NHL 24 review: Comme ci, comme ca

NHL 24 puts a few pucks in the net but ultimately falls short of expectations.


As the actual NHL season fast approaches, it’s time for us virtual hockey addicts to dig into the latest NHL video game from Electronic Arts. It's what we do every year with unwavering loyalty, or perhaps not so much loyalty as Stockholm syndrome, but there's no point nitpicking about details like that, is there? We’re here, so let’s dig into NHL 24 and see what the ice is like this year.

What’s new

An image showing a player being checked over the boards in NHL 24

Source: Electronic Arts

Electronic Arts always makes a big deal about what’s new in each game, and NHL 24 is no different. The first time you launch it you’ll get eight screens that detail this year's features.

Right out of the gate NHL 24 has the new Exhaust Engine, which isn’t a new engine in the sense you might be thinking. NHL 24 still runs on Frostbite 3. The Exhaust Engine is just a fancy name for the new sustained pressure system. This triggers when you apply pressure in the offensive zone, pinning defenders in and tilting the ice. The system ties in with goalie fatigue, which causes a netminder’s stance and reactions to change as you pepper them with shots and wear them down.

Those are the two big features in NHL 24, but Electronic Arts also introduced Vision Passing, physics-based contact, proper crossplay, new goal celebrations, and Cheryl Pounder replacing Ray Ferraro as the color commentator. Oh, and the song Sandstorm by Darude now plays between whistles sometimes.

Opening night

An image showing Matthew Tkachuk in NHL 24

Source: Electronic Arts

Every year I set out to taste all the new features organically while in one game mode. Instead of looking at one piece or another in a vacuum, I want to see how the overall experience changes. This year I headed into Franchise mode, set up my team, and then hit the ice with my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs. Shut up.

The Exhaust Engine and goalie fatigue system are evident immediately. I was both able to pin my opponents in their zone and wear the goaltender down, ultimately leading to an Auston Matthews (93 overall, really?) wrist shot tying the game with minutes to go in the third. That felt good, even if I do think the Exhaust Engine might require some tweaking. It felt like the pressure system triggered too easily.

The new vision-based passing popped up right away as well. For this, holding down R2 or Right Trigger while you have the puck will cause icons to pop up near your teammates. You can then press the corresponding face button to target a specific teammate for a pass. The issue here is that by the time you hold the pass button, identify who you are passing to, and execute, you’re probably face down on the ice with your opponent barreling towards your end of the rink. Even so, this is a great option to have for those that might struggle with passing.

The two remaining features that I picked up on in my 3-2 overtime win against Montreal were Cheryl Pounder on color commentary, and the new goal celebrations. One of these is amazing, and the other is awful.

Cheryl Pounder is a breath of fresh air on the commentary side. I love Ray Ferraro as much as the next hockey fan, but Cheryl has been doing a great job on TSN and brings an excellent performance to NHL 24. Her audio is quiet compared to James Cybulski at times, so consider this an open call to Electronic Arts to boost that up a bit. This strong introduction will only get better as Cheryl and James record more voice lines over the months and years to come.

Now, the new goal celebrations are awful. Instead of pressing a button to trigger your celebration after you score, you get an awkward cinematic that kills arena immersion. You have no control over things as the lights in the arena dim and the goal scorer is spotlighted. Your teammates fumble awkwardly in the background, and you get cinematics you can’t skip showing an overreaction to every goal scored. It’s weird, and it should be ripped from the game immediately, although we all know that’s not how things work here.

One of the biggest changes to NHL 24 is the hitting. There's the Total Control controller option which ties hitting to Square or X depending on your console. There is still the Skill Stick, but now a shoulder check is performed by pressing down, then up on your Right Stick, instead of just pressing up. This is going to be a tough change for casual players, as hitting is now much more difficult, but also feels a bit more realistic. What I didn't notice was the new physics-based contact in terms of ragdoll animations. I'm sure there is plenty new going on there, but it didn't really impact any of the games I played.

Long season grind

An image showing Cale Makar in NHL 24

Source: Electronic Arts

There are other new things to see in NHL 24, such as the new HUT Moments which allow you to recreate iconic hockey moments from the past. Most of it, though, is pretty small compared to what we’ve already talked about. Crossplay is cool, but I’m not giving credit for it taking two years to get full crossplay working. Last year EA bragged about half-baked crossplay, and this year they’re bragging about full crossplay. No way, you get one brag per feature, and zero stick taps for taking two years to introduce something commonly found in indie games these days.

Unfortunately, we’ve essentially reached the end of the new features in NHL 24. Yes, those features do impact most, if not all, of the game modes, but the modes themselves are largely unchanged. There have been no meaningful improvements to Be a Pro, Franchise, or any version of Ones or Threes, be it offline or online. The game you played a year ago, and a year before that, remains the same at its core, which makes not being able to import previous saves all the more infuriating. The changes, while mostly positive, are not enough. This is especially true for the offline modes, and I must once again point out that the NHL franchise still isn't on PC.

Fire up World of Chel and you’ll see where EA has spent its time. There are new cosmetics to buy and items to unlock in a battle pass, as well as the option to purchase virtual currency for up to $200 CAD in a single transaction. It all looks very slick, like there was time and attention paid to this part of the game specifically. It’s clear as a bell that EA wants you in its online modes where they can monetize the gameplay loop beyond the $130 CAD you spent to play NHL 24 three days early. Since Be a Pro and Franchise and the likes aren’t monetized, that’s not where their attention is likely to go.

See you next year

An image showing a goalie making a save in NHL 24

Source: Electronic Arts

Every year I poll my friends on whether they’ll buy the new NHL game. Last year was tough, and to play together we had to give a couple of people copies of the game. When I polled them this year, it was nearly unanimous. Anyone who had to play NHL 24 for work was getting the game, and the four other people had zero interest. That may not seem noteworthy, but that’s about $400 in lost sales for EA among my friends alone. That is four people who are looking for games that can bring our group together and give us a nightly social experience opting out because the price tag has long outgrown the product. I said as much last year, and this year remains no different.

This review is based on a PS5 copy of NHL 24 purchased by the reviewer. NHL 24 is available on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One today.

Managing Editor

Bill, who is also known as Rumpo, is a lifelong gamer and Toronto Maple Leafs fan. He made his mark early in his career through guide writing and a deep understanding of editorial SEO. He enjoys putting in the work to create a great content, be it a wild feature or grinding out an in-depth collectible guide. Tweet him @RumpoPlays if you have a question or comment about one of his articles.

Review for
NHL 24
  • Cheryl Pounder is great on color commentary
  • Sustained pressure system is nifty
  • Sandstorm
  • Goalie fatigue is cool when it isn't your goalie
  • Vision Passing is a nice addition
  • Full crossplay support is finally here
  • Full crossplay support took two years
  • Offline game modes are again ignored
  • Can't import save files from previous games
  • New goal celebration cinematics are a big miss
  • NHL 24 on PC is not a thing, and that sucks
  • Maybe a little too much Sandstorm
  • Who gave Auston Matthews a 93 overall?
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