NHL '13 Review

New winter classic stadium

Claude Giroux takes a shot on the Rangers in the new Winter Classic stadium

This year marks the twenty-second installment of EA Sports long-running and award winning NHL franchise of games. After three consecutive years of winning multiple “Sports Game of the Year” awards one would think EA would stick with the base formula of the game and continue with the numerous but mostly minor changes to the game, but that’s not what EA chose to do. The guys up at EA Sports Canada have decided to completely overhaul the most fundamental part of a hockey game, the skating. EA has taken the speed and the control of the skating and made it much more realistic in a feature called “True Performance Skating”. Smaller, faster players are now actually faster than the larger, slower players that in prior editions of the game could easily close ground even if their speed rating was 10 points lower. Players can no longer go from full speed to stop on a dime, turn, and immediately reach top speed again. Now if you have to change directions from full speed you notice, along with the nice new ice spray effect, that your player’s size and speed carries momentum that makes you take a second to stop and that it will take that player a few strides to get back up to speed. This completely changes the way you have to play defense in the game, for the last few games I use a high-pressure defense and would go for as many body checks as possible because I knew that if I missed that I could either catch right back up to the player I missed or that one of my AI players would be able to easily move to get in position to stop the puck carrier. You now have to strategically plan your checks and your positioning when the other team comes in on the rush or sets up their offense. This gives people who may not really know the sport well outside of the video games, an insight into the strategies of NHL hockey. The momentum your player carries now effects their shooting as well, when skating at full stride a shot will have a little extra speed behind it but will not be as accurate as in years past.

For the people who do have a good knowledge of hockey, EA has included more in depth game strategies, now to go along with the options for your forecheck, there are options for your neutral zone defense along with a slider to decide whether your AI players will follow your forecheck strategy or your neutral zone strategy, along with sliders covering your defensemen’s tendencies to pinch or stay back, dump and chase or carry into the zone, and more. The AI players will also now properly reach their sticks out to deflect passes that in prior versions they would just allow to pass by when as a player you would think they would be able to reach and be frustrated when they did not try.

Goalies have also received a pretty significant upgrade. In every other game the goalies had a set amount of save animations and if they went into a certain position that was it and a goal or save was determined at that point even if it was close and a real-life goalie would be able to make a minor adjustment to make the save. Now instead of being full body animations each of the goalies limbs are individually animated and they can make those quick adjustments that can turn a goal into a save along with adding in more desperation saves and an improved AI which helps them more accurately anticipate shots and passes.

As far as game modes go all the modes from NHL ’12 return, including an all new slate of legends to play as. You now have 2 options for outdoor games based on the 2011 and 2012 versions of the NHL Winter Classic, a night game at Pittsburgh’s football stadium, or a day game at Philadelphia’s baseball stadium. Both games give you the option to use the teams that respective year’s Winter Classic or to choose any 2 teams you would like. There is a pair of new modes this year, GM Connected and NHL Moments Live. NHL Moments Live allows you to reenact big games or portions of games from last season in the NHL and will update throughout the (hopefully) upcoming season. GM Connected is their new online version of the Be a GM (Franchise) mode that also incorporates a bit of the Online Team Play mode. You can play with up to 25 other people, all allowed to be a member of each of the 30 NHL team, with up to 6 people playing in a game together against either AI or 1 to 6 human controlled players from another team using the actual NHL players and schedule. In Be a GM mode they have once again improved the AI trade logic to hopefully not allow you to pull off any crazy lopsided trades with the computer controlled teams as well as putting in a few more tabs in the trade menu to better show you what players a team is willing to trade for or who they are willing to trade away.

The presentation has received some minor changes, players look more like their real world selves, between the whistle segments are more like an actual NHL game, and they put in a few extra replay angles. They also have added a new game play camera angle called “True Broadcast” which emulates the camera angle seen when watching an NHL game on TV but in my opinion that does not make for a good view for playing a video game but would be nice for demo mode.

All the improvements have in my opinion made NHL ’13 the best hockey simulation of this console generation, and the most realistic hockey sim of all time. This was one of my most anticipated games of the year as the NHL series has been for each of the last five years and it did not disappoint.

is a writer, pod-caster, and the resident hater of things (especially Wii) on One-Quest.com. Drootin is a total sports nerd and sports gamer, spending the majority of his time either watching sports or listening to sports radio, often while playing some kind of sports game. He's also a HUGE pro wrestling fan and often tweets during RAW and Pay Per Views.

You can Email Drootin or follow Drootin on Twitter @IAmDroot or Facebook

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