EA Sports NHL 24 Review
I’ve been pretty stiff with the EA Sports NHL franchise over the last few years. But, in my defense, lack of innovation combined with what’s touted as “simulation” hockey never truly replicating the sport is a tough sell. For years, all I’ve wanted from the NHL series is a decently authentic representation of how hockey should feel. And with each passing entry, the likelihood of this has felt more and more like a pipedream. Thankfully, NHL 24 has taken a few critical strides in the right direction, and in the process, has made me excited to drop the puck again.
Making Them Pay
By far, the most significant thing NHL 24 has going for it is its new momentum system. Players are now rewarded for sustaining pressure in the attacking zone with a boost to their stamina, accuracy, and ability to move the puck. Conversely, defenders are negatively impacted when trying to fight through these situations. They become less likely to break up passes. They struggle with knocking the puck loose. And their goalie has a more challenging time stopping shots.
All of this culminates in NHL 24 – finally – providing you with the tools to cycle the puck in the attacking zone. In years past, whether you were on a powerplay or at even strength, the AI would constantly rush the puck without consequence. It made it impossible to set up and create realistic scoring chances. And it forced players to implement the same old boring strategies to counter the opponent’s endless supply of stamina and aggressiveness. But it looks like these days might finally be in the rearview mirror.
What a Thrill
It’s been genuinely thrilling to experience a proper forecheck in NHL 24. In fact, without a doubt, it’s the most pleasant surprise I’ve gotten from the series in a decade. The new momentum system is arguably the most important change EA Sports has ever made to the NHL franchise. It’s rejuvenated my love for a game I used to spend countless hours on. Though it may not be perfect, it delivers a massive improvement to the flow of each play. Even when NHL 24 doesn’t quite hit the mark in other areas.
One of the new things found in NHL 24 that feels lackluster is the new physics system. Specifically, it’s made hitting much more of a chore than it used to be. Trying to throw the body with the analog stick rarely results in the contact I’m trying to make. Hits often miss their mark, ending up as more of a glancing blow than they do a body check. The new “Total Control’ layout didn’t solve this, either. Total Control allows many complicated moves performed with the right stick to be utilized via button presses. However, hitting with this control scheme often turned my player into a human missile, locking him into a specific animation. Naturally, this leaves lanes wide open to be exploited. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
The last of the changes to NHL 24’s on-ice action comes in the way of Vision Passing. You can now hold a shoulder button to pull up a visual representation of who you can pass the puck to. In theory, it might sound like a good idea, but in practice, it’s way too slow for the speed at which a hockey game moves. Far too many times, I took a hit when scanning each player for their corresponding pass button. And it wasn’t long before I abandoned this method of puck movement entirely.
When you’re ready to step off the ice, you’ll find NHL 24 severely mundane. It was probably to be expected, but one of the only changes you’ll notice is located in Hockey Ultimate Team. EA Sports has (expectedly) only made adjustments to the mode in which real money can be spent to progress further, relegating everything else to wallow in familiarity for another year. EA has done away with the hockey bags that reward players with random goodies, instead opting for an utterly uninspired battle pass system. Whether or not the NHL community prefers this remains to be seen. Personally, previewing each piece of ho-hum gear before acquiring them has killed my motivation to keep coming back to HUT.
Regardless of the mediocre upgrades to NHL 24’s game modes, I must admit, the on-ice action is a big step forward for the franchise. The new hitting and passing systems need work, but the changes in how momentum affects the moment-to-moment gameplay have injected new life into the series. At the end of the day, I find myself wanting to step back out onto the ice. And that’s more than I can say for how I’ve felt over the last several years.
***A PS5 code was provided by the publisher***
- Exhaust engine stamina system
- Proper puck cycling
- Solid presentation
- Physics system misses the mark
- Lacking in updates
- Weak battle pass