NHL 13 Review
NHL 13 might be the only hockey game we get this year with the NHL’s ongoing lockout situation. With that said, NHL 13 is a big improvement over last years iteration, featuring a new skating engine and plenty of game modes.
EA Canada has shown the ability to produce amazing hockey games as owners of the game for multiple years can tell you. NHL 13 really stands out above the rest due to its new skating physics, also known as “true performance skating.” With these physics, players start and stop more realistically and have to use acceleration to get going. If you’re using a bigger guy like Chara, you have to keep in mind that it’ll take him longer to get to top speed. Agility also matters in this year game, as the more you deke, the slower you’ll go. On the flip side, if you go in a straight line, you’ll go faster but lose control, a tradeoff you’ll have to balance throughout the game. The game loses its arcade feel of going full speed in under a second and the ability to fly around the ice stopping on a dime if someone tries to blow past you. Players acceleration will take a while to get used to when you first start the game up, as it is such a big change in the way the game plays. You will think the players move sluggishly, but it’s really just the engine combining speed, acceleration and agility.
Realism is at the center of this year’s game. Goalies are now good thanks to them being able to track more than just the puck. In previous games, one timers were the easy way to score. This was due to the goalie only following the puck even when there were two or more skaters coming at him. An easy pass and shoot would get the goalie every time. This year the goaltenders track all of your players and pretty much eliminate one-timers from your offense. In the multiple games I’ve played, I had one successful one timer, a stark contrast from years past. Goalies are much better overall in the sense that they seem to use all of their limbs instead of canned animations that led to easy goals. Ryan Miller has made multiple sprawling saves against me that looked like the real thing.
As I praise realism, I noticed some unrealistic things happening in NHL 13, none of them should affect your enjoyment of the game though. The computer doesn’t ice the puck. This is a weird overlook since icing happened at a normal pace in previous games. I’ve seen icing one time, and it was because I missed a pass in my Create-A-Pro game mode. Another oddity is that the computer is never offside. It would be understandable if it happened a few times a game but in the real NHL you see offsides whistles all the time. Hardly a deal-breaker but worth mentioning nonetheless. The last quirk I noticed was players standing around a live puck but unwilling to pick it up. This has only happened twice in multiple games played, but neither team went after the puck until I touched it.
My biggest gripe with the game however is the stale, re-used commentating the game has had since 2009 and maybe longer. It’s not the duo of Gary Thorne and Bill Clement that’s the problem, it's that they never have anything new to say. I’ve been hearing that my direction finder has been off for years and other commentary has been used over and over again for far too long. After a Penguins vs Flyers matchup, one of the announcers said each team has 2 Stanley Cup victories. That would be fine if you were talking about NHL 2008, but the Penguins won their third Stanley Cup in 2009, meaning the commentary of their rivalry game hasn’t been touched since then.
The amount of game modes in NHL 13 can rival almost any sports game. You get your standard exhibition, online versus, Be-A-Pro, Winter Classic, shootout and season modes. Some new game modes include GM Connected, which works like Madden 13’s Connected Careers which each online person being able to control a team or a player. Unlike Madden 13, you can have multiple players and a GM on the team, bringing a whole layer of strategy if you have a lot of hockey friends that can all play online at the same time. Sticking to GM only is probably the way to go, like in Madden. You can also skip the GM Connected mode and just play your franchise offline, giving you full control of everything about your team. Hockey Ultimate Team returns from last year bringing new cards and the like. This is a fun mode if you like Fantasy Hockey as you can build a team up how you like as long as you have a player’s card. NHL Moments Live is another game type that works well with NHL (especially of there is a season this year.) They included classic moments from years past in order to offset a potential NHL lockout.
NHL 13 is a blast online. As my favorite way to play the game, I was happy to see the online still function excellently. I didn’t have any lag or connection problems and the new engine shines against other people around the world.
NHL 13 is an excellent, groundbreaking entry into the series critically acclaimed hockey series. If you love hockey, or are looking for a reason to forget all about the NHL lockout, NHL 13 is a must have game.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]