Last week, EA Sports revealed the gameplay trailer for NHL 24, which will be coming out on October 6th this year, four days before the start of the 2023-24 NHL season. The game will be available for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5, with early access to the game three days earlier.
The trailer can be watched below:
Here are some of my takeaways from the trailer.
EA Sports and EA Vancouver are Looking to Make a Big Stride
Of course, there are going to be fans that are pessimistic about the EA NHL franchise as the game has not changed much over the last few years. I’m going to go on the route of the optimistic realist as while there are some things that need improvement with the game overall, such as Be a Pro, Franchise Mode, and World of Chel, this trailer for NHL 24 might be the best trailer for the game since NHL 14.
The most notable part is that NHL 24 will feature a new engine, known as the Exhaust Engine, which is powered by the Frostbite 3 engine. This engine allows for players to tire out defenders and the goaltender with continued sustained on-ice pressure.
EA has described this game in a news release as a “complete revamp of the EA Sports NHL gameplay experience,” and with the direction that EA Sports and EA Vancouver are taking, they are looking to emulate the real-life experience of live action ice hockey games.
Cross-Play in Hockey Ultimate Team & World of Chel
This is a big addition to NHL 24, as it allows for players on the same generation of consoles to compete against one another. Thus, an Xbox One user can play against a PlayStation 4 user, and an Xbox Series X/S user can play a PlayStation 5 user.
Cross-play has debuted in NHL 23 in a post-launch patch, but that doesn’t work for the most part in every platform. EA Sports and EA Vancouver have addressed this issue to allow for more authentic co-op action in NHL 24.
Not only are they doing this for competitive play, but they’re doing this for people who are regulars on Hockey Ultimate Team and World of Chel. The wait times for match making have been longer without the cross-play, and this addition is a good step to mix-and-match players on EASHL teams.
The Exhaust Engine
In the gameplay trailer, the exhaust engine is described as a “literal game changer.” The engine provides a complete revamp of gameplay experience that can pay dividends for casual gamers and competitive esports players alike to bring a new layer to the game, adding all the more excitement to it.
With the exhaust engine, when on the attack, one can strategize on either establishing their puck possession or jumping on the attack in generating odd man rushes. When one continues cycling the puck around in the offensive zone, it will trigger an attribute that gathers up fatigue of the defenders and goaltending. This is a major emphasis to NHL 24 in getting the video game experience look more like real-life hockey, as defenders and goaltenders tire out with the attackers gather up puck possession in the NHL.
The exhaust engine is made up of two systems: the sustained pressure system and the goalie fatigue system.
The Sustained Pressure System
EA Sports and EA Vancouver have added a new pressure gauge when one gets on the attack for an extended amount of time. In previous games, defenders and goaltenders don’t tire out when defending the attack, which made the game feel unrealistic. NHL 24 is about to change that, and this is a great addition.
The sustained pressure system helps players get the up-tempo for more offensive opportunities. The offensive team gets a boost in stats for every shot, pass, or check in the offensive zone, known as the adrenaline effect, while the defensive team will get decreases in stats and tiring out more easily, known as the pinned effect. This differentiates NHL 24 from other EA NHL games, as it is meant to simulate momentum swings to the offense’s favor, where a defensive team is stuck in their own zone.
Once the sustained pressure bar is filled up, it triggers the full pressure system when one continues to blitz the goalie with shots, completing a series of passes, and making big body checks in the attacking zone. This boosts gameplay on taking more unique shots than waiting for the perfect play to develop, emphasizing the many new ways on how one can attack the net.
When one is on the defensive end and is the one facing the sustained attack from the opposing team, to get rid of the pinned effect, they will have to clear the puck out of the zone, whether it be through a safe play off the boards or risking a turnover int he open ice. Of course, it is easier said than done, as the defensive teams would be fighting exhaustion from trying to defend the attack.
The Goalie Fatigue System
Just like the sustained pressure system, this is another addition that EA Sports and EA Vancouver wanted to look at. With this new system, EA has added over 50 new animations for the goaltenders in looking to make desperations saves in their reactions to shots as they tire out more.
This is a necessary change, as in real life, when the offense fires more shots, the goalies tire out more, getting slower in post-to-post reactions, increasing the tendency to make more errors, which leaves the tendency for more rebounds and all-out puck battles in the crease, leading to more goal-scoring opportunities.
With this and the sustained pressure system, I love these changes. The ratings changes are very subtle, and one doesn’t have to worry about these as much as they have to worry about fatigue. With extended offensive zone pressure comes the feeling of dread with the defense, and that is long overdue in the EA NHL franchise.
This is a new addition to EA NHL that is meant to overhaul the physics engine and to revolutionize body checks in the franchise, and create more “Wow!” moments in the games. In NHL 23, it felt as if people were flicking the right joystick expecting that they would get a different result with the body checks.
Now, hitting is based on what people do with the right joystick, should they use skill stick controls. If they were going for a light shove, they would just slide the right joystick at the direction in which they would want to shove an opponent aside. If they want the big boom, they’d want to wind up the hit by sliding the right joystick in the opposite direction of where they want to hit, then get that right joystick in the direction they are intending to hit.
When one lays the boom on one of the attacking players while on defense, their opponents will enter the playing field at a slower pace, leaving them more susceptible for turnovers and giving up counterattacks. Of course, when one doesn’t connect, they’ll be out of position, as is the case when the attacker makes a quick deke or moves aside to avoid the hit. But with the new physics engine, EA is looking at the emphasis on the risk/reward factor to make gameplay exciting.
Additions to Big Hits
There are also new physics-based and animation-based reactions when leaving a big, clean body check on players, which I also feel is needed. While I’m not against those same reactions and animations being re-used, it was time for new reactions and animations for the big hits to blend in with the previous ones.
EA has also added hitting people over the benches and hits that are hard enough along the boards that it breaks the glass. While it is more common to see players getting hit over the benches, very rarely do people see hits that break the glass, so my question is about how high EA is setting the physicality meter. That doesn’t mean I don’t want these from happening, but I’m just wanting to know so that the physicality meter doesn’t seem too overpowered.
Reverse hitting is also a point of emphasis EA wanted to make in this game, as in real life, puck carriers use reverse hits to shake off checks from incoming defenders while maintaining control of the puck, allowing them to protect the puck with their body while still looking to establish the forecheck.
Total Control Skill Moves
This is a refresh of the control setup, where highlight-reel moves can be more accessible. In other words, some of the old mechanics from the previous games have been re-introduced while there are also new deke mechanics introduced in this game.
In this game, EA has added new abilities on fake, pass, or deke moves, which opens new levels of creativity to the game. Like the other games, timing these moves right is the difference between a better scoring chance and a turnover in the offensive zone. However, players have the option on using the controls from the previous games, otherwise known as legacy controls.
This may be a controversial addition to the game as it may take just a single button to pull these moves off, such as a between the legs move, a windmill, or the Michigan. Say that a button would be used for the Michigan, where one would have to press and hold the button down before getting the lacrosse-style goal off. This is rather disappointing, because even though it’s one of the hardest moves to pull off, it would feel rather more legitimate having to actually work to pull the move off rather than just pressing and holding a button.
Though in another way, it could make sense. EA hypes up these moves, along with desperation plays, yet it’s something rarely seen. Though with these simplified controls, one still needs to pull these moves off at the right place at the right time. If one holds the button for too long or too short, it won’t work. While I’m personally disappointed in this addition, if EA is going to emphasize these moves, players would want to actually see them, otherwise there is no point in this addition. I might give this one some time.
Vision Passing System
Another addition to EA NHL that I love. What this does is re-maps the face buttons and the visuals above one’s teammates to directly pass to them, anywhere, anytime, with quick one-touch passing to control sustained pressure in the offensive zone. This is extremely useful for efficient and effective zone time on extended opportunities, and when one gets on the power play. Holding the right trigger (the passing button on skill stick controls) brings up the face buttons above the players.
One can also disguise passes on the man advantage with the teammates mapped to the face buttons for better opportunities, making such passes that players wouldn’t normally make. For example, this allows for more back passes when the player one is controlling is behind the net and whose back is turned, so when someone is wide open at the dot of one of the circles, they can pass it to them there to fire the puck at the net for a scoring chance.
While hitting the correct button won’t guarantee a successful opportunity, this also allows for easier and simpler stretch/breakaway passes to attack the net. It feels like a small change to the game, but this is one that has been needed for ages. In games past, when one tries to find the open man for a breakout, the puck ends up going to the wrong player or down the ice for an icing.
If there are players that want to stick to the old passing controls, that’s fine, but overall, this is a great addition. Players can get creative with this feature and find lanes that they normally wouldn’t be able to find, and they can choose specifically which player to pass to.
To add on, one-touch passing is another needed addition. It allows players to quickly cycle the puck around the ice in transition, especially when on the offensive zone during the power play.
By tapping the right trigger and in transition, players can get creative on the ice with more open lanes. As one is passing, they can click the button and then aim at who they want to go to next, allowing for faster movement of the puck in the offensive zone.
This feature is what I could say is an extension of the vision passing system, considering both allow for quicker puck movement on the attack, and I love it.
Human Goalie Controls: The Tethered Goalie System & Instinct System
User goalies are getting love in NHL 24. In previous games, it was easy to lose the net when moving the goalie around, making it easy to allow open-net goals from the opposition.
That’s why they have introduced the new tethered goalie system where after one makes a save while controlling the goalie, the game will return the netminder to the center of the crease by default when releasing the left joystick, so that they are prepared for the next shot they face. This makes the learning curve easier for the casual gamer in playing the game, so that they don’t get stuck at no man’s land.
The instinct system is also introduced for goalies so that players can get bonuses correctly for guessing the shot location correctly, increasing their chances of making a save. However, if they get it wrong, it increases their chances of allowing a goal.
While I don’t personally have a lot of experience playing goalie in EA NHL, there were some comments on how user goalies needed changes for years, and they’re finally getting them here.
There is a lot to look forward to for NHL 24. I’ll give credit where credit is due, because EA Sports and EA Vancouver put up a five-minute all-gameplay trailer explaining the new features coming into the latest addition of EA NHL.
What I can expect to see is a more realistic game, giving the feel of real-life hockey. While there are a lot of new additions and perks getting added onto NHL 24, the developers are taking a high-risk, high-reward route so that people can get a reason to buy this coming and any future EA NHL games.
There are a lot more additions to the game, such as a revamped EASHL playoff system of four best-of-seven series as in the real NHL, filling out squads with free agents if teams in World of Chel don’t have enough players on their squad, an improved creation zone to make the online avatar that players want and saving presets of their favorite looks, replacing the Hockey Bag mechanic with the World of Chel Battle Pass, and the World of Chel Store to purchase items for the player or for the team, where most items they collect will carry over to NHL 25. While I’m not going to explain these in full detail, these look promising for online play.
NHL 24 is looking to be the first step in a long line of improvements for the franchise, and I can’t wait to get this game going and see what it has in store.