Another EA Sports NHL title has launched, which means social media will be full of people complaining that things haven’t changed. I can honestly say that I’ve been one of those people throughout the years, as the game has continued to be a copy and paste of the year before. I’ve been playing NHL 24 since its trial release on Tuesday and I have noticed a great deal of changes in the 10 or more hours I’ve spent with the title so far. From the gameplay, customization, to updated game modes, there’s plenty to see this year that you haven’t in year’s prior.
Whether the changes are worth the $70+ price point is entirely up to you, but I have enjoyed the game so far. Even with that being said, I still have my complaints. Let’s dive in.
NHL 24 Gameplay & Physics Engine
NHL 24 introduces a refreshing new gameplay style that is a good balance of simulation and arcade. When you first start and get passed all the different notifications that come your way, you’ll notice that the players on the ice also have a ring underneath them. Usually, when you see this icon in video games, you become a bit concerned because development teams have a habit of creating this magnet-like response from the in-game characters that ruins the experience. In years past, this was always an issue, as players in games like FIFA could just brush by you and still manage to come away with the ball (or puck) without doing anything. With this game, though, the icons under the players are an indication of a new engine that has been implemented into NHL 24. This engine gives you way more feel of your player, but surprisingly at a bit of a price. The new gameplay feels great when you’re on defense, but gets in the way of itself when trying to deke and play offensively around the net.
Holding LT (or L2) on defense and skating alongside your opponent feels better than ever. Mix that with an AI that cares way more than year’s past, and you’ll start to play games that end in results that you expect. There was never anything more annoying than spending 20 minutes playing a game of NHL, just to lose to someone who barely does much with the puck. I’m not saying this is perfect, but it’s noticeably better this year around. If you’re someone who loves to lay down and give that big hit, keep in mind that holding down the X (or square) button is how you do it now. It may feel weird at first, but it grows on you. In previous titles, I always felt like there was a player or two on the ice at all times that were irrelevant, but that’s no longer the case. With the physics engine, you’re able to use your body to stop and redirect pucks like never before.
Again, some button combinations have changed, so prepare to do something stupid at the start of your first game. You’ll notice that some of the deke buttons are not like last year, so make sure to look at the controller layout before playing your first game. The new physics engine allows for the puck to lay on the ice, or fly through the air in ways like never before, so use that to your advantage to score against your opponents every chance you get.
I’ve noticed that rebound goals, and slap shots from the blue line, are way more reliable this year. Let your shots go in traffic, especially if you’re struggling to get something going, and you’ll be surprised at how many goals you can accumulate this year around.
NHL 24 In Zone Pressure System & Fatigue
The best part of NHL 24 is the new pressure system. When you’re on offense approaching your opponent’s zone, you’ll notice a pressure bar in the middle of the ice. As you prepare plays (essentially ragging) in your opponent’s zone, you’ll maintain your energy, while your opponent will begin to lose theirs. It’s during this time that the defense becomes increasingly more panicked and it’s up to you to take advantage of it.
The pressure system is great, but by no means is it perfect. When I first started playing, I thought that the timing was great, but when you play the more skilled players you’ll start to think different. Many of the better EA Sports NHL players will of perfected how to rag the puck when playing on offense, and it’s going to drive you crazy. At times, you may think the game is completely busted because your opponent continues to drain your energy and, in turn, you can’t do much of anything. It’s not till you clear the puck and begin your way up the ice that the pressure bar finally goes down. The dump animation is nothing like it was last year, as it only travels a short distance, so keep that in mind before you attempt to launch it. A trick you can do to counter this is hold RT (or L2) and flick up on your right stick, rather than hold RB (or R2). This will allow for you to return to launching the puck like in NHL 23. Another issue with the new pressure system is when you leave the zone, the pressure bar slowly goes away. This means that if you can find a way back into the zone quickly, you’ll be able to return to annoying your opponent who still does not have enough energy.
Although I made a mention to ragging the puck on offense, it’s not the negative form of ragging where players run away from you in an attempt to win an easy game. If you played online versus much in the past, you know what I mean. Some players were able to hold the puck from you until you either quit, or the game time expired. With NHL 24, if you attempt to hold the puck in your team’s zone for too long, your player will lose energy and move as though they’re stuck in mud. I like this feature to the game, but I’m noticing that it’s happening way too fast.
Sometimes you need a few seconds to switch your lines and get people set up, just like in real life, so this part of the game needs fixed. The effort made me happy, so I’ll wait a few weeks for an update without complaining too much.
NHL 24 World of Chel
This isn’t a mode that I play much of, but this year might be different. Not too many people enjoyed the customization of this mode, as cosmetics were limited and the mode overall felt like such an afterthought to the development team. When you cycle through World of Chel in NHL 24 you’ll notice almost instantly that more time was spent here. There’s way more tabs to cycle through, more detailed stat pages, a new rankings system, and way more customization.
Keep in mind, you’ll be unable to see your player’s rank and record until you have gotten to a player level of 10. This gives you plenty time to play a few meaningless games to prepare your player loadout, abilities and boosts before your placement games start. As you rank up, you’ll unlock more and more loadouts, zone abilities, Superstar abilities and boosts.
Loadouts, Zone Ability, Superstar Abilities & Boosts
One of the first things you’re going to want to do is create your World of Chel player, editing their loadout to specific abilities and boosts. You may not have much at your disposal to start, but by the time you become ranked a level of 10, you’ll have all the needed boosts and abilities to edit your player accordingly. You’ll have the option to select one loadout, two Superstar abilities, and two boosts.
Before playing EASHL, you’ll need to select one of the 15 different player loadouts. Here’s the ones you can choose from to start:
- Grinder: Strong defensive players, who like to block shots and intercept passes.
- Playmaker: Quick and agile players with good puck control and the best vision and passing.
- Sniper: Quick and agile players with the best shot in the game.
- Power Forward: Strong, physical players who like to use balance and puck control to take the puck to the net.
- Two-Way Forward: Balanced offensive skilled players mixed with high stick checking and defensive awareness.
- Enforcer: Strong, physical players who like to throw big hits and screen the goalie.
- Dangler: Quick and agile skaters with good puck control and the best deking.
- Defensive Defenseman: Excellent physically and defensively, which helps them throw big hits and intercept passes.
- Offensive Defenseman: Excellent shot, which makes them ideal for taking one-timers from the blue line.
- Enforcer Defenseman: Strong, physical players who like to throw big hits and clear the front of the net.
- Two-Way Defenseman: Strong defensively with balanced offensive skills.
- Puck Moving Defenseman: Quick, agile skaters with excellent puck control, vision, passing, and deking.
- Hammer-GRN: Grinder who is a rough and tough, old school hockey player.
- Moonlight-PWF: Power Forward who has a “wolf-like” agility and can pounce on loose pucks quickly.
- Bones-PMD: Puck moving defenseman who strikes fear into his opponents with their unnatural, but excellent skating ability.
Your attributes are determined by your player’s height and weight, alongside the loadout, abilities and boosts added, so make sure to change yours in a way that allows you to make your player as close to perfect as possible. It’s also convenient that both your height and weight are able to be edited from your loadout screen. As you change different things around, you’ll be able to see your stats change in real time so you know if what you’re doing is the best decision or not.
I enjoyed how the store was set up, as it’s arranged by Divisions and other Miscellaneous sections to help you find what you want without much confusion. You’ll use in-game pucks to purchase these items and the items that exist within the store cycle every so often. If you’re looking to purchase these items, you have two ways of doing so. You can use NHL Points (green color), which are able to be purchased within the store. These points will be used to purchase the more flashier items that are limited. The Coins (bronze color) that you’re awarded for playing the different modes allow you to purchase cosmetic items in the store as well. These items will be less sought after, but they allow you to customize your player quickly to a style and vibe that is more up to speed.
The items mentioned above are cosmetic items such as helmets, gloves, sticks, outfits, goal celebrations, goal horns, player banners, and player icons.
Final Thoughts & Review
After exhausting through the 10-hour trial, I ended up purchasing NHL 24. It’s not because it’s a great game, but because the changes this year are actually noticeable. I also don’t have any other options when it comes to hockey games. These changes are more in-game focused, but that should be what matters most. I always struggled with the AI in previous titles, the puck always seemed to do the weirdest things, and I never enjoyed the overall mechanics. This year, those things have all been overhauled for the better and you’ll notice these changes almost instantly. The game does still mimic NHL 23 in some ways, but I appreciate the changes.. for the most part.
The pressure system is one of my favorite new features, but it’s also breaking the game at the moment. A game can quickly get away from you and the only way to fix this issue may be to tweak the timing of the pressure bar in some way. I fear the next update from the development team will focus more on HUT, but after a few weeks this game could get much better. For now, I’d give NHL 24 a 6 out of 10.