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  • Writer's pictureCourt Lalonde

EA Sports NHL 24 Review

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

Is it a cup contender?

Cale Makar
Cale Makar

I have been playing EA Sports NHL games since 1993 on the Sega Genesis and have never missed a year. Me playing NHL 94 is almost as consistent as Toronto Maples Leafs playoff collapses.

Every year, the NHL gaming community will get hyped for the release of the new game. Like clockwork, some in the community will focus on some online play of the game and neglect any gameplay function. I understand the online portion is very important, but so should the gameplay and if it plays or feels like hockey.

In this review, I will focus on the changes that have been made to this version of NHL 24, and I will tell you about the changes I like and the ones I hope they can improve. So, if you’re looking for that edgy review of someone just destroying the game, this isn’t for you. I will give praise where praise is deserved, but I will point out the shortcomings.

I will cover everything from presentation, gameplay, online and offline modes but mainly focus on the significant changes to the game this year and how that has affected my gameplay.

The NHL development team built up a lot of hype for this year’s NHL 24 by walking through all the changes and telling us the game will be different. Is this version of NHL 24 going to be a Cup Contender or a first-round exit?

The changes they made to this year’s version of NHL 24 aren’t minor, and I want to start this review by praising the developer for wanting to make the game better and listening to the community. I don’t think some of these changes have been for the better, but I think far more have made this year’s game much better than previous years.

I want to start with one of my favourite changes to NHL 24: the controls. They have taken way to NHL 94 controls and Hyrbid Controls, but after community feedback, they are bringing back Hybrid controls in a future update. Total Control is the new control scheme, and after a lot of practice with it, I’m blown away by how much I love it. Skill Stick controls frustrated me as I would always forget how to do certain deke, and checking for me was a mess, and I would miss a hit more than I would land.

total control button layout
Total Control button layout

With Total Control, some hits and deke have now been assigned to the button, and you can still deke and hot with the skill stock, but I don’t have to remember so many different ways to do so. I could do “The Michigan” and look like Trevor Zegras on the ice and not break my thumbs trying to figure out how to pull it off. Shoulder checks are an easy tap of the circle button or hold it down and release for more impact. I played on PS5 using a Dual Sense Edge, so all my button commands will be related to PlayStation during this section.

You can do a toe drag shot, between-the-legs pass or shot, along with a one-hand tuck with just a simple press of a button, making you look like a superstar on the ice.

Aleksander Barkov
Aleksander Barkov

With the shoulder check, you will be knocking buckets off left, right and center, along with my new favourite, the hip check, sending the opposing player flying and taking them out of the play. I do think they need to tone down the fighting after these big hits. The computer AI is more sensitive after these big checks and always wants to drop the mitts. That takes your guy off the ice because even if you don’t fight, you’re getting a penalty and sitting in the box for 2. I know the NHL players take offence to late hits, but even they don’t drop the mitts on every big hit.

With total Control, we lose the ability to protect the puck by holding the circle, which I do miss, but they added the reverse hit, which I thought I would use a lot more.

The presentation is where I want to go next, as the changes are plentiful and welcomed. They added over 75 goal celebrations from your favourite players across the league, more camera angles, new lighting, dynamic boards, and TV-like replays. I feel these changes don’t get talked about enough because I think this is what helps sell the game to those who don’t play hockey that much or haven’t purchased an NHL game in a long time. Not every player will be playing HUT, and I would bet the majority of the player base in the playing versus, play now, or franchise instead of getting bodied online. These changes need to be made to the game and are good starts to making the playing experience more enjoyable. Watching hockey should be exciting, and so should play it.

By adding what they’re calling flex moments after a goal, you get to see the player you scored with express themselves in the celebration, and most players do their own from real life, and you can make custom ones for your created player.

The boards feel alive and show you who scored the goal or got the penalty along with ads. I see you NHL, but I’m not buying anything.

First NHL goal
Firsts NHL goal

They have replaced Ray Ferraro with Chery Pounder this season to add a different voice to the game, and she has been a welcomed addition.

Not all of these changes have been my favourites, and I think they could make some tweaks. The lighting on the ice sometimes when taking a draw, which they call faceoff moments, can be a bit distracting, and I can’t see the ref entirely drop the puck, which has made me lose a draw occasionally. It has nothing to do with my skill level, I swear.

The replays after you score a goal are top-notch and feel like an actual broadcast, minus the homer announcers I get with my beloved Boston Bruins.

Let’s talk about the gameplay we have all known needed an overhaul, and I think we have a step in the right direction to improve it. I have already spoken about Total Controls, so I won’t touch on that again, but they do play a significant role in changing the game’s feel.

They have added a pressure system this year that I have grown to love, and I feel turns up the intensity of your play. When using a dual sense control, you can even feel it in your triggers, and the triggers feel harder to press when you’re trying to pass when the opponent has filled up the pressure meter. As you control the puck in the offensive zone and pepper your opponent with shots, your meter feels up, which starts to make your opponent make mistakes, and the opposing goalie makes high-flying saves, which take them out of the play. That leads to better opportunities for you to get some goals. Gone are the days of outshooting your opponent by a wide margin and losing the game.

The goalies have become much better in the game, and the Chessy skate-out-across-the-crease goal that has been in the game since 94 is finally gone. The goalies move more smoothly in the crease and are more reactive to the play, making scoring harder, but I’m sure people have figured out the new cheesy goal by now. If you have, please let me know in the comments. For research, sake is all.

Icon passing has been added this year, which is excellent for those with cat-like reflexes. It allows you to have a button prompt show on the screen while holding down the right trigger before you pass and letting you choose who you want to pass the puck to. You better be quick because if you take too long, your player might lose some chickelts from a big hit. I found this to be very useful in my playthrough, and it helped me have a better cycle in the zone and has led to more goals for me when I pull it off fast enough.

Cross-play has been introduced this year in CHEL and HUT, which is welcomed so Xbox and PlayStation Players can play with or against each other, and hopefully, this makes waiting in a lobby for a game less of a time constraint. I have already found that mode-like Ones and Three elimination tournaments have a long wait time, but it’s still significantly improved over last year. Hopefully, one day, we can play against our friends in VS mode regardless of their console.

Now, to talk about Hockey Ulitmate Team, I almost feel like it should be its own review. This year, they added something I have been asking for for years: HUT moments, so I wasn’t to give them credit where credit is due. HUT moments allow you to relive iconic moments from the NHL, like Gretzky’s 50 goals in 39 games, but for some reason, have left out Bergeron’s OT goals against the Leafs when they were up 4-1. Hopefully, it gets added in the future so Leafs fans can relive that epic collapse.

They have rewarded the offline player this year in HUT, which is a great start, but they seemed to ignore or even take away rewards from the online players. I play most of my time online, but the online community seems to be angry more than usual about some of the changes to the reward system. It has been a lot easier for me to get cards and packs, and it’s a welcomed change if you ask me. The objectives aren’t crazy out there either and are a lot more obtainable.

Packs in NHL 24
Packs in NHL 24

There is still a lot to improve upon, but as I mentioned, that will be for another video.

All the other Offline and Online modes are back, and nothing is really new. Be a Pro still looks excellent and is one of my favourite modes. What hockey fan doesn’t love putting themselves in the game and seeing how good you can be in the show.

If you’re new to the franchise, I highly suggest you try the training modes to familiarize yourself with the game and playstyles.

Is this version my favourite of all time? No. I think this is an excellent start in the right direction to make a great NHL video game. The gameplay is some of the best gameplay we have seen in years and truly feels like real hockey at times, and that can’t be underestimated. It is a hockey game, in fact. The presentation is top-notch, makes for a very entertaining gameplay experience, and hopefully sells the game of hockey to someone who wasn’t into it. As for some of the modes, that is where they’re moving in the right direction but haven’t quite gotten there yet. I commend them for improving this time because the game has felt like a glorified roster update in the past. NHL 24 is a good game, not a great one, but as a hockey fan, it is the best hockey game I have played. I will still play it every day, which should mean something when doing a review. There have been versions of NHL that I have played for a week or two and put to the side, but I don’t see that with NHL 24. I’m happy with the changes and can’t wait to see what they do with the game next year. If you’re a big hockey fan, I think you can’t miss picking up NHL 24, but if you’re not, go check out the 10-hour trial on EA Play and decide for yourself.


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