NHL 14 Review, Part 2: Live the Life Mode

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By SuperDigestive (AKA Steven) – @superdigestive

You may recall back when NHL 2014 came out we ran the first of a promised three-part review of the game. You can find that first part here. Here is the second part, which concentrates on the “Live the Life” mode, formerly “Be a Pro.” James may someday review the NHL 2004 remake, as promised, or at least spoil the plot to Super Mario 2, which no one has ever finished (that friend that said that they did is a LIAR).

NHL 14 Review, Part 2: Live the Life Mode

First Impressions:

Well déjà vu actually… you turn this thing on and (Varada won’t know this because he’s wise enough to only throw $70 at this thing every other year) it’s the same design as last year’s menu big dumb TV that loops advertisements for the game itself, as if you haven’t already bought the thing.  Not exactly the greatest endorsement for the progressive development of NHL 14.

Anyways, what were we talking about? Oh yeah, Live the Life mode for those who don’t know, this mode used to be called Be a Pro mode, and the basic objective is to become a player in the NHL. And you know, be good at it.

The Draft:

Probably the most life-like element of this game. Why? There’s 806 players that have played this season in the NHL zero of them dreamt of being drafted by Florida. Now I’m not a gamblin’ man, but a 3.3% (probably even less considering draft order and such) of being draft by your team-of-choice is not exactly as sure-fire as “allows bet on black”, which wins all the time (48.648648648% of the time). So, if you don’t want to explore the studio space while wearing one of those Buffalo Sabres’ third jerseys, (On Sale Now!) I suggest picking your team from the get-go.

My experience: I got drafted number two overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs, in which I promptly used the now “enlightened media outlet” in LTL mode by selecting the option memory now has named  “I know that I should be happy, but despite their playoff potential, I am deeply disillusioned by the idea of playing for the team that has once or twice stabbed my team in the heart” {paraphrased, but you’ll know the choice should you find yourself in the same rock and hard video game diorama scenario} and they traded me to Vancouver where I was automatically signed to a three-year deal. (Because that’s how hockey works?) What would Eric Lindros do?

Money Matters:

The issue I have with these single-perspective sports games is that money doesn’t matter in the slightest.  You could pay me a dollar or millions, there’s no difference.  You can’t buy anything.  And yet, money compared to the performance of a player is the grand narrative of the NHL.

In past iterations of this game your rookie season could include such honors as the Maurice Richard (because of your 120 points), Calder Memorial, Conn Smythe, the Stanley Cup, and when it comes to contract renewal, Ottawa and a cap shallow team such as the Rangers are the only two teams offering you contracts that resemble a three-year 1.15 million per year.  If the underwhelming visual development of the game’s menus and aesthetic is any indicator, there’s no sign of that changing in this life-like addition of the NHL.  Think for a moment about how much more interesting it would be if they added in a dynamic contract dialog.  For instance:

Congratulations on an incredible year. There is no debate that you were a key component to our success and we, as an organization would like you to continue your future successes in an Ottawa Senators jersey.  We know that if we do not engage in these talks respectfully, that a number of teams will be more than willing to pay market value for your talents.  There are however, a number of complications regarding the team’s finances.

Players without a contract:

Jason Spezza

Robin Lehner

Cap Space Available:

13.85 million

Options:

  1. Your contract takes priority.  Get market value, but you are now a franchise player and we will demand your commitment in years in exchange for our commitment in dollars.  We will deal with other contracts with what cap space we       have left.
  2.  We recognize your future value to this team, but your youth and inexperience, is the reason we must focus on resigning Jason Spezza.  Hopefully he will give us a “home town discount” so that we can offer a competitive bridge contract.  Your sacrifice will not go unnoticed.
  3. Something about signing youth above experience and secure you and Lehner
  4. Advise agent to prepare for free agency

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The Media is the Message:

The additional factor of having your pro navigate the media in the form of pre and post game interviews and the occasional role playing game type scenario where your team want to celebrate a win, but you are under a strict curfew, is really what differentiates 2013’s Be A Pro mode from 2014’s Live the Life mode .  Whatever is a professional hockey player to do?  It’s been my experience that whenever a video game franchise tacks-on one of these RPG type elements, the results are of two possibilities. A)  Insanely unrealistic (you’re out to dinner and a young boy politely asks for your autograph.  You select yes. Result: you break your wrist in the process and will miss the playoffs?) B) So easy that it’s not worth adding to the game. (You won tonight – Why?  You select: It’s a team game and a team effort, so it’s a team win. Keyword: Team.  Result: Your team likes you 2% more) This game leans towards outcome B.

Now, I haven’t played enough to see any transparent benefits/drawbacks of your fans, teammates, management, family either support or villainizing your media presence, but spoiler alert: getting 100% approval across the board, doesn’t mean you won’t be sent down to the minors for a spell to make room for Vinny Propsal (trade robot does it again).  There is an obvious flaw with the role of the media in this game. Sports media exists to do two things; create a story that manufactures debate by over-reacting to simple comments or action.  Imagine if EA developed the media aspects of the game according to these principles? The game would be incredible. Chris Neil refuses to pass to you because you didn’t see the validity of his fight when want to team really needed was a goal.

There are the same irritating contributions for the in-game commentating where the announcer doesn’t know which team is on the power-play or which team scored to tie the game, but will point out the fact that your player is one hat-trick away from tying Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux’s record for most hat-tricks scored in a season.

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This Hockey Game is Starting to Look Like Fight Night Round 4:

I’ve got to pause for a second to talk about the new advanced fighting in the game.  Yeah, it’s more realistic, but it quickly becomes the most irritating feature when your line-mate (in most cases Cory Conacher R.I.Buffalo) decides to defend your team’s honor and you’ve got to sit there and watch that shit for like minutes.  I’ve already got to play 82 games a season in real time at least let me fight someone else simultaneously so that I can gain the simulation time back in penalty minutes.  Couldn’t they have stuck to developing the advanced skating physics that they started in NHL 13? I know people criticized the change in skating for being harder in every aspect of the game, but hockey is difficult because you wear tiny swords under your shoes and go faster than any other televised sport (sorry Jai alai) and maybe the best thing to is celebrate and develop the aspect of the sports video game that brings it closer to the real experience than taking the easy way out and added an ultimately drop-in-the-ocean element of the game (“This year sticks break!” Varada 10 years ago)

Where’s My J.P. Barry:

I’m not going to labor over this issue for long.  In fact, the idea of a graphic of a sweaty, greed-driven shaved ape whispering in my ear every time it’s time to negotiate a contract does not fill my imagination with joy and I’ve already submitted my idea on how to improve the weight of your player’s contract, but the fact that you have to sign on the first day of negotiations without seeing who else is going to be signed is nuts.  Let’s introduce a little hold out scenario just so you’re not forced to sign early and the next move is for the Senators to trade their entire core group of players to the Winnipeg Jets for tickets to the Snow Birds air show.

Money Ball:

If you, like me, feel cheated by the total lack of positive development in this franchise, then let’s talk value.  The current trade-in value of this game is $30 (This paragraph was written a while ago, but WTYKY consumer tip of the day: The value of this game will remain high until the final round of the playoffs, jump ship before then and you won’t have some oily goon offer you 75 cents for a trade in).  Here’s an idea on how to spend it.  If you’re going to miss playing virtual hockey do not despair.  You can get NHL13 used for $14.99.  It’s the exact same playing experience with the same level of frustration.  You don’t have to say it, I know what you’re thinking.  What about the improved fighting element of the game?  Well, with your remaining fifteen clams, you can buy a used copy of possibly the best fighting game ever made.  DEF JAM ICON.  You get to beat the shit out of Ludacris and Method Man is your best friend.  Suggested fighting style: Street-Kwon-Do.

What EA can learn from EA:

When this game was initially released Varada and I were talking about our disappointment in the lack of substantial development in the game and how globally hockey is a small market sport in comparison to say soccer (fütboll), so it goes without saying that the hockey wing of EA sports is not pushing the most units worldwide, which means less money for development.  On top of that, THERE IS NO COMPETITION in the hockey game market. EA sports could literally update the roster from year to year, introduce the latest in stick graphics and would still be light years better than the next closest rival, which I suppose would be NHL2K but a new version of that hasn’t seen the light of day in my neighborhood since 2009.

As it happens, the solution to the majority of concerns that I and Varada have raised have already been developed years ago in franchises like FIFA, which I am a huge fan of.

Game Face in Be A Pro:  For those who do not know.  Game Face is a feature that has been available in every other EA sports platform since at least 2011 (even football. Where you can barely see a face behind those face cage things on their helmets) where user log into EA sports online upload a frontal and profile image of your face, place a few nodes and presto! It maps your face.  You then download that face into your Be a Pro mode and your beautiful mug is right there in the game with surprising accuracy.  EA Sports, if you’re listening (I know you are) I dare to find a face in nature that remotely resembles the mutants that you use for preset face options and update your hair options at least once a decade on all your platforms. (See also Erik Karlsson, Patrick Kane, and God Damn David Beckham. Shit changes a bit)

International play (Topical Non?):  Let’s face it; NHL hockey is at a distinct disadvantage in comparison to FIFA soccer.  That being that there is only one prize to win in the NHL and once you win the Ford Windstar for All-Star MVP, the game loses a significant motivating factor to renew the 82 game commitment to a new season.  Even if EA Sports is too cheat to pay the IIHF (which it is and what the fuck are those subway ads for anyway?) at least make up some phony International Mega Bowl to encourage players to qualify and play for their respective countries.  I know that you have the option to play in international competition in Tournament Mode, but let’s take the next step and immerse it into Live the Life mode.

Performance and experience based player development:  There’s no fucking reason why scoring four hundred goals should improve my ability to knock out all bums Muhammad Ali style or every win faceoffs, but in fact this is the way that the game is setup. Individual successes are rewarded with points that therefore can be assigned to strengthen features of the players game.  I can tell you that I’ve never felt the need to use a saucer pass or a one-touch deke, but I can tell you that I am number one in the league in terms of potential ability to do so.  I know what you’re going to say “how could I possibly get good at, let’s say, fighting if you don’t have the skill to do so from the beginning?” Well with experience comes development.  Playing 50, 100 or 1000 games could give a general boost to your overall ability.  The immediate playing benefit would be promoting multi-dimensional facets to game playing, instead of simply scoring 6 goals per game.  There is another option for player development, which brings me to my next wish list item.

Skill based pre-game challenge activities:  Relating directly to the idea that player development should be evolve through achieving certain feats rather than assigning points to a skill set, pre-game challenges can give the player an opportunity to develop and practice skills without in-game consequences.

Internal budget: Varada mentioned this in his previous post that no team is created equal money-wise (paraphrasing) and there is no reason why it should be any different in the video game.  It’s one of the most contributing factors in the success of any sports franchise.  FIFA lesson to learn?  Have a realistic budget based on market size of the team and as the GM’s responsibility, choose how to adequately ice a competitive team, while also using funds to upgrade and develop facilities to promote new revenue (Example: expanding capacity in the arena etc.)

Four minute halves or reduced game schedule: Athletes get paid millions of dollars a year to play 82 real-time 60 minute games a year; I pay EA Sports to have fun.  If you can reduce the period length in GM mode, please let us do so in Live the Life mode.  Maybe the answer is to acknowledge that the NHL season is at least 30 games toooooo long and have mercy on us by allowing a reduced schedule.

Going from a single player career into a GM mode:  It’s been in an option for a while in FIFA, so that when you get bored of playing in the single person perspective, you could smoothly transition into full team control.

Earning captaincy comes with input as to who stays and who goes:  Pretty self-explanatory

Media as a Weapon:  In past releases of the FIFA franchise you could use the media to call out an individual player or team.  The commentators remember players’ former teams and analyze the status of that relationship.  You know media stuff.

Why I keep playing this GD game:

Despite the infinite moaning over inaccurate media presence and still being able to score a 100+ goals in a season on the hardest level, (that’s right. I’m like 12-year-old-playing-video games, good) this game mode totally satisfies the part of my brain where my inner child meets my inner plebe at dawn and they tell each other a fart joke. I’ve heard goings on about why would you want to be only one player, basically watching the game half the time? Well, the answer is simple. The one player is you or your grotesque faced alter ego, but this mode allows you, in its more simplistic dimension, to be the hero or feed the puck constantly to a guy like Mika Zibanajad so he gets points and won’t be traded because you know the game doesn’t love him like you love him.  You can lay out Matt Cooke over and over again should you choose. (Wink)  Like I said, this is emotional. You gain a sense of agency while being a part of a universe that will not make sense on its best day.

Speaker’s Corner:

Since there are so many possible outcomes in a user’s single or multiple season experience, here’s your chance to vent, villainize or another ‘v’ word that means praise.  I’m especially interested in users playing in different roles or positions. Maybe I’ve been playing in the wrong position all this time.  Maybe being a stay-at-home defenseman is the thinking person’s experience for Live the Life mode.  If you were the brave soul who dared to play an entire season as a goalie, please chime in below.  Do so and I will award you with a picture of a beer.  Believe it or not, I think EA actually reads this stuff, so include development ideas and hopefully NHL15 will be more than a re-boxed version of NHL14.

7 thoughts on “NHL 14 Review, Part 2: Live the Life Mode

  1. Pretty heavy post. I did the Be a GM thing once and was irritated by how limited my choices were. Sure, I could MANAGE my team but I couldn’t MANGLE my team. I wanted to go Full Melnyk (or is that Full Ballard?) and just empty the cupboards but the NHLBOT won’t let me trade Spezza for Derek Roy.
    I’ve found the fun in these fairly repetitive NHL games is in just being a douche. Like…I’ll take Karlsson, whip up ice and score a goal then win the next faceoff (PHILLIPS PERMA-BENCHED!) and just pass it back and forth, move up ice a little, pass back and just kil time. I’ll ocasionally take a shot so I don’t get delay of game and probably win 1-0.

    Oh yeah, crippling the other team’s stars with low-bridge hits, ALWAYS fun…

    • It’s amazing the level of depravity that one can sink to in the name of killing time in this game. I’m one-hundred percent guilty of getting a 5 goal lead and then focusing my attention on receiving a game misconduct, or failing that, 15 minutes in fighting majors to get the sand through the hour glass.

  2. I agree with essentially everything on your review. When they announced this Live the Life thing I was super excited thinking we were finally going to get a fairly in depth RPG style game. But it really is the exact same thing as the old Be a Pro modes, with a little added in “interview” text based questions that in the end have no effect on anything except for some little numbers on the right side of the screen. Also highly agree with the rating systems. Why should I have to add attributes? the way I play the game should define how my player progresses as opposed to getting stat points. I would love for it to be a similar game to the NBA2K games. Those games have a great deep in depth MyPlayer mode where all of your actions have a significant impact on the career of your player. Also I would love for the commentators to actually know about what happened in previous games, and throughout the players career, how they have played overall throughout the season, etc. All of those things would make the game so much more real and entertaining. After 3 seasons of playing Live the Life, it just gets boring be a scoring powerhouse hearing the same commentary and going through the motions of the same exact thing over and over again.

  3. Thanks for reading BR. I’ve heard that FIFA 14 has the option of having player attributes link directly to real life player production, which of course would be filled with it’s our problems I’m sure, but would help with the whole “why don’t my prospects every develop past their base potential?” problem. With regards to the commentators, I commend you for lasting 3 seasons. I would be satisfied (slightly) if the in-game commentary and post-game media at least aligned (In-game: “This player is top 5 in scoring” post-game: “You scored 3 goals, which is called a ‘Hat-Trick’ how do you feel?”. Just out of curiosity, did you participate in the draft? If so, did you manage to get to the team that you wanted?

    • Hey man just noticed this response right now haha. To answer your question, I did participate in the draft. This years game with the draft actually baffled me quite a bit. I played a full CHL season, I believe for the Edmonton Oil Kings. Ended up with just over 100 points in however many games were played, lead the league in goal scoring and points, won the mvp trophies, etc. Now in all the games since the CHL was introduced I have always played at least one season in it. I will generally end up drafted first to third overall. In NHL 14 I easily had my best performance in terms of points and goals as compared to previous years. Yet somehow when it came to the draft I ended up getting drafted midway through the second round by the Islanders. I really didn’t have a preference for what team I was drafted to by the way, but I am from Long Island so definitely don’t mind the Islanders(although they are not by any means my favorite team). What was even weirder for me than being such a late draft pick, was that when it came to preseason, I led the NHL in scoring by a two point or so margin. When preseason came to a close, the team decided to send me back to juniors, which made absolutely no sense to me at all. I decided there’s no way I’m going to sit through and play a whole junior season again so I just simmed the entire thing. Come to preseason again, same exact thing happened. Led the league in scoring, was sent down to juniors yet again. Finally the next season they let me stay in the NHL, only because I couldn’t play in juniors anymore. Led the league in scoring in the NHL rookie season. The entire EA system is so bonkers it blows my mind haha. I played a goalie LTF just for poops and giggles, drafted end of first round and somehow the team decided to keep me in the NHL even though I was a 71 rated goalie with terrible stats.

  4. I started a goalie LTL mode, and its just as bad. Play alright in CHL playoffs, get drafted 1st round, have a save percentage of 872 and GAA of 4. 25, get called up because “u have turned some heads lately” even though the goalies on ur team are Lindbacks, Bishop and Luongo, ur only a 69 ovr, and don’t even get xp because u play maybe 6 games all season, o and Lindbacks was sent down to minors even though is save percentage was 941, but EA doesn’t care how crappy there game is because it’s really the only one, so people will buy it regardless of how boring it is after 3 days

    • JSPPPO thanks for taking the bullet for all of us by swallowing the LTL Goalie Kool-Aid. Many are curious; few have dared. Also thank you for reading. I going to ask you one more question, if you don’t mind. Are you able to name the team and origin story of a Lindback, Bishop and Luongo being on the same team scenario? (I assume that this is the Tampa Bay Lightning, but of course, you never know. I would also venture a guess that there was a St. Louis / Draft pick for Luongo, but EA algorithms never fall short on baffling)

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