Over the years, EA Sports has really done something amazing with its hockey franchise. Back in the early 2000's, the company was running second place behind 2K Sports' NHL 2K series, but then a shift occurred when EA introduced some thrilling new gameplay dynamics that would change the course of its NHL brand for the better. Now it's gotten to the point where EA's series is the only one in town. Each year EA dominates, with NHL 13 really taking the hockey cake last year.
We haven't seen anything yet and NHL 14 for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 has a number of new ingredients that will make it feel like the most realistic hockey game you'll experience. Whether you're sending someone flying with a vicious check or using dekes to fake out players and score the all-important goal in the closing minutes, it's got the goods.
First off, EA Sports is incorporating its new Collision Physics engine into NHL 14. This is the similar Impact Engine that made its debut in Madden NFL 13 last year, really making a difference in terms of player contact and tackles. With NHL, you'll see the power behind hits that you lay on opponents (or the other way around – defense men will try to take you down for puck control) as well as smoother momentum as you work around the arena. For this follow-up, EA is implementing a new left-stick control scheme to make it easier than ever to keep control of your players. We'll be sure to give the gameplay a test in a couple of weeks' time at E3 and tell you exactly how it works.
Another new item making its way into this follow-up is the ability to perform one-touch dekes. EA's team has managed to include a much more responsive deking system where you'll utilize the left analog stick and a single button to fake out defensive players and set up the kind of dazzling pass plays in front of the net that all but guarantee a goal. You'll also be able to combine together dekes, in case you're double-loaded on a player or need to set someone up for a shot in front of the net.
Not everything is focused on offensive plays; with NHL 14, EA Sports understands the sheer importance of defensiveness and has introduced the new Enforcer Engine. This will allow you to perform devastating checks and initiate fights to get the point across. Rather than utilizing the first-person fighting engine from past games, EA has created a new third-person set-up similar to its Fight Night series. You'll block incoming punches while waiting for the opportunity to lunge at your opponent or even grab their jersey for good measure (should you need the leverage to really clobber 'em). It'll make all the difference when it comes to getting the message across to your opponents that your enforcer means business.
When it comes to shaping the ultimate hockey career for yourself, NHL 14 easily has you covered. A new Be a Pro Career Mode is being introduced here that will let you control your player both on and off the ice. Every decision you make throughout will help cement your legacy. Will you be the kind of thoughtful player that everyone looks upon with a sense of hope, or someone that lives just to excel their skills without worrying how it impacts others? The choice is yours. Along with conditioning your player and making them better, you can also engage in media interviews and develop relationships with fans, teams and management. Don't be a total jerk, okay?
Finally, EA Sports understands the importance of hockey community. After all, the NHL has a plethora of avid fans who can't get enough of goal scoring and painful checks. So it's introducing a new Online Seasons set-up where players can compete against one another in competitions, winning Ultimate Team Hockey awards in the process and facing even tougher teams down the road. You'll be able to keep track of your seasons with ease, seeing where you did wrong and improving upon your errors the next time around. If you feel like just playing a round with your friends, that's an option as well.
EA Sports has championed the NHL crown for quite some time, especially with the vital improvements to gameplay. NHL 14 shows no signs of slowing down, especially with the Impact Engine at work. We'll see how well the boards hold up when the game ships for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on September 10th.