For the past few years, the EA Sports’ NHL series has continually been my favorite sports franchise. This is by no means an insult to the other sport titles, especially the recently released Madden 13, which I enjoyed. However if you have been a fan of any of the recent NHL releases, the changes brought to the ice this year are definitely noteworthy. In fact, it’s hard to know where to begin between True Performance Skating, the improved A.I., NHL Moments, updates to Ultimate Team, and the brand new GM Connected mode. NHL 13 has definitely brought many changes, but does it make the NHL game better?
The biggest update this year is True Performance Skating, which is a game-changing innovation to NHL 13. The last notable update that impacted the game this much was controlling the hockey stick with the right joystick. This year, you can skate forward, backward, make quick turns, or skate full speed – all with the puck. Turbo isn’t in the game in terms of holding a button, instead you can gain momentum by holding down the left stick.
Never before have I felt my skater explode off the blue line with the puck, getting into the opposing zone without immediately being bumped off the puck and into the boards. With a quick 360 turn, which is also now possible, you have the chance to deke the defender without doing a trick move. However, this comes at a cost, for if you are skating full speed with the puck, defenders can easily take the puck away.
From the first game played, is was evident that the awareness and I.Q. of the A.I. has also been greatly improved. In the past, too many times my A.I. teammates would be offsides, wouldn’t feed the puck, or simply would not skate to the necessary places. This year I recall a play where I was pushing the puck straight up the ice and 2 A.I. players actually waited at the blue line, waited for me to cross, allowed me to skate right by the defender, and shoot a perfect wrist shot over the goalie’s left shoulder.
The animations have also been improved, which goes great with the new replay system. No longer will you be stuck seeing the same animations for scoring or saving the puck, and the replay system will show off different angles. For example, while skating alongside the boards, an opposing hip check injured my player. At first it didn’t seem like that great of a hit, but the replay showed some different angles, even an on the ice view to make the injury look more realistic.
As for the game itself, it’s faster. The menus no longer take forever and skipping replays is quicker. When we tested the Online Team Play mode, it no longer takes a few seconds after a stoppage for it to resume. Assuming that all the players hit A, that time has been minimized and the game will resume at the face-off nearly immediately after. A small change that makes a huge difference when compared to the loss of time in the previous games.
When you first play NHL 13, you will be asked what your favorite NHL team is. From that point on, the game is customized based on the team. The team will automatically be selected when you play a game, so make sure to choose a team you actually like. Let me be very clear, the team you choose will dictate what you get in your starter pack for Ultimate Team in terms of jerseys and players.
I chose the Florida Panthers, so I was able to nab 5 players from the team, as well as the jerseys for them. Last year, I couldn’t really get into Ultimate Team because I didn’t know any of my players. This year its nice to see players from my favorite team make my roster immediately after joining and opening my starter pack of cards. Ultimate Team also rewards you for checking the league each day, with a higher bonus for consecutive days. This is a small, but nice addition, especially for those who don’t want to spend real money upgrading their team.
NHL Moments Live is a cool feature which will be updated throughout the season. Basically, you are given a task that will require an impressive feat. This could be scoring a hat trick with a player, or changing the course of history by winning a game that was lost in real life. Over 25 of these moments are already included in the game, and will be updated as the season progresses (assuming of course that we do get a NHL season this year.) You’ll be able to pick from 4 different difficulties from Rookie all the way to Superstar and can gain EA Pucks for winning each moment. The higher the difficulty, the more EA Pucks you can gain. I should mention that some of these moments are extremely challenging.
NHL 13 has found a way to introduce many new elements into the game, and improved nearly every part of it. Improved speed, camera angles, features, animations, commentary just to name some starters. Be a GM mode should also be a huge hit, which also allows up to 750 members to join! Many improvements were also made to Be a Pro and to the EA Sports Hockey League, along with the addition of the daytime Winter Classic makes this game a must have for any Hockey fan. NHL 13 is impressive, and continues to improve with each year. True Performance Skating is definitely revolutionary when it comes to the NHL series, and makes NHL 13 shine.
A retail copy of NHL 13 was provided by EA Sports.