As a bonus, there are no lockouts!
Written by Super User
Published Saturday, 22 September 2012 20:00
Sure, our readers over in the US may not feel like it’s a big deal, but over here in Canada, the release of NHL 13 is a much bigger event than the launch of Madden could ever hope to be. Of course, some fans may be rolling their eyes every time a new iteration of a sports series comes out, arguing that the yearly releases never add much to the previous experience. However, this time around, EA promised to add a lot of noteworthy things to the game. Considering the current lockout in the NHL and the looming possibility that the season will be cancelled, is this game a worthy alternative to get your hockey fix? Let’s find out!
The Canadian EA Sports studio was put in charge of this new installment and, other than the usual presentation bells and whistles that were adjusted, this new NHL actually does make some significant changes to its formula. First of all, there’s a completely new physics engine that was applied to the skating mechanism. Players don’t stop on a dime anymore, and you really feel like they’re skating on real ice rather than on a perfectly smooth surface without imperfections. This new physics engine is coupled with over a thousand new skating animations that really help sell the realistic aspect of what they now call the “True Performance Skating” experience. Every player has his own set of skills (based on real-life performance) applied to the system, which makes controlling certain skilled players even more of a joy than ever before. Those of you who know their hockey will know that the game is all about momentum. When you score a goal, kill a penalty, perform a great defensive move or control the puck for a great amount of time, you gain that precious momentum, giving your entire team a real boost of energy that will last a certain amount of time. During that time, players will skate faster, be more accurate, and will even take more powerful shots, giving you a real chance to outclass the opponent. Don’t take advantage of that opportunity, though, as your team will slow down, suffering from the momentum transferring over to the other team. Another small, but important addition is the ability to skate backwards when you’re in control of the puck, while previous NHL titles only gave you the ability to do that in defensive mode. The A.I. learning system is back and stronger than ever in NHL 13, opponents will not only learn the ways you often use to score goals and try to stop you, but they’ll now also learn your preferred defensive tactics, your behavior on the powerplay, and they’ll even anticipate your passes. As a result, the level of difficulty is taken up a notch in every setting, which is a welcome change given how easy it was to master the previous games.
"Overall, it can be said that NHL 13 is the best iteration of the franchise to date, and probably the best sports game I have ever played."
Not only does that game feature all of these new gameplay mechanics, but it also offers a plethora of new game modes that are all welcome additions to the series. For example, there’s the new “NHL Moments Live” mode, in which you’ll be able to relive the highlights of the last season in the National Hockey League, and even those of the current season, if it happens at all. This mode allows you to play these moments and even features a couple of great little challenges by asking you to reproduce the moment to the best of your abilities. This new mode adds a lot of variety to the experience, which is something crucial in this type of game. Obviously, old favorites like the GM mode are back, but with a few tweaks that make them feel brand new again. “GM Connected” now lets you play as the General Manager of your team, but this time online! To add to the experience, the mode is also directly compatible with the application available on mobile phones which lets you manage your team on the go. The HUT (Hockey Ultimate Team) mode is also back with an improved, clearer user interface.
The online and multiplayer features of the game really shine. In addition to having the previously mentioned modes that feature online options, the classic player-vs-player online matches are now smoother than ever. I have to admit, I’ve personally had connectivity issues with every previous NHL game this generation. While the issues did get resolved over time, it always took a while for EA to get things running smoothly. This time around, they managed to get everything working from day one. I didn’t notice any lag, disconnects or other glitches related to online play. The online matches themselves remain unchanged, but a more rewarding ranking and leveling system would be more than welcome after so many years without much novelty. Don’t get me wrong, the game remains addictive, but with nearly every online game having this type of hook these days, it’s hard to understand why EA hasn’t decided to do the same thing with this franchise.
Obviously, the presentation of the game is greatly improved, especially considering the thousands of new animations that the developers have programmed into this new version. The reflections on the ice have also gained detail, and the same can be said about the player models. More players have also accepted to have their likeness in the game, resulting in more realistic looking facial features and, obviously, the players looking more like their real-life counterparts. Some technical problems remain, with some animations not triggering properly during goal celebration cutscenes, for example, resulting in goofy moments where a player’s teammates would jump on him while he would remain motionless. The sound aspect has also been improved, with more accurate and varied commentaries, a better integration of the crowd’s reaction to plays, as well as better quality sound effects.
Overall, it can be said that NHL 13 is the best iteration of the franchise to date, and probably the best sports game I have ever played. It features numerous phenomenal improvements that bring the series to a whole new level of realism, while also making the gameplay experience a lot more fun. The skating physics give a new and improved feel to the game while the new modes and features keep the experience fresh. If you’re a hockey fan, it’s hard not to recommend this game to you. Plus, if there’s a lockout, NHL 13 may be the very best way to get your hockey fix this season.
Release date : 2012-09-11
Publisher : EA Sports
Developer : EA Sports
Gameplay : Sports
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