For my 14th birthday, there was only one thing I wanted. NHL 95 had recently been released for the Sega Genesis and it promised a create-a-player feature, and the ability to make trades. It was the first game that played a full 84 game season, playoffs, and then a chance at Lord Stanley’s Cup. It was revolutionary for the time. While NHL 24 doesn’t promise as big of changes, there’s clearly effort to turn the tide.
EA Sports’ NHL 24 has promised gameplay enhancements as well as other gameplay overhauls that will make the game more realistic with hockey strategy and feeling the grind of the play as a contest continues.
Feel the intensity of hockey in #NHL24
All new gameplay features bring authentic on-ice action to life like never before 🏒
— NHL (@NHL) August 16, 2023
But how will the game play? Ultimately, that will be the first of several revolutionary changes that need to happen to restore the series in the minds of many.
NHL 24 Could Help Bring Momentum to the Series
There was a great article from Chase Becotte at Operation Sports who wrote about the Cale Makar connection going to NHL ’07. Becotte believes that the divide of hockey games at the time began there, where 2K Sports still produce the NHL2K series that rivaled, but never overtook the EA Sports version. He also argues that 2K ceasing operations is what kept the NHL series from really taking the next leap.
I’ve enjoyed the game over the years, but like anything, it’s had some bumps in the road. NHL ’15, the first release on the PS4, was a disaster. Among other issues, the team had to release a patch so one could make their own draft picks instead of it being auto generated by the computer. Things settled after some time, but the biggest gripe from fans has been everything from gameplay to a lack of depth in the modes.
Gamers only look over at the NBA2K series and what they’ve done, wishing that the franchise and be-a-pro modes had the same depth and replay value.
Full disclosure–I don’t have the time to invest that I once did in video games, but I do enjoy building franchises and playing out games when a smidge of downtime presents itself. But the depth has been an issue for some time, and seeing gameplay being reworked to bring in hockey strategy is welcomed.
Start with the “exhaust engine” which allows you to grind a team down through strategy and pinning them into their own zone. Such a big part of the game is strategy while momentum certainly plays into it as well. But this is a neat little feature that will test the mettle of even the more seasoned gamer.
New Season of Hope for Hockey Gamers
Other gameplay promises, which according to the trailer and EA site, include the ability to have more control over passes and shots. My favorite, playing into the exhaust engine, are more pileups at the crease and the ability to be rewarded with garbage goals that find their way into the net.
Again, sometimes it’s just the little things. But it’ll take more than gameplay, especially looking at the success of NBA 2K23’s My Era mode, that will bring the NHL series into a golden age. Imagine if they implemented it, allowing users to go back and run the 90’s Blackhawks, opting to hold onto Dominik Hasek, Jeremy Roenick, and Steve Larmer. Call me a nerd–but it’s a fun “what if” that allows you to play as the players many of us grew up admiring.
Plus, nostalgia always sells. Just look at Hollywood.
The post-script to my story is that I burned out that NHL 95 cartridge mid-way through my eighth grade year, where it simply couldn’t save anymore and at one point, froze upon hitting the start button at the main menu. Perhaps it was the original exhaust engine.
While I won’t duplicate the feat, that 14-year-old version would agree that the flicker of hope is back for hockey fans that the EA developers are listening–and trying to deliver a better product that mirrors the game.