Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 (Reviewed)
Release Date: September 11, 2012
Price: $59.99 – Available Here
It’s a troubling time to be a hockey fan in the USA at the moment, as there may not even be a season at all thanks to a lockout between the NHL and the players. However there is one company that is looking to make sure that fans will still be able to get a chance to play some hockey this year, EA. With the release of NHL 13 EA Sports is looking to capitalize on some brand new enhancements to the game over last year’s iteration. However is the game improved enough to warrant a purchase or should hockey fans bide their time with the AHL? Let’s find out.
Many of you will be glad to know that this is indeed one of the best looking NHL games to date thanks to a number of improvements that EA has made across the board. Players are mostly represented accurately, though their expressions still leave something to be desired at times.
As far as the team’s gear and stadiums go, they are still as impressive as before and the game’s replay angles have been increased since past games, creating a more televised look to each replay. The ice itself is nice and shiny and thanks to the new physics in the game, player skating has never looked better.
EA has made some effort into making NHL 13 a bit more realistic as far as the music in the stadium is concerned as they have retained a number of standard tracks that hockey fans will recognize. Besides that the game features a rather standard sampling of rock songs for music in the menu screens.
As far as rink atmosphere is concerned the sound effects on the ice are realistically represented and will make the player feel like they are actually listening to a game of hockey be played. As far as the announcers are concerned, they are the same as past years and sound just the same as years before, with relatively high calling accuracy, though it is noticeable when player name’s or scores are worked into canned calls.
One of the biggest changes that NHL 13 features over its predecessors is EA’s new “True Performance Skating” mechanic which has introduced a new set of physics into the game that makes the game more realistic than it has ever been in the past. Many gamers may know that in past NHL titles, nearly every player played the exact same way as long as their stats were similar. However with these new physics the characters actually act as one would expect them to.
Meaning that unlike past games where any skater could move fast along the ice no matter what size they were with no repercussions, these new physics have made added such repercussions into the game, making it not only more believable but also making for a more strategic game. The reason for this is that players who are less agile may not be able to make easy turns, or fast players may have difficulty stopping and reversing their movement.
No longer will defensemen be able to easily keep up with the fastest members of your offensive line. Of course these same defensemen now are more difficult to knock down or rush past as well, thanks to the fact that the new physics factor in their sizable builds. This means that players will need to work on managing their team and positioning their players through accurate passing to beat the other team. It is worth noting though that passing is still a bit of an issue in the game however thanks to the fact that the puck physics have gone unrefined, but once the player gets used to them it will be easy to manage your offense.
It is also worth noting that the game’s defensive options have also improved as goalies have been given free limb control which makes various saves more believable and also easier to pull off thanks to the fact that canned save animations aren’t the standard. It is worth noting that there are still issues however with goalies as there are a number of times that they will simply allow a puck to bounce all over their body and into the net or react strangely to a bouncing puck, but these issues seem to occur less than in NHL 12.
There are various game modes, both new and old, that players can access to step foot onto the ice, though most of these modes seem to have gone unchanged. Outside of simple exhibition matches, players can still access the standard Be a Pro or Be a GM modes, though Be a GM has been given a few improvements over last year’s and is now called GM Connected. Most of these improvements involve the opposing team’s AI trading sensibilities, making one-sided trades more difficult to pull off, though this also makes even simple trades difficult at times. Outside of that however, players will be able to take control over every aspect of their team and work on building them into a dynasty.
Outside of those standard modes we also have the Hockey Ultimate Team mode and the brand new NHL Moments Live. The HUT mode works similar to Madden’s MUT set-up, where players can collect various cards which can be anything to a player card to a card that buffs players on your team. These packs can be bought with coins earned from playing the game and also from completing NHL Moments and allow gamers to create a team of their very own using various players from around the league.
As far as the NHL Moments go, it allows players to re-live, or even change, famous moments from the 2011-12 NHL season as a player. It is worth noting that these moments are also introduced using actual footage from the game which is rather impressive. These modes are very enjoyable for fans of hockey in general and more moments are meant to be made available for free once the 2012-13 NHL season begins, though given the fact that the first two weeks of the season are cancelled thanks to the ongoing lockout, these moments may be unavailable for some time.
As far as online goes, players can skate against others through simple versus matches, shootouts, Battles for the Cup and of course, the new GM Connected mode. However it seems that the netcode actually is worse than in past years with even the simplest of online matches plagued with lag. This wouldn’t be too much of an issue if the lag was minor, but in some cases it can nearly make the game unplayable during a laggy match, forcing the players to simply call it a game and end it. This is quite a shame as when a match does play well, it actually works excellently as players compete to see whose skills are the best.
As far as the GM Connected mode goes, players can join a league of up to 750 people interacting with one another at one time, allowing for some rather insane levels of interaction with other players. However this online mode is often bogged down with long load times and difficult to navigate so while it is indeed possible to take your GM or Pro online and play with others, it is far from fluid.
NHL 13’s various improvements make it probably one of the funnest NHL games in years. Building upon past improvements to the series, the new physics provided by the true performance skating system make the game more realistic than ever before. To top that off, the company has kept the game fresh by adding in some new and enjoyable gameplay modes. While it may have some online issues at the moment, NHL 13 offers practically everything a hockey fan would be looking for. Minus an end to this season’s lockout of course.