After a few years that some players may have seen as relatively stagnant, our NHL 24 review is here to break down exactly why the latest release is an absolute gamechanger. With a trio of areas completely reworked, we got a true hat trick of NHL 24 gameplay improvements.
This NHL 24 review will unwrap exactly why new gameplay systems and a revamped engine have given every corner of the game that "fresh sheet of ice" feeling. While not every game mode got the new features some may be hoping for, it's impossible to deny just how impactful the gameplay refresh is across the entire title.
NHL 24 Review: Hat Trick of Golden Gameplay Upgrades
The nature of annual releases in sports gaming lends itself towards a "what can we get to this year" kind of approach, and for some players that can be frustrating as chunks of NHL 24 may indeed feel a lot like NHL 23. However, the one thing that won't feel like a rehash is the most important part of the entire experience: core gameplay.
While NHL 23 and past releases already had a solid gameplay engine, we haven't seen broad innovation in that area for some time. Fortunately, a hat trick of new features scores NHL 24 gameplay more exciting and engaging than the series has felt in years.
While animations are not gone entirely, NHL 24 is finally utilizing physics-based contact primarily for the checking system. Not only does everything feel more dynamic (including the new ability to check players into the bench or the glass), but all of the inbetween actions from delivering to recovering from a powerful check feel more natural and build tension in an active game.
Vision passing removes a lot of the frustration that can come from missing your passes because of how movement and aim are linked, and the new Total Control scheme remaps complex dekes and maneuvers in a much simpler manner. As helpful as all these control changes are, two massive system changes pair in a way that'll forever alter how you approach in-game strategy.
The new Sustained Pressure and goalie fatigue systems go hand-in-hand to create a much more intense and fluid experience for any matchup. Even if you don't make every shot you take, consecutive attempts and time spent in the offensive zone make a huge difference in your ability to make clutch plays.
The hat trick of physics-based contact, scheme changes via Vision Passing and Total Control moves, and the complementary effects of goalie fatigue and Sustained Pressure systems have scored an absolutely golden core gameplay quality that trickles down across every corner of NHL 24. You can also tack cleaner graphics and the return of instant replay onto the list of things that makes every aspect of this year's game better.
World of Chel and Hockey Ultimate Team
Let's get candid for a moment: sports games love microtransactions. While not every game takes it to the same extreme as something like NBA 2K24, it's still an integral aspect to games like Madden 24 and NHL 24. While HUT 24 brings the card collecting dream team feel to the table, World of Chel functions like a companion mode for your Be A Pro career experience.
Your custom skater will have a different (often more casual) look in World of Chel and be more flexible with position and loadouts, but ultimately it's an online career mode at heart. Fortunately, NHL 24 World of Chel is bolstered by upgraded crossplay (within the same generation) and refinement across the mode that keeps it fresh.
HUT Moments are the biggest Ultimate Team upgrade this year, as these easily approachable tastes of modern moments and hockey history are the perfect way for time-crunched players to get some fun without the investment of a full game. Players that already have issues with the card collecting nature or microtransaction pressure probably won't be swayed, but there's never been a better time to give Ultimate Team a try.
Franchise and Be A Pro stagnation saved by gameplay refresh
The biggest areas where NHL 24 feels like it'll leave players wishing for more are Franchise Mode and Be A Pro. That's not because either mode is particularly bad or bothersome, in fact both are extremely fun to play this year. However, they're not much different from the modes we saw in NHL 23.
NHL 24 Be A Pro is about as identical to the NHL 23 iteration as it can get minus them just leaving last year's game logos in place. Franchise Mode did at least get some improvement to the progression system for young players and small logic refinements in a handful of areas, but there aren't any major new features this year.
Leaving two core modes mostly untouched for a sequel might feel like a massive mistake, but if that's the sacrifice needed for the gameplay refresh then it was the right decision. For all the new features I wish Franchise and Be A Pro had, neither actually feels the same because the gameplay is so much more fun across every NHL 24 game mode.
NHL 24 Review Verdict & Rating
If you've ever been hesitant about new annual sports games because they can feel exactly the same as the previous year's game, that shouldn't be your fear with NHL 24. Even players who got plenty of time in NHL 23 will find themselves pulled in and excited by how much new gameplay engines change the experience.
Upgrades in HUT 24 and World of Chel keep both of those modes exciting this year, but it's unlikely that anyone who preferred to avoid online modes in recent years will have a change of heart. Fortunately, dedicated Be A Pro and Franchise Mode players will get plenty out of the reworked gameplay while in those modes.
The impact of the NHL 24 gameplay upgrades really can't be overstated. Weighted on the game mode changes only, this would feel like a fairly inferior installment for the franchise. Instead, NHL 24 has the best hockey this series has ever delivered. The sport has truly never looked or played better than it does in NHL 24.
NHL 24 Rating: 9 out of 10