NHL14 Demo: A Review

Mandatory Credit: EA Sports

Yesterday the wait was over. We sat around patiently and for those who have a Sony Playstation 3 (like myself), the way seemed like forever. Those lucky people who own a Microsoft XBOX360 got to play the demo right when they woke up in the morning (lucky ducks, never was so jealous in my life, contemplated selling my PS3 for an X360 — just kidding).

But it wasn’t until 4:30PM EST where lucky PS3 owners like myself could download the demo. I had to wait until I got home from work, but there I was turning on my PS3 around 8:45 that night and started to download it. About twenty minutes went by, and after a quick update, and install, I was ready to play.

While reading on what to expect for the demo, we knew one touch dekes, the new fight engine, and the NHL94 anniversary mode was going to be included in the game. For an added bonus, you can do the EASHL, play in a quick tournament, and if successful, can gain a pack, to make the best team in the league.

First things first, I did the free skate to see what this new deking system was all about. After it loaded, I controled Blackahwks captain, Jonathan Toews, and was going one on one against Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask. The dekes (R1 + any direction of the right along stick), were fluid and very simplistic to execute. A couple of mishaps on my part, I was able to make Rask look silly (hard to do in real life), after scoring 10 straight on the poor guy, I decided to quit that mode, and play the most interesting mode of them all.  The NHL94 Anniversary mode.

Mandatory Credit: EA Sports

When entered and selecting to control the Blackhawks (you can also control the Bruins, but I don’t like them much), you enter a mode where the rocking music turns more MIDI 8-Bit sounds that you know and love. The rule book thrown out the window, the simple controls, SPEED BURSTS! Yet, the current rosters are used, and a light pixelation was done to make it look more like its 94 counterpart rather than the current generation systems.

The mode is fun, for that once over by yourself, or for you and a group of friends that just want to play a quick fun game of hockey. But this does not bring back to me the magic that was NHL94. While the controls are there, the blue ice is there, why can’t I make someone’s head bleed?! The celebrations are right there with it too, the holding both hands with the stick up in the air, and making an awkward up and down motion with your arms, god I love that. The music the horn sounds are all there for that nostalgia factor. Also a nice touch as the star under the controlled player with their number and position.  When the full game is released teams that are in this game that were in NHL94, or were in a different city at the time, will have throwback jerseys. So get ready to be “mighty” again with the ducks.

Does the mode have replay value? No, but it was fun to get my hands wet, and really see what its about.

Mandatory Credit: EA Sports

Finally, I played the play now mode, once again as the Blackhawks, down 1-0 with 20 minutes to go in the game, my goal was to come back and win. And right off the bat the new hit engine I put to the test, as I laid out Krejci with a hard hit, that got the attention of Chara and I was introduced to the new fighting engine right away. After getting knocked out with one punch by Chara (thought Duncan Keith was a better fighter), I got to see how fluid the animations are and how fluid the game is.

By far this is the most fluid and smooth I’ve seen this game in a long time. The animations load quick, there’s not distinct lag while skating around, and the passes I made were nice and crisp. After another 5 fights (I think EA was really pushing their new fighting system), I tied the game at 1 with Patrick Sharp. A good thirty seconds later, the man who I thought I knocked out of the game, David Krejci scored, and the game ended with the Bruins winning 2-1.

I did notice a few things I liked about this mode: for one, it was cool being able to jump in as someone else to fight. After a tie up and pushing match between Kane and Marchand, after pressing the triangle button, I was able to jump in as Toews and take over and lay out Brad Marchand, brought a smile to my face to knock down the guy.

My first impressions of this was a tad disappointing. The deking can get annoying and repetitive if you press the same combination of moves, you can beat the goalies the same way you did in NHL13, but it’s nice to take them out this year and get called for it. The realism of the refs calling bad penalties is a nice touch as well, but annoying to get stopped for making a proper check and getting called for two minutes. The demo pushed its way through to show the new fighting engine which was overkill after the third or fourth fight. Will I get the game when it comes out September 10? Yes, because as a demo you know they were going to focus on certain things. But you knew it was going to be far too much, so you can actually get a feel for the new engine.

I would say as I continued to play more of it, my opinion of it changed. It’s going to take some time to realize the changes, and as minimal as they are, really won’t make that much of a difference to the casual gamer. But for those, who are into hockey games, and are interested in getting the most up to date current roster, then it looks like someone will be picking it up come September 10. I know I will.

You can pre-order NHL14 from Amazon, EA Sports or from your console directly.

Here’s the trailer for the demo, for those who need to be enticed to try it out:

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Tags: Blackhawks Bruins EA Sports NHL NHL14 NHL94 Video Games

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