NHL 14 has been out for a month now, and has accumulated 23 reviews at metacritic.com for the Xbox 360 and 18 reviews for the PS3, with scores of 83 and 79 respectively. At first glance, these seem like pretty good scores (looking at Splinter Cell: Blacklist as a comparison, it’s holding a solid 82/100 for the Xbox 360 and 84/100 for the PS3, and that’s a great game).
Now, you may be grumbling, “Hey, you can’t compare a sports game to a stealth shooter”, and that’s a fair complaint. So let’s look at Madden 25 then. It’s the first Madden game I’ve enjoyed playing since I stopped playing NFL 2K5. For the Xbox 360, it’s banking in at 80/100 after 30 reviews and 77/100 after 17 reviews for the PS3. Very comparable scores here, especially considering both games are EA.
I’m aware that one could easily argue that game scoring is a joke. What’s the difference between a 75 and 79? How can you really quantify that? But I think when you look at a dozen or more reviews, you start getting a clearer picture where that scoring average is actually a decent indicator of how good that game is (then again, I would give Splinter Cell: Blacklist a 90 and Madden 25 an 85, but I digress).
So, the question about NHL 14 is if that 83/100 and 79/100 is accurate…
The blunt answer: No, not there yet.
With that said, I think that this is the best hockey game EA has ever made. It’s an enjoyable game to play, even with its slew of frustrations, and I don’t think any hockey fan can deny that. I think EA genuinely cares about making a good—and realistic—hockey game, and are probably aware of all the ways they need to make it better.
But I think at this point, they should be further along in several areas, and it’s definitely disappointing that they aren’t.
- GM Connected needs some more love (would be great to control season length, to enforce sliders, etc.)
- The improved fighting is admittedly fantastic, but more focus is needed on basic defensive mechanics (such as Full Stick Control, where you can manually put your stick in passing and shooting lanes to deflect, intercept, or block)
- Strides have been made, but more collision detection is needed (game still has problems with sticks going through sticks, skates, legs, the goalie’s pads, etc., pucks clipping through sticks and body parts, the goalie’s pads, etc.)
- Presentation and commentary need a face-lift (as much as I really like the [improved] in-game cut-scenes, the presentation is still a bit stale, such as the arenas and commentary team. Would be nice if they got the NBC Sports license!)
- Clean up the shooting mechanics (e.g. the dreaded “backhand-forehand shot”, where your player has the puck on his backhand, but the puck shoots off his stick like a forehand shot; point is, the game needs proper shooting mechanics, where the puck realistically is released from the stick. Imagine a football game where a QB is releasing the ball towards the left sideline, but the pass rockets off to the right sideline. It doesn’t make sense.)
These are just a few of the issues that have persisted over the last several iterations of EA NHL.
All in all, I think it’s an enjoyable game and a fair stab at hockey. I think this team cares about the sport and are fully capable of creating something special, but there’s certainly much to improve on. So, I would give it a 75/100.
…but then again, what’s the difference between a 75 and 79?