Hockey gamers are spoiled. EA SPORTS has created one of the best series in sports, and general, gaming to ever be released. In our NHL 12 review I stated that “NHL 12 is the best hockey videogame ever created” in my opening line. I think I need to go back and update that to read, “NHL 12 WAS the best hockey game ever created, until NHL 13 was released and improved on every single aspect of the series.” While many sports games seem to update either the gameplay or the features, NHL 13 improves on the on-ice and the off-ice. The game is a major leap forward from NHL 12. Madden 13 plays a great game of football, but seems to lack the off-field bells and whistles that gamers have grown accustomed to. After spending two weeks with Madden 13 I began to worry about NHL 13. Those fears were put to rest within two minutes of seeing the menu options in NHL 13. No other game matches the options in NHL 13. You can truly play the game the way you want to play it.
NHL 13 is a 5 star games not only raining the bar for sports games, but games of every genre.
NHL 12 played a strong game of hockey, but when compared to NHL 13 it looks like a peewee game. The AI in NHL 13 is leaps and bounds above NHL 12 on both sides of the ice. I found that not only were my CPU teammates playing realistically, but the CPU opponents were smarter. Their are so many subtle changes to the AI, here are just a few:
- The CPU will look for open men in the slot and cover them.
- CPU teammates will move to open ice.
- Goalies anticipate passes through the crease much better in NHL 13.
- Forwards will do a better job of covering the point when defensemen jump into the play.
- Defensemen do a better job pushing players to the outside lanes.
- Backchecking CPU players will pick up open men, and not just go to the puck.
The goalies look and play much better than in years past. I found goalies coming out to cut down the angle in a very realistic manner. This key piece of AI adjustment makes the game play that much more realistic. In fact, the goalie movement adjustments are the most noticeable upgrade in NHL 13.
Passes are no longer tape-to-tape and if you are a gamer who likes to jam on the L3 button to make your player hustle down the ice, you might as well forget getting any assists. Players need to be under control to make quality passes. Shooting use similar logic. Big windups for slapshots have a lower chance of hitting the net than a well executed wrist shot. The shots look very realistic and nothing beats the feeling of flying down the wing and picking the corner with a quick snapshot. Pucks deflect off players and sticks in front of the net just like they do in real-life.
The graphics in NHL 13 are a significant upgrade over NHL 12. The players, the goalies and even the rinks look much better. The massive choice of camera angles gives gamers the ability to play NHL 13 in a view that fits their needs. I love the new camera angles and after a bit of learning curve to move from the up/down view I have been using for years, I have been able to make the switch. The menus and off-ice screens haven’t received a huge upgrade, but many slight tweaks have been made. If you really want to see NHL 13 shine. Fire up a 1-0 practice mode and take shots on the goalie. Glove saves look amazing realistic for the first time. A shot heading top corner only to have the netminder flash leather and snag the puck in the glove looks amazingly realistic. Skating motions are improved and gamers will notice the difference quickly.
No sports game offers the modes available in NHL 13. The new Connected GM mode, HUT, EASHL and other modes each offer hours and hours of strong gameplay. As I sat down to choose where to get started, I was almost overwhelmed by the number of choices. NHL moments Live allows gamers to play moments from the current season as well as those from the past. The only issue I had with the historical mode was having current players on the roster with my legends. For example, I’d have loved to have the old Penguin or Oiler players skating with Lemieux and Gretzky during their moments. The season modes that NHL series veterans have enjoyed are all there, so no need to worry (like Madden 13 gamers are).
I’ll spend more time with the Connected GM mode and write up my thoughts in a future post.
NHL 13 is a five star title and sets the bar high for not only all sports games, but games of every genre.