EA Wants NHL 24 To ‘Feel Like Hockey’, Adding New Exhaust Engine
EA Vancouver has fully revealed NHL 24, this year’s entry in the annualized hockey sim franchise. This year, the development team is adding new core features designed to enrich the gameplay experience and feel while on the ice.
Earlier this week, EA announced that Colorado Avalanche defenceman Cale Makar is this year’s cover athlete. On top of the standard edition, NHL 24 releases the X-Factor Edition, which includes three days of early access, dual entitlement for consoles, HUT power-up icon choice packs, and 4,600 NHL points.
This year’s NHL is said to redesign the tactical meta of the game. During a behind-closed-doors preview, Creative Director Mike Ingleheart, alongside Senior Producer Chris Haluke, explained that NHL 24 “feels like hockey.” With new systems added to the game, fairweather fans may find enough to make the game feel fresh. Dedicated players will also find some core changes that impact the moment-to-moment experience.
New features for NHL 24
This is the third year NHLis running on EA’s Frostbite Engine. EA is now at play, looking to add all new gameplay features to make the game feel more authentic. NHL 24 introduces its new Exhaust Engine. It’s designed to add a dynamic new layer of intensity and authenticity. EA aims to create rewarding systems and replicate the feel of hockey. This includes a new goalie fatigue system and a sustained pressure system.
The Goalie Fatigue system creates a brand new meta for players. While adding sustained pressure to opponents in the attack zone, the opposing goalie will begin to fatigue. There are now tiring actions when taking on shots on goal. Fatigue then affects the ability to react to shots. Other contributing factors include time in the zone as well as passes. Recovery is possible, however. Exhausted goalies can recover by clearing the puck for five continuous seconds. Face-offs, time-outs, and play stoppage can also create recovery opportunities.
For players, a new UI system on-screen shows the goalie’s fatigue levels. As pressure from the opposing team mounts, a Sustained Pressure Meter appears on the screen. The first team to trigger a Sustained Pressure Meter gets a positive Adrenaline Effect, increasing pressing speed and accuracy for up to 30 seconds. This is reflected on the ice as an on-screen countdown appears. The defensive team gets the challenging Pinned Effect, which impacts their skating and forces them to find new ways to defend the net.
The Exhaust Engine’s long-term design is to create a new meta for the attack zone and incentivize players to play as the goalie during games. With 75 new goalie animations, EA Vancouver puts much of its resources into this facet.
Regarding how EA Vancouver identifies new features and systems, it’s a multi-faceted system.
“We rely a lot on consumer insights and research that helps drive the early creative,” Haluke tells us. “We will have ideas, but we’ll also lean into community wishlists and start to understand and dissect what the actual players want. We’re actually trying to improve our processes in terms of early production, pre production concepts, and how we can get more out of that, so that we actually have more development time.”
Refreshes are also committing to human goalie controls. The aim is to have the goalie more accessible and easier to play, reducing the chances for them to be out of the shot. Tethered control systems are also being baked in, enabling players to slide back and forth to make saves and then auto-returning to the center. The Instinct System increases the chance of successfully making a save by allowing players to guess where the shot may go. A bonus is given if the save attempt is successful. Guessing wrong increases the chance of a goal, however.
NHL 24 is also introducing Physics-Based Contact. Previous entries in the franchise have all relied on Animation-Based Contact. If you bump into someone, the animation has to play. It wouldn’t matter if you changed directions, came close to the puck, or hit something else. Keeping in line with the “feels like hockey” messaging, the new physical contact system aims to deliver more realistic body checks.
Shoves are being retooled with more extensive checks opening up turnover opportunities. You can now check a player so hard into the glass it can break with them toppling over into the benches. However, you lose momentum and fall out of position if you don’t connect with the new dedicated hip-check button.
“Gameplay is king,” Haluke states firmly. “It spans across all of the different modes. So if there’s one area for an annual title to focus on its gameplay, that way, we can provide as much value over the entire product as possible. And we do have longer term strategic plans for gameplay, for animation, and for all of the different domains and disciplines. This is one of those steps that we’re taking in terms of gameplay and how we refine it for the future.”
The game also receives an update to the control setup. This includes the introduction of a new Vision Passing System. Now, players can pull up new visuals when passing. For instance, dedicated face buttons will be attributed to teammates when Vision Passing is brought up, allowing you to pass to a specific player directly. With One-touch passing added to NHL 24, players can quickly move the puck and take advantage of passing opportunities with a single button tap.
Changes coming to World of Chel, HUT, and more
NHL 24 is looking to introduce the franchise’s very first Battle Pass. While details are still being held close to the chest, EA has announced that seasonal content is coming to World of Chel. Players will gain access to free and premium paid levels to gain rewards while playing this mode.
Same-generation crossplay is being introduced to World of Chel. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One players can jump into matchmaking, while PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S can do the same. NHL 24 is said to offer improved matchmaking quality while decreasing wait times.
Within the Creation Zone, EA is upgrading and streamlining the UI. This is designed to make the creation process easier and faster. The customization layers have been downscaled from seven to four. Switching between different aspects is also supposed to be quick and painless. EA Vancouver confirms that NHL 24 Creation Zone customization will carry over to NHL 25.
The WOC Storefront includes exclusive content like custom characters, banners, and WOC Player Classes. EA is also getting rid of gatcha mechanics. Players can now purchase exactly what they want with real-world currency.
Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT) aims to recreate moments from hockey history and the latest headlines. By celebrating era-defining moments, this mode incorporates what is called HUT Moments. Players can recreate the sport’s top headlines in HUT Moments and earn rewards. With the new Objectives 2.0 system, players can experience new real-time objective tracking. This incorporates card types, teams, players, on-ice actions, and more. HUT also includes social sharing. Players can access their current lineup and season records to share with friends.
“The community is a massive part of our future and what we’re trying to accomplish,” Haluke reiterates. “We want to ensure that our community knows that we’re listening, that we hear. Can we action on every single piece of feedback that we get or every comment? No. But we want them to know that we are listening, and we want to be deliberate in doing so.”
Last up, NHL 24 is refining the presentation of the game. Unfortunately, the studio hasn’t pulled the curtain back on the performance. However, improvements are being made to immersion and other aspects of the game. For instance, NHL 24 includes an enriched crowd atmosphere. Event reactions are now further defined. The crowd independently swells in excitement, cheering for a team during comeback moments, etc.
NHL 24 includes over 75 new flex cellys. The game also features new camera angles and lighting effects. Players can also assign and personalize player celebrations. These celebrations can also be mapped to their controller for further use and customization.
With new dynamic rink boards, more on-ice info is being made in the center of the screen. This way, players can see stat milestones, delayed penalties, goal summaries, etc., without taking their eyes off the ice. Plus, the board can also display vanity backdrops. As expected, EA Vancouver also states backdrops will be home to the in-game advertisements.
Finally, TSN’s Cheryl Pounder is being added as a colour commentator. The veteran broadcaster and 2014 and 2018 Olympic winner is bringing a lineage of knowledge. Pounder has done over 300 hours of work.
Launching on October 6th, NHL 24 is arriving on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC. On current-gen consoles, NHL 24 will be available for $89.99 CAD. Last-gen console versions are priced at $79.99 CAD.