you're being punished for actually building your AHL team as well.

The game has other features and improvements as well. Winter Classic has been expanded a bit to give you the option as to which venue you wish to play at (meaning either the Winter Classic '11 or Winter Classic '12.) The NHL 94 mode provides a retro-style hockey experience complete with simplified controls, old-school soundtrack, and the classic celebrations whenever you score. You can select your position prior to accepting a drop-in game when playing online. The soundtrack has gotten more rockin' again, as it was great to see Soundgarden and Bullet For My Valentine on the soundtrack (I do wish Blackguard would come back though!)

Otherwise, the gameplay hasn't changed drastically. Taking face-offs in this game has never been smoother, so that was a very happy surprise in comparison to previous seasons. Dishing out body checks feels more real-to-life in that your larger players can steamroll the smaller players, but larger players can also be adversely affected by poor balance as well. This remains a shooters game for those of you who prefer to put the puck onto the net. The passing isn't terrible, but there seems to be a difference between executing a pass within a game and executing a pass online; so it could stand revamping.

So with that all that said, this title is excellent for the casual gamer and great for the gamer with slight or moderate interest in hockey. If you're looking for a fun hockey title that's better than the more recent titles and updated from NHL 09, then this is the game to get.

ROOM TO IMPROVE:

Though this is excellent for casual gamers and well enough for those who are interested in hockey, this game can still cause frustration for the hardcore hockey gamer who's sees the annual NHL installment the way most gamers currently look at Grand Theft Auto V. The leaps and bounds shown this season was awesome and shouldn't be discounted, but there's always room to grow. With that said, here's what I'd like to see for next year:

- The passing engine should be revamped, as the AI has an easier time connecting passes then human-controlled players do. I would love to see the passing being done with R2+Right Paddle, where the strength of the pass could be determined by how hard the paddle was pressed in that direction (the pass could be cancelled by releasing the R2 button without having executed the pass.)

- Change the defensive players for the human-controlled teams in the goaltender Live The Life mode to be better than movable pylons. The back-checking should be more aggressive and the players should intentionally get into the passing lanes. Playing as a goaltender, there's still too many instances of "cheap" goals that get scored against a human goaltender where the defense breaks down and leaves the goaltender on their own because no one's coming back to play any semblance of defense; if your player's already positioned there then it's fine, but the AI won't do it as a reaction to the gameplay.

As a general example, I often find myself in the situation where the opposition will come up the rush and while my defender will be on them up to the defensive-zone face-off circle, the defender will actually turn away from the play and head for the boards, giving the attacking forward the opportunity to set up his shot without interference. The attacking player will go to an area inside the dot where it's too far to poke-check but too close to commit to the butterfly; often resulting in a goal. In a more specific example, I was playing as a member of the Winnipeg Jets facing the Anaheim Ducks. Though I successfully poke-checked Corey Perry twice, he still scored on the third attempt in the same sequence because AI-controlled 6'5" Dustin Byfuglien can't break past 5'10" Kyle Palmieri to make a defensive play because the latter's stick checking was too intense; even though they were 3 feet away. This goal was followed up by a 2-0 in my direction after the face-off because apparently, having a goal scored on you makes your teammates forget how to play defense. (I could complain that my AI-controlled centers win 10% of their defensive zone face-offs, but the resulting shots are low-percentage so I really can't moan about the stat fluffing.)

Further, if the coaching options are changed by the player during the game, the game should maintain those settings instead of changing them. It's frustrating when you begin to realize this occurred when the opposing team begins to attack and your players aren't responding the way they had previously (I'll set the offensive pressure to Aggressive and the team will play fine, but then the AI will change it to Defend Lead, where my team loses the ability to skate the puck past the red line.)

- Revamp the Be A GM mode to give the GM a more realistic gameplay. There should be a full-on training camp for the preseason mode with an intra-squad scrimmage followed by 6 or 7 pre-season games where you can have up to 50 players (either on one-way, two-way, minor, or ATO/PTO contracts) where you can cut or designate them for assignment after each game; players who aren't waiver-exempt would be available to be claimed by the other teams instead of stashed in the minors as they are currently prior to the start of the season. There should be an option to allow GMs to manage their minor league teams as well. GMs should be able to add no-trade or no-movement clauses to contracts so they can negotiate better terms with their players. Much like the Live The Life mode, the GM should be able to receive positive (or negative) performance boosts based on their actions. Finally, an assistant GM upgrade (which would increase the chances of a trade being accepted/give better feedback on trades) would be better than adjusting trades to be done either easy, medium, or hard (I wholly admit I requested to see the option of selecting trade difficulty independently of the difficulty in the game in my prior reviews; but now that I've seen it in action, I have a preference towards wishing to see an Assistant GM upgrade that could provide detailed feedback as to whether or not a trade would be accepted by the opposition. As you upgrade your Assistant GM, you'd get better feedback on a trade along with better chances that a trade would be accepted, regardless of the trading block settings.) Perhaps the AHL veteran limit could be imposed to prevent teams from stockpiling talent.

- With the online drop-in game, actually divide the rooms based on skill level. Have a drop-in room for amateurs, rookies, et al, in addition to an Open Skate room for players of all skill levels. I hate seeing newer players get bullied by those who dedicate their lives to EA NHL games because it discourages the newer players from getting better; but the established players don't deserve to see their stats suffer because the other players aren't at their skill level, either. Open Skate means you run the risk of getting jeered by the jerks with mics or having your stats suffer because a level 56 goalie's leaking like a sieve. And if an amateur player is able to upgrade their equipment to boost their stats, then either they dedicated that much time to playing the Live The Life mode or they were willing to open their wallets to purchase the upgrades; both of which seem fair to me.

- Finally, can EA get the KHL on-board? Could Live The Life see a player go to Europe instead of any of the North American leagues? I would love to see these refinements as well.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on September 11, 2013
Platform for Display: PlayStation 3
I was very sceptical with this entry. I really thought it was NHL 12 and 13 with only a few improvments. I played the Demo, but I was still very undecided to get it or not since i already owned NHL 13. Finally, i gave in and sold 13 and got 14. I am very happy i did that. Now i wonder why i was so hesitant. In my opinion, this game is the best entry we have seen yet and quite possibly the last one for PS3. I find everything to be more crisp and sharp on and off the ice with this game.

MENUs - I find the menus are now better organised and it is much easier to navigate to find where you want to go. A lot of options are the same as NHL 13 and previous entries, but they seem to be neater and better visually. They have changed a few ways they look, so they are not identical to 13 or 12. To me, this is the best presentation yet.

LIVE THE LIFE - The revamped be a pro mode is just plain awesome. Yeah, a lot of it is the same as before, but i find the addition of the interview questions is making the whole process a lot more closer than the real thing. Some of the questions are questionable, but overall, i am very happy EA made the effort to make this mode better. My pro player was chosen 1st pick in the 2nd round by the Colorado Avalanches. Florida and Carolina had also shown interest before the draft. Glad i did not end up with them. Scored my first hat trick in my 4th pre season game. This mode is a blast. I can't say enough about this mode. Hopefully, the team decides to keep me around for the whole season.

NHL 94 - This mode is alright. Not the best, but it is very fun to play it. I Would have like the old 94 roster to play with Patrick Roy in MTL, but still, it is fun to play. This mode has some violent hits and there is no penalties. Perfect mode to play with friends. Nice bonus addition.

BE A GM - This mode is like previous entries, but they added a lot of littles things. I will not list them all here as you can find those out by googling it or on the NHL 14 review sites. But, i will say i really enjoy the new menus. Much easier to navigate and get things done. I also like the fact that the game now lets you know which player's position is missing when your lines are incompletes. This saves a lot of time. I also read that trades have been revamped so it is closer to reality. Works for me. I know it will never be perfect, but NHL 14 is getting a lot closer than any previous NHL entries. Can't wait to start a season and test it out more.

GAMEPLAY - The gameplay is much better in my opinion. I liked the demo, but i love the final product. The skating feels more real than 13. Everything is better. Yeah, some scoring glitch are still present where you can score easy enough once you get the trick, but still, i enjoy scoring, so it does not botter me especially as i do not use these cheats scoring methods to beat the computer. I really like you can now bump goalies or hit other players the hard way. This more than likely will bring the fights. WOW this fighting engine is superbe. This is a lot of fun to fight now. I always hated the first person view fights we had for the last few years. NHL 14 does not dissappoint this year. It just feel plain awesome to beat someone and to see your player raise his hands up saying ''see ya looser''... The AI still makes questionable calls. They sometime go offside or they make bad passes, but hey...this is just like real life hockey.

In conclusion, if you are like me and own or have owned NHL 13 or any other hockey games, and are undecided about this one, i recommend bying it. I am really glad i gave in and purchased this hockey game. There is much more i have to discover about this game as i only have had it for one day when writing this review. Even if there is a few bugs here and there or glitches, i still think this is the best hockey game to date. I agree it is a pain to purchase another hockey game which is not game breaking for 59$, but hey, if you can afford it, you will not regret it. I believe this one will last for a while...on the PS3 anyway.

Pros

+ The fun factor is definately to the roof.

+ Menus revamped. Better visually and to navigate.

+ New modes: Live the Life (interviews) and NHL 94.

+ Gameplay mechanics are pretty damn good. Especially the new fighting engine and the hitting.

+ Can now customize your controls when first inserting your game in your console.

+ Tons of replay value. So many things to do.

Cons

- Same commentary we have been hearing for a while now, althought they added a few new ones.

- The sound track can be perceived as repetitive, although i don't mind it.

- The game is not completely absent of glitches although i found them to be minors.

- Loading time can take a while sometime, but nothing too serious.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on September 11, 2013
Platform for Display: PlayStation 3Verified Purchase
So far, I've played ~80 games (I had the early release) in EASHL with most being in club play, but a handful of OTP games as well. The good things I've seen so far are that hitting generally works, skating seems reasonably fluid once you have enough stats on your player, goalies aren't making saves they shouldn't and aren't letting in too many weak goals, the new EASHL seasons makes things a bit more exciting, stick lifting now seems to work well enough and not give constant penalties, and that the AI seems to be improving on the offensive side.

On the other hand, it also has a few areas for improvement. AI on D during a rush is almost useless and gives up the toe drag wrist shots from the high slot as it has in the last 5 years or so. On top of that, these seem to be going in at an alarming rate for players who likely are well below having their legend card yet. Larger players seem to have a big balance boost, which makes it nearly impossible to knock down a player more than 4 inches taller than you. Poke checking seems inconsistent. Forcing passes through defenders works too often, and offense seems to be much more able to pick up loose pucks than on defense.

It will be interesting to see how future tuners change this, as EA doesn't seem to have much of a rhyme or reason for many of the changes they end up making, so we could be looking at a much different reaction in 3 months or so.

UPDATE 9/16-
While at first fighting seemed like an improvement over the old system, after getting into a few dozen fights the majority of online players just seem to mash the punch button and manage to win more often than not. There doesn't seem to be much of a way around this either. Using R2 to dodge and counter is somewhat difficult to do, and if they manage to connect with a hit, you might as well just let them win. At least the old system gave you a ton more control as far as dodging went.

More disappointing is that face-off spamming (continuously trying to win the draw before it is dropped, making your character twitch) still works in the game despite countless complaints and EA promising to fix it. As a top 50 center right now with 60% wins, I still manage to have games against these guys where I go 30% while they are clearly exploiting the system. Its been going on for a few years now, and should have been fixed long ago.

Finally a more minor issue is that low speed skating that you would do defensively to get into position and face the puck is more difficult than it should be, and results in too many cases where I'm out of position because the game decided I wanted to do a big spin rather than just turn my hips.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2013
Platform for Display: PlayStation 3Verified Purchase
Con: The computer seems to be much more attentive than last years game. They are all over you all the time while your own AI is just ok. If the puck is near one of your guys and you are playing as him, they often sit there and don't go for the puck. It is very frustrating.

Pro: the physics are much better, love the hits. The game seems just a bit more polished overall. Everything runs smoothing minus the long load times.

Overall it is an improvement over last years. It adds enough to make it worth it and the faceoffs are much more intense now too.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2013
Platform for Display: PlayStation 3Verified Purchase
Just a brief review of my initial impression here. I've been playing EA's NHL sims since the franchise began. Though I haven't played every version released since then, I've had ample opportunity to experience the evolution of development of this series.

This is the first NHL Hockey sim I've bought in several years, and I have to say I'm impressed in no small way. This looks and feels like the kind of hockey simulation game I imagined years ago. NHL 14 probably has more options than I'll have time to explore, but the on ice gameplay is what it's really all about, and what I've experienced so far has been pure joy. I've personally played hockey in real life, and this game is the closest, in my experience, that's delivered the range of elements that make it such a great game. The intuitive controls and the AI are a quantum leap from the games I played just a few years ago. I've always loved the customizable features of this series, and this version has all of that, and then some.

Intimidation plays a role in real NHL hockey, but for gameplay purposes I prefer to avoid the slugfests and focus more on the essentials; skating, passing, shooting, sound strategy, etc., and this game not only allows one to adjust the gameplay to your own preferences, but delivers a realistic simulated experience that makes you feel like you're on the ice in a real NHL hockey game.

In summation, I don't know how much more can be done to improve this game series beyond possibly going to VR holographic trideo in the future, but if you're looking for a fun, exciting NHL hockey simulation with loads of features that can be tailored to your personal gaming preferences, then look no further than this one, at least until next year's game is released.

PS - I haven't tried multiplayer yet, but from the amount of work than went into the single-player features, I can only imagine it's even better than last year's version.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 26, 2013
Platform for Display: PlayStation 3Verified Purchase
NHL 14 is definitely worth it. The latest NHL game that I owned before purchasing this was NHL 11 and this is a big step forward from that. Fighting is better than ever. The skating is smoother and faster than previous versions. The hits are amazing and it feels great to line up a player and watch him fall to the ice. At first I found the face-offs to be surprisingly difficult to win after winning most of my face-offs in NHL 11, but after getting the hang of it I began to like the new face-off strategies. For those of you who find it hard to win face-offs, do not look at the manual when it comes to face-offs. You need to hold your grip by pushing the right stick to the right or left and then rotating the stick down once you see the referee begin to move his hand. Timing is everything. Compared to NHL 11 I found it easier to score in NHL 14, but also found that the AI would score more goals as well. Online Versus play would sometimes lag a bit, I'm assuming this is due to my opponent's internet connection not being good. Overall, NHL 14 is a great game and any hockey fan will definitely love this game.

However, there are some software issues that should have been fixed before this game was ever released. Though, they do not impact the game play. Some of these issues are the fact that the music played when you are loading a game always cuts out for a second and a thin black horizontal line appears across the screen for a split second.This seems to appear at the the exact same time in the loading screen every time. Also, the custom music volume is very low. I do not know why EA has not fixed these simple software bugs yet.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2014
Platform for Display: PlayStation 3Verified Purchase
The biggest difference with this game is the physics of the gameplay. Hits are much more dramatic. If Patrick Kane got hit by Chara going full speed, his head would probably fly off in this game. Dekes are a little more realistic and requires more skill to perform.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2014
Platform for Display: PlayStation 3Verified Purchase
I lived on NHL 94 back in High School days and wanted to treat myself to a birthday present... Bought NHL 14 for PS3 and it's without question, one of the best sports games I've ever played. Has a very complex controller mode, or you can play in NHL 94 mode. It's AWESOME. Instantly transported back in time, and the graphics are mind-blowing. Great game. Great buy. A must-have for any hockey gamers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2014
Platform for Display: PlayStation 3Verified Purchase
It's my first PS3 purchase. I love the ability to update rosters and even upload playlists to hear over the PA at the game.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2014
Platform for Display: PlayStation 3Verified Purchase
NHL 14 is a fun game and relatively easy to play. There is the option of using the buttons or joy sticks to pass or shoot on the controller. You can win playing rookie against the computer, but need to set the Artificial Intelligence on offense/defense to be more aggressive if you intend on playing the Pro or higher levels. There is a training mode, so you can become better at skating, shooting or goaltending. Multiple players can play against one another or all against the computer. You can also play online. I recommend this game if you like hockey.
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