Each year, the NHL development team at EA Sports attempts to recreate the fast-paced and hard-hitting sport of professional hockey within its games. While the results have been hit or miss over the last few years, EA Sports aims to deliver myriad updates to NHL 24 to make it feel more authentic to the real-life game of hockey than ever before.
It all revolves around the Exhaust Engine, which is a system that dictates player performance based on stamina while rewarding players for attacking on offense. The new Goalie Fatigue system ensures the goalie isn’t as effective on the first shot of a power play as he is on follow-up shots. Goalie fatigue levels increase or recover as play goals on, so if the puck is on the other end of the rink for long stretches, that gives the goalie a chance to catch his breath while the other goalie begins to feel like he’s drowning under the pressure. Every missed opportunity on defense makes it more difficult for the goalie to save the puck before it hits the back of the net.
This leads to a new goal-scoring meta since tiring actions like multiple shots on goal, extended time in the zone, or passes across the crease drain the goalie’s stamina. The stamina bar shows up for the goalie, so you know the full extent of the situation. To combat this, goalies have new highlight-reel save animations that help them stop more pucks. If you’re playing player-lock modes as the goalie, there are also newly updated controls to make playing goalie more intuitive, an auto-return to center mechanic to reduce the likelihood of being out of position for the next shot, and a new Instinct minigame that lets you guess where the shot is going to increase your ability to make the save.
This plays into the new Sustained Pressure system, which rewards offenses for prolonged time spent attacking in the zone. Each team can build up the sustained pressure meter in the game through puck possession, key hits, and shots within the shot. To balance this out, the defense has some new tools, including a revamped checking system with shoves carrying less penalty risk but also a lowered impact on the opposing team’s stamina. After watching a highlight reel of checks in NHL 24, the various checks into the boards and benches look supremely satisfying, but I wish I could have seen a glass-shattering check that the team said is in the game when combined with the new checking animations and ragdoll physics.
The checks can be performed with a simple flick of the stick, but NHL 24 also delivers an all-new control refresh option. The Total Control layout maps highlight reel moves in an accessible and intuitive way and allows you the fake, pass, or deke out of every move. If you’re a longtime player who doesn’t want to adjust, don’t worry: The legacy control scheme is still available. The Vision Passing system also allows for simple one-touch passing to let you quickly move the puck around the ice.
As for the modes themselves, World of Chel adds a Battle Pass with free and premium levels that includes a new collection of vanity and utility items, as well as a new creation zone that streamlines the user experience. The storefront now lets you spend your currency on the gear you actually want instead of having to rely on drops from loot boxes. Meanwhile, EASHL offers up a 16-game path to the playoffs with a do-or-die format, with game progress earning you points and losses resulting in elimination. On the Ultimate Team side, HUT Moments now allow you to recreate moments from hockey history, as well as the latest moments in the modern sport. Multiple objectives and different difficulty levels give you various ways to play, and HUT Share allows you to share your current lineup, season record, and more across your social profile.
While you’re actually on the ice, NHL 24 upgrades its presentation in myriad ways, including more than 75 new goal celebrations, plus new camera angles, lighting effects, and dynamic rink boards where you can assign and personalize player banners. The crowd atmosphere has also received upgrades through various events and actions, for example, the home team rushing down the ice, the crowd cheering their team on during a comeback, or calling the home team to shoot the puck. In addition, Cheryl Pounder, who has called multiple Winter Olympics, joins the broadcast booth.
Like most EA Sports games, NHL 24 features cross-platform play with HUT, World of Chel, and EASHL across a single generation. PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S players can play with one another, while PlayStation 4 and Xbox One players are in their own crossplay league. Through crossplay, you can invite friends to a game or join a club from either platform. EA Sports says that crossplay in World of Chel and HUT improves the matchmaking quality in the hopes of decreasing matchmaking wait times.
NHL 24 also announced its cover athlete as Cale Makar of the Colorado Avalanche. The game is set to arrive on October 6 for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. The X-Factor Edition gets you an exclusive Cale Makar player item, HUT Power Up Icon Choice Pack, extra NHL points, Dual Entitlement of the last-gen and current-gen versions, and three days of early access to the final game.