NHL HOCKEY '94 / Electronic Arts / Sega Genesis
NHL '94 largely brings back the same engine of the previous two NHL games, but now they have both the NHL (teams and logos) and NHLPA (player names and pictures) licenses together for the first time in the series.
Goalie save rates and the defense are upped quite a bit, but the AI is still too stupid to get in a good position on offense, so games are now more boring and low-scoring than they were previously until you really get all the new nuances of the engine mastered.
Also added are completely random "hot" and "cold" streaks for players, at the beginning of each new game (no matter what type) two or three of your players will randomly be "cold" (reducing their stats) and one or two will be "hot" (upping their stats). This is kind of goofy in exhibition games, and there should have been an option to turn it off, but there isn't.
Still no season mode - only one-game or best-of-seven playoffs. Shootout mode is the only new real addition, basically a penalty shot matchup.
The action in this one is a little faster than all the previous games except EA Hockey, and smoother than all of them including EA Hockey. Characters are a bit more well animated and the handling is a bit more graceful than it was in the previous games.
This one seems to have quite a following for competitive play, probably because it was the only one of the early series that didn't have glitches and mostly soft goalies, but for the solo player I don't feel it offers enough over the previous games, nor does it compare favorably to NHL '95-'98 in terms of options, depth and graphics.
* Gameplay Video