Lockouts are becoming pretty much the norm in hockey these days and the prospect of an NHL season is looking less and less likely. So here to save the day and give you the next best thing is Electronic Arts with their latest entry in the NHL franchise, NHL 13. The series has been firing on all cylinders and the big question is can they keep up that momentum.
One of the things that has really impressed me over the years is the fluidity of the movement on the ice. The movement and the way the puck reacts to the slightest change in momentum are incredible. Out of all of the EA Sports games I think the NHL game gets the basic fundamentals of its respective sport down better then the rest. Its one of those games that a friend will walk in the room and ask, “I thought the NHL was locked out.”
So lets talk about what’s new because of course that’s what most people are interested in when they are reading a review of a sports game. One of the most notable upgrades relates to my first comment about getting the fundamentals. EA is touting it as True Performance Skating but really all that is, is a fancy way to say the movement in the game is improved tremendously. Now there is a greater emphasis on your speed, direction, and skating skills that directly impacts your ability to stop, shoot, and pass. It’s not something that will jump out at you if you’re new to the series but for NHL veterans this is a pretty significant shift.
Another new addition to the game is the NHL Moments Live that for those who have played the Madden series in the past will be very familiar with. In a nutshell this is a mode that allows you to play some of the historical moments from past seasons and asks you to recreate the magic. They are pretty specific tasks but I always appreciate them because they can be good quick clean fun.
The last big addition this year is the GM Connected mode, which allows you to take your General Manager skills online and compete with live people rather then the computer. The mode is very similar to what we have seen EA do with their Madden franchise so if you enjoy that, this will be a welcome addition. From my experience in the game I had a tough time finding a quality league to join. This mode really only really works when you join a league of people you actually know who will actually invest the time in the mode.
The new additions to this year’s game are nowhere near as substantial as we have seen in years past. However the good news is the stellar modes from last year are still around which includes the incredibly deep career and franchise mode. There is enough content in NHL 13 to totally keep you occupied if we end up not having a real NHL season this year.
Visually I have always thought that the NHL series has been at the top of its class and that holds true with NHL 13. One of my favorite things about NHL 13 was the interaction between skater and the ice. I mentioned it earlier but it’s worth repeating, the animation in this game is incredible. Combine that with a steady frame rate and well detailed player models and you have one of the best looking sports games on consoles right now.
I don’t believe I have missed an NHL game on this generation of consoles. So needless to say I have been getting my virtual hockey fix in. In NHL 13 I couldn’t help but feel a little underwhelmed after an hour or two. Besides the new skating mechanics that I am a big fan of the rest of the game feels a little to familiar to NHL 12. There isn’t that one new feature that I can point my finger to and say that really excited me. There is no denying that NHL 13 is a great game of hockey but it doesn’t have that same magic that I felt when I played NHL 12 last year. For me the series has always needed to deepen its career mode similar to a NBA 2K or MLB The Show that I think would really resonate with fans over the long haul.
There is no disputing that NHL 13 is a fantastic game of hockey. For me though it was missing that big new feature that would make it feel significantly different from last years outing. And as good as the new skating feels and the new modes are, they aren’t enough to keep this game on the same high pedestal of NHL 12. If you missed last years game then NHL 13 would be a great point to jump in at, however for those still enjoying last years game I would say there isn’t enough here to warrant the upgrade.