NHL 13 Review
He shoots, he scores!
When you’ve put out 20+ games in a series, and one every year, it must be hard to come up with new ideas to keep things fresh and keep people coming back. In the case of NHL 13, EA Sports took one of the game’s fundamental aspects and gave it a complete overhaul, giving us True Performance Skating and one of the smoothest on-ice experiences yet. This is good news since the NHL is on the verge of another lockout and NHL 13 may be the only way to see our favorite NHL teams this year.
I’ve owned almost every NHL game (I didn’t own NHL 10 but did borrow it for quite a while) that EA has ever made and the first thing that I want to know when a new one comes out is what makes this one better to warrant me spending $60 again. In NHL 13 those things are True Performance Skating, Hockey IQ, GM Connected and NHL Moments Live. We’ll get to the new modes shortly, but let’s go over the new gameplay mechanics first.
Starting with True Performance Skating, EA Sports went back to the drawing board, rebuilt the skating physics engine and added over 1000 new animations to create what I think is the best on-ice experience yet. Using mechanics such as momentum to adjust your speed as you turn, top-end speed to adjust your speed as you move straight up the ice, explosiveness as you start to skate, and the new animations, players now skate, turn, stop, jump, shoot, pass and react better than ever. Also new to NHL 13 is the ability to start skating backwards whenever you want by holding LT, which allows for more freedom and creativity with finesse players. As I said in my preview of the game, it’s something you really need to see and feel for yourself to truly appreciate it. The new A.I system, Hockey IQ, compliments this new skating system perfectly, making each player aware of all other players on the ice, reacting and anticipating plays better and being in the right spot when you need them to be.
Not to be left out, Goalies have received a welcome update this year too, with all new animations and the Hockey IQ system affecting them as well. In previous games, the goalie would only focus on the player with the puck, but now he is aware of all skaters on the ice and can anticipate what they are going to do much better. This makes those easy one-timers much more of a challenge. The new animations make the goalies much more flexible and they’re going to make even crazier saves that you won’t believe, just like in real life.
The newest mode in NHL 13 that’s going to get the most play time is GM Connected, where up to 750 players can play in the same online league. This is basically a mash-up of Be A GM and Online Dynasty, which is something that we’ve always wanted and finally it’s here. One player, acting as the Commissioner, creates the league, picks the settings, choose their team and gets the season started. From there, 29 other players can start their teams, invite their friends and lead their team as the GM, Coach and Players all the way to the Stanley Cup.
The next new mode in NHL 13 is NHL Moments Live, which lets you relive or change some of the greatest moments from the 2011-2012 season and a few Legend moments from seasons of the past. These may require you to score a goal with a certain player (Be A Pro style), win the game in OT, get a Shutout while playing as the goalie and various other tasks. While it’s neat to relive some of these moments, I would have preferred more classic moments from the past, instead of the majority of them from last year. If the 2012-2013 season goes forward, EA will be adding in new moments as they happen, and god do I hope they happen. The last thing we need is another lockout.
Last but not least, the outdoor Winter Classic gets an update in NHL 13, with the 2011 Classic in Pittsburgh and the 2012 Classic in Philadelphia now available to play. EA have done a great job of recreating the atmosphere of these amazing outdoor games. It’s the little things like Jets flying overhead after the National Anthem and seeing the players breath on the cold winter’s day that really capture the event and bring it to life in the game. Being a Red Wings fan I really like how you can change the teams in the Winter Classic if you don’t want to play as the ones from the actual event. The Red Wings vs the Avalanche in an outdoor game is much more enjoyable to me, so it’s a nice feature to have.
On top of adding GM Connected and NHL Moments Live, NHL 13 brings back all of the modes you’ve come to love including the as mentioned Winter Classic, Hockey Ultimate Team, Be A GM, Be A Pro, Be A Legend, Playoff Mode, Season Mode, Tournament Mode, Practice and offline Shootouts. There is never a lack of things to do in EA Sports games and NHL 13 is no exception. While some of the modes such as Hockey Ultimate Team have received a few updates, most of them will seem like a rehash of previous versions, but there isn’t really much more you can ask for that isn’t already there. When you consider just how many different modes there are, it’s hard to complain.
Possibly the only bad thing I found with NHL 13 is that last year they introduced NHL Legends to the series, and while NHL 13 still has legends, not all of them came back. Gretzky, Lemieux and Roenick have returned and are joined by new legends Doug Gilmour, Jari Kurri, Dominik Hasek and first time female legends Hayley Wickenheiser and Angela Ruggiero, but what about all of the other legends from NHL 12? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again “How do you cut a legend?”. What about Yzerman, Howe, Bourque, Chelios and even Roy (as much as it hurts to call him a legend being a Wings fan)? I don’t see why they couldn’t return as well, and having more Legends isn’t going to hurt anything, right? It may be small issue but it’s disappointing nonetheless.
With their games, EA Sports blur the line of single player and multiplayer, due to the fact that the majority of the modes can be played both online and offline. For example, in GM Connected and Hockey Ultimate Team you can play against an online opponent, a local opponent or the CPU within the same season, keeping your progression going whether you are playing online or not. That’s pretty cool if you ask me.
NHL 13 also still features online Shootouts, Ranked Matches, the EA Sports Hockey League and Online Team Play. You can also enter the EA Sports Arena and play online games and tournaments for real prizes through Virgin Gaming, which is great for highly skilled players.
I know it’s easy to crap all over yearly games, but EA Sports are one of the few developers that continue to improve and keep their games from getting stale year after year. Whether you are a die-hard or casual fan of the sport, there’s something for you in NHL 13 and it’ll keep you busy for quite a while. The fact that EA managed to rebuild the Skating, AI and Goalies, while also adding some great new modes all in one year is truly impressive and shows why they are the best at what they do.
Available On: Xbox 360 and PS3