Home Reviews 2.5/5 Review NHL 24 Review

NHL 24 Review


There is one sports game I play religiously – EA Sports NHL Hockey. I love the sport, I truly do, and not one year have I ever really hated an entry. Sure, there have been better years than others but generally, I know what to expect and I know that last year’s iteration will be forgotten almost instantly as soon as that first puck drops. It’s hockey time folks!

At least, I usually forget last year’s version. That is until now. See booting up NHL each year you run through the standard set up of experience level, favourite team and control types. Since NHL 09 brought it back, I have remained faithful to one control scheme only – NHL 94 controls. It’s my belief (and that of many others) that this is the best way to kick back and enjoy video game hockey, allowing it to be picked up and played by even non-gamers thanks to its simplicity. Not to mention how good the control scheme is for accessibility.

EA don’t agree though, and that’s not great. See, after I set my skill level and was asked the control type in NHL 24 I was shocked to see there was no NHL 94 control scheme option. I actually headed online to see if i just could find it, but no, it isn’t there. Now you may think this is a minor thing to complain about as there are always hybrid controls that are similar (ish). But yeah EA has cut those too!

nhl 24 review 1
Have EA nailed it with NHL 24?

Forcing users to play with the horrid skill stick control scheme is just awful. Yes, there are people that may enjoy it, and it has been around for years. But forcing it upon players who have had the more arcade style option available for over two decades is just baffling. There is discourse online about the removed options and EA have said they will add hybrid controls soon. And I guess that is better than nothing, but still enough for me to rage about NHL 94 controls not also being mentioned. 

For those who have no clue what I’m talking about or why it’s an issue, just imagine a Mario or Sonic game taking the jump button and putting it on a right stick flick only. That’s the same feeling I got here.

Anyway controls rant over – I guess I just need to relearn in NHL 24. And relearn I did. The god damn skill stick is frustrating and difficult to judge, and while someone at EA might think it’s “close to using a real stick” it ain’t. And having the pass button on RT provides an experience that would tangle up an octopus. Now I am no online esports hockey champion by any means, but I always start my NHL games on higher difficulties as I know what to expect… NHL 24 had me cranking it way down to the easiest mode and I still struggled to even comprehend the control scheme let alone score a goal. Not intuitive at all. Yeah “git gud”, I hear yah.

That’s not the only thing that had me unhappy with NHL 24. After my yearly Play Now session to kick off a year of NHL I always head into Ultimate Team. Booo, I hear you cry, and yes these loot box style card packs are predatory and I try to avoid them, but I always like to set up a team at least. So over I went and found that laggy horrible menus that hurt my eyes were everywhere. I have no idea why they took their foot off the gas here but come on, basic presentation from one of gaming’s megacorps should be second nature by now?

I don’t want to bash NHL 24 for this whole review as I know I will probably play it over the next year and with hybrid controls being added it may make for a better experience, but, out the gate it just feels unfinished. In game things don’t fare well either – glitchy jerky animated players who feel stiff as ever the minute the whistle is blown for a stoppage should not be a thing we see in 2023. Goalies randomly breakdancing into spasms after saves may be funny at first but are immersion breaking after the fact.

nhl 24 review 2
There’s not much to save this one

I’m not saying a yearly sports update is an easy job by any means but guys, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Or in NHL 24’s case – don’t break it! 

So to swing back to my yearly dropping of the previous year’s game, I actually redownloaded NHL 23; a game that last year I gave high praise to and said “The accessibility provided and the customisable experience found in NHL 23 make it perfect for fans of the sport, and even those who have never tried an EA hockey game before.”. I truly stand by my statement – that game was great!

This year sure we have small graphical upgrades in player likeness and minor crowd improvements (they have never been able to get crowds realistic) but for the most part the new additions make the experience worse. For one, the new fatigue system, while realistic and should be included in a Sim option, manages to slow the game down to a crawl even on easiest difficulty, while the AI are practically invincible. I do not enjoy this new attempt at realism when it feels like it doesn’t add enjoyment. Give us an arcade option for fast and frantic players, or make an entirely different mode for those who somehow like that feature.

All the usual suspects are here from standard leagues to pond. NHL 24 has all the makings of yet another home run for EA but none of these modes have really made a difference in gameplay since last year. It’s honestly like they took last year’s effort and went and broke it all to see how much they can test us hockey fans. 

To make matters worse, EA have added a battle pass. Yeah, in hockey. The first season is free to all but future passes will come with a free tier alongside a premium one that costs money and I don’t know why anyone would pay for this; Ultimate Team is bad enough for trying to empty bank accounts, but a battle pass is just ridiculous to squeeze in; it feels like another cash rinse. The world of CHEL has been on a downwards slope to this since its beginning, and whilst it’s a fun enough mode, it is just littered with gacha mechanics.

nhl 24 review 3
There’s no doubt it is visually decent

Cross play is back though – at least for those looking to play with friends on other ecosystems. Per EA –

This is the most connected Chel has ever been, as players will be able to connect in more ways than ever before with enhanced Cross-Play and improvements to Creation Zone, as well as an update to the EASHL Playoffs, which introduces an authentic, streamlined do-or-die 16-game path to the title, and the introduction of World of Chel Battle Pass. “

So as you can tell, my experience of NHL 24 has been nothing short of heartbreakingly awful. I really hope EA fix the issues with animations and add back in missing control schemes. Otherwise this may just be the first year where I forget about the new one and stay with a previous version. It really is that bad. Joking aside about me needing to “git gud” – the skill stick setup here is just awful and as I pointed out the button placement is simply unintuitive. Combine that with rinse and repeat samey modes thrown in without care and janky animations, and NHL 24 is a let down from the ground up.

I can’t recommend NHL 24 to seasoned vets or even newcomers because it’s borderline unplayable, laggy, glitchy and has less features than in NHL 23. EA really needs to fix this mess and soon, or the player base will dry up this year. I for one will wait and see if the problems get resolved, sticking with NHL 23. The condition NHL 24 is in right now makes it feel like a beta test for a full release that is some months off. It’s extremely disappointing.

Edit: Nov 10th 2023 –

Added clarification to the review in terms of the Battle Pass (free and paid tiers available).

EA also added Hybrid controls via a patch on Oct 24th, just after this review article was written but before publication. As such, that wasn’t included in the review process however has now been tested. You can now play NHL 24 with hybrid controls if you so wish. It doesn’t affect the final review scoring in any way.

TXH Score
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A gaming writer for TheXboxHub, Ali loves the finer things in life, like Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Gaming since the '80s on multiple platforms. Podcast host and video editor.
nhl-24-review<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Replays look decent</li> <li>Players all look like their real life counterparts</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Awkward animations</li> <li>Content feels recycled</li> <li>Forced skill stick controls and no NHL 94 option</li> <li>Laggy menus</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, EA</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5 <li>Release date and price - 6 October 2023 | £69.99</li> </ul>
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