Review | NHL 24

Originally published at: Review | NHL 24 - XboxEra

NHL 24 is here and focuses on improving the on-ice experience, with great success. The exhaust engine will see goalies sweat; offenses feel the boost of a sustained rush as they wear down their opponents. The better feeling hits, some smart control changes, and damned near identical modes make this a solid iterative sequel that focuses where it matters most. $70 is a big ask every year, so let’s break down this title to see if it’s worth it for the faithful.

The Exhaust Engine

The biggest change for longtime fans of the series is the Exhaust Engine, and it’s great. For the first time, you can focus on sustained offensive zone pressure to wear down not only the defense but the goalie. Constant shots passed around forcing him to move, and just staying in the offensive zone will start to chip at a goalie’s stamina quickly. The best of the best can dig in deep and pull off some truly spectacular-looking saves even when tired, with animations that show their exhaustion as they go flying across the crease.

To recover as the defensive team actions like clearing the puck, forcing a face-off, calling a timeout, and stopping the clock in any way that isn’t icing will ease things up. The new physics-based contact system helps you not only deliver massive blows but tie up players along the boards and snatch the puck in a more realistic feeling manner than ever before. This is helped by a refresh of the game’s control scheme. On offense, the button layout has changed up a fair amount, and once I got the hang of things I felt like I could play a more natural feeling game of hockey than ever if I wanted. The options are still there to make it as arcade or sim-like as you want, but the sim side of things just feels better.

The default settings for penalties gave a realistic amount in a shorter period affair, but damn if it wasn’t frustrating to get a slashing call for the tiniest poke check over and over. I spent a fair amount of time tweaking settings and after a few attempts felt happy with the mix of speed, length of each game, and difficulty overall. The Exhaust Engine changes how effective a sustained forecheck is. Being a big bruising team doesn’t just mean hitting everyone into oblivion. Instead, I could focus on dumping the puck, fighting along the boards, and working down the defense and goalie until I had far easier pickings.

Mostly Similar Everything Else

Modes-wise, it’s damned near the same as last year—a few minor changes here and there but nothing that stood out to me. Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT) has new objectives (whoopee!), Social sharing (which wasn’t working for me), and HUT Moments which were pretty cool. They’re exactly what you’d think, giving you a cool look at some specific moments throughout hockey history. World of Chel is the other microtransaction-focused mode, with a season pass full of really ugly-looking gear that I had no interest in going through. I was whitelisted for online play and got into a few matches here and there with other reviewers, and it all worked fine. I have no clue how the servers will hold up at launch though and the game is intrinsically tied to being online. If things are rough, and they normally are, server-wise then expect some major frustration while using the UI.

The career mode felt similar to last year’s and was where I had most of my solo fun. You make a few choices in between games to raise and lower your team and personal star meters. It’s not that deep, unlike the franchise mode which is back in a tough-as-balls if you want it way. Keeping my owner, coaches, and team happy was hard but fun on the default settings, and as far as I could tell every other major mode was back from last year.

Graphics & Presentation

NHL 24 looks fantastic both in motion and replays. The arenas feel more alive, with fully animated sideboards bringing a realistic feeling to the arenas that use them. The commentary was never in the way, which is the highest compliment I can give a sports game. It matched the on-ice action, was never annoying, and barely repeated despite my lengthy playtime.

Checking and Goalie animations were the standouts as they felt the most realistic. Some of the puck physics and transitional animations could look wonky at times. More than once I had a sure goal magically zip into the downed goaltender’s glove. The audio in the Arena’s added a ton to make it feel like a real NHL game. The crowd called for a shot if I held on to the puck too long, worked hard to rally my players if we were down late by a goal, and went coo-coo bananas if I won a fight.

The UI is slick and easy to navigate when the servers work. Even in this review period, I had a few times when things started to chug and the entire system ground to a halt. I hate how online-focused starting up a solo career mode is with the UI. It’s a game where it may be worth setting your console to offline if you’re not going to engage in any of the server-based modes in a play session. The microtransaction side of the game is rough. We were given the top version of the title for review and I immediately had an 83 overall HUT team. It’s the same rotten feeling, but insanely popular mtx system that EA has in all of their games now. I don’t like it, but enough fans seem to that I doubt it ever goes away.

Wrapping Things Up

NHL 24 is a solid improvement on-ice over last year’s title, with the exhaustion engine adding technical depth that the series has lacked. Outside of that, some minor presentation and control improvements are countered by mostly the same overall package of modes. If you love the NHL then this is the best playing game in the series, but if it’s $70 worth or better over last year’s is tough to say.


Thanks for the review, I evidently end up picking NHL up every winter on sale. Hopefully the gameplay is a solid improvement as stated in the review.

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As soon as i booted the game and saw the ice it immediately took me back to an argument i had with my wife one winter years back.

The roads were slippery and i refused to put chains on, the last thing i remember is having a massive argument over something stupid with her.

It was something dumb like i did open the car door for her or something…

I told her i just panicked and swam to the surface.

This game feels damn near every other hockey game. At the same time it feels damn better in most ways to its damn predecessors.

It sorta reminds me of the car crash where the damn ice was stopping me from reaching the damn surface.

All in all i really enjoyed this game as i could get into fights with the other players. Icing them out like happy gilmore.

You heard it here first 8.5 a damn good experience.

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I know NHL isn’t as big as the other sports games, but where are all the reviews for this and why didn’t opencritic or metacritic pickup this review?

I have to add it personally on OC, MC? no clue

Ugh. They took away hybrid controls. There goes a few years of muscle memory out the window.

It took me a game to get used to things but it felt great pretty quickly.