Fresh off announcing the cover athlete for NHL 24, EA Vancouver has offered a glimpse at what to expect from this year’s hockey title with a breakdown trailer showing off changes as well as a peek at the gameplay.
Annual sports titles in the industry have a tendency to fixate on changing three or four things per release, with very little else changing year to year, and NHL 24 looks to be no different.
The first update is to matchmaking, as the series takes an incremental step forward with its cross-platform compatibility. In NHL 23, PS4 could play against Xbox One, while PS5 could play against Xbox Series X/S. Now you can play against and with those same generations. A pretty small step forward, but forward nonetheless.
One of the big changes is the introduction of the Exhaust Engine, a feature that will wear your opponent down if you are able to maintain zone time. Think about how exhausted penalty-killing units are if they're unable to get a line change and you have the gist of it. The offensive team can gain a boost from doing this, which while cool, we can see getting dangerous. If you remember the turn-of-the-century NHL games and some of their insane ice-tilt imbalances, that's what we're worried about.
The physics system for checking seems to have been re-vamped as well, including new animations. Players will now take an appropriate amount of time to get up depending on how vicious the hit. This was more of a coin toss whether it would make sense in years past, so another small, but welcome change. You can also make more gentle contact with players in hopes of avoiding a penalty if your only goal is to create more separation on the ice, as well as more easily reverse-hit players thanks to a dedicated button. Hitting players into the benches or through glass returns to the franchise at long last as well.
The new Total Control Skills Moves system could be the biggest coin toss as it revamps deking and puck-handling. The skill-stick system that the game has utilized for eons is honestly quite good, so a revamp of this could be really great, or catastrophic. The original controls will be retained, but time will tell if these changes are worthwhile.
The new Vision Passing system might be one of the most encouraging, as you can map individual buttons to certain positions if you want to pass to them, similar to selecting targets to throw to in Madden. This could remove some of the AI guesswork when it comes to passing where the game completely misinterprets your intentions, resulting in an errant pass.
Some new features have been added for those players who like to be goalies as well, as you can now take predictive angles on plays, trying to reduce the likelihood of a goal. The downside is simply that if you guess wrong, you may make scoring that much easier for the other team.
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While there's not any mention of new modes, the changes being here, particularly the mechanical ones, have a chance at being quite significant. NHL 24 certainly seems poised to offer more to you than NHL 23 did. We'll find out when the game releases on October 6th.