NHL 2004, developed by the EA Black Box studios, is the successor to NHL 2003, is widely considered to be a major turning point in the series.[who?] The game adds 3 European Elite Leagues - Germany's Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Sweden's Elitserien and Finland's SM-liiga. (This is not the first time that European teams are included in an EA game; EA released both Elitserien 95 and Elitserien 96 for the Mega Drive in Sweden only and Elitserien and SM-liiga 2001 as an expansion pack for PC in Sweden and Finland which included those teams). The ratings of the teams in the Elitserien and SM-liiga were comparable to the NHL rosters, however future installments had the league teams inferior to the NHL.
The game included many improvements to its gameplay (more realistic puck and rebound control and better checking) and game modes (a completely reworked franchise mode renamed "Dynasty"). In addition to the gameplay improvements, one particular non-gameplay improvement was added. When a team wins the Stanley Cup Finals, a large-scale celebration ensues. It included players skating around the ice holding the Cup over their heads. This then led to the common snapshot of the team and the coaches that holds true in the NHL. A "secret" song (Shatterday by Vendetta Red) plays while the animation shows the stats of the players in the picture, ending with the captain. Because of these additions, it was praised as one of the best games in the series to date.[ The Dynasty Mode, regarded by many gamers, still has its flaws - trades were very difficult to accept, and only allows the player to manage the team at the maximum of 20 seasons. Commentary was also repetitive and the game play always felt slow. ]
Another new feature of NHL 2004 was allowing the player to select when to fight, where previously it had been a somewhat random occurrence. When two players' names flashed onto the bottom of the screen, accompanied by the word "Fight!" and a bell sounding, the person playing the game could push a button to begin a fight, or hold off until a later time. Furthermore, goaltenders were able to fight however, goalie fights are completely random, as the names of other players are shown at the bottom of the screen; also, goalies are not thrown out of a game for fighting; in real life, goaltenders who fight are given both a major for fighting and a minor for leaving the crease, resulting in game misconducts for both combatants. The game however contained a glitch. On breakaway plays a player can maneuver the deke analog stick for an automatic goal. By the time EA Sports heard news of the glitch hundreds of thousands of units had been shipped around the world. The Create a team feature allowed the player to create a new NHL team and put it in the game and the player could choose between NHL jerseys as the team's uniform.
PC Modding Community
In addition, a "My NHL" option was introduced for creating brand new NHL teams and players from scratch, adding to the replay value dramatically. Though not very noticeable at times, NHL 2004 included all new graphics. For those playing the game for the PC, the "template" for creating new jerseys, masks, gloves, pants, players faces, basically everything you can edit were all changed. In 2007, these templates are still used, all of which can be found in the download section of www.nhldepot.net.
Online Leagues using NHL2004
The only current PC league known to still host games using NHL2004 is the NEHL. The NEHL has been around for 12 years hosting various incarnations in the EA NHL series. They decided to go with the Flyermania modded NHL2004 after plans for NHL10 for the PC were cancelled. The NEHL web site can be found here www.nehl.nhlpc.net. Some matches are also telecasted at their web television, the NEHL Network, which can be found from .
Cover man dilemma
Picking a cover athlete for NHL 2004 proved to be problematic. Joe Thornton was the original choice but after he was brought up on assault charges, he was removed and replaced by Dany Heatley for the game's first shipments. After Heatley's car crash that killed his Atlanta Thrashers team-mate, Dan Snyder, EA removed him and replaced the cover with Joe Sakic but not before a large number of units had already been shipped. As a result, both covers (Heatley and Sakic) made it into circulation.
Members from the band Alien Ant Farm and Gob appear as available players as well as some of the EA Developers. Any player already in the game can be re-created with the same face and portrait and stats.
|NHL 2004 Soundtrack|
|Alien Ant Farm||"S.S. Recognize"|
|Avenged Sevenfold||"Chapter Four"|
|Bowling For Soup||"Punk Rock 101"|
|Brand New||"The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows"|
|Dexter Freebish||"Falling Down"|
|Dexter Freebish||"Life Of Saturdays"|
|Jet||"Get What You Need"|
|Less Than Jake||"The Ghosts of Me and You"|
|Living Things||"Born Under the Gun"|
|Modern Day Zero||"Down"|
|The Ataris||"Radio #2"|
The game appeared in 2003 and is regarded by many as the best game in the EA made NHL series. It was praised by fans and critics alike at the time of release. As of 2010, mods still continue to appear on various sites and the game still has a community around it.
|This section requires expansion.|
|Electronic Gaming Monthly||7.3 out of 10|
|Game Informer||8.5 out of 10|
|GameSpot||8.6 out of 10|
|IGN||8.8 out of 10|