When I woke up Tuesday morning, I knew it was finally the day when EA's newest hockey game came out. Although NHL 12 was a fantastic game, I was growing tired of all of the glitches and bugs that killed NHL 12's experience, I was looking forward for a fresh start. I had to first get through my classes and a three page paper in order to be able to go pick it up. After picking up my game from Best Buy, I brought it home and finally unpackaged it. I put it in and started playing it until midnight, analyzing every bit of it. I am happy to report that EA's NHL 13 is the best hockey game that EA has made this generation, and the best hockey game aside from the fan favorite NHL '94.
NHL 13 is a fantastic game. From the moment you boot up the game, your treated to a nice little intro and the title menus, which by the way, load relatively faster than last year's menus. You are able to pick your favorite team, which of course is our hometown favorite Florida Panthers. By doing that, the menus are themed around the Panthers with HUT (Hockey Ultimate Team) cards roaming around the main menu showing the Panthers current roster. The Play Now matchup will also automatically feature the Panthers as the home team, which is a nice feature. But let's jump right to what everyone wants to really hear about: the gameplay.
NHL 13's gameplay is nothing like you've played in NHL 12 and it is all because of what EA calls "True Performance Skating". This term basically means that your player will skate like real NHL players instead of an arcade like feel to the game. This game is a lot more fast paced than past irritations and has true physics. For example, if you have Kris Versteeg skating at full speed towards the opposition, it will be hard for you to change your direction. Based off of this, you need to have a good sense of when to use your speed. It takes a while to get used to it, but the result is a more realistic game.
EA Sports Hockey IQ is what they call their enhanced A.I. system, and let me be the first to tell you that the A.I. is better than it has been in the past. Much better. The most notable position of these is goalies. In NHL 12, the goalies would rarely read cross crease passes and one timer goals and most of the time would result in a goal. In NHL 13, the goalies are harder than ever to score on, and that is a good thing. It adds more challenge into the game, and forces you to use teamwork to score goals. As I earlier noted in the article, most players in NHL 12 knew how to score so-called glitch goals on A.I. goalies, such as a one timer on the face-off circle, a simple wrist shot, and others. Not anymore from what I have seen. If you were one of those players, then you have to change your game-plan and adapt to NHL 13. This excites me because I would be playing in some of the greatest games in NHL 12 and the opposition would just score a simple glitch goal to end the game. Not anymore.
NHL 13 has hundreds of hours of replay value packed inside its various game modes. Among those modes are two brand new to the franchise and they add tremendous value to the game. The first is borrowed from the Madden NFL franchise and it is called NHL Moments Live. These are individual moments that are mostly taken from last season that puts you in the middle of last years greatest games. For example, you take control of Sam Gargner of the Edmonton Oilers and your tasked with repeating his eight point night against the Chicago Blackhawks. These moments can be very challenging and offer four different difficulty settings to play on. If the season is not completely cancelled, then new moments will be added throughout the season to play through. The second mode is called GM Connected. This is basically another version of Madden NFL's Dynasty mode. In the mode, for those unfamiliar, you are placed in an online league of thirty teams. Each team will be user controlled and can have up to 750 players in one single league. So, for example, you could be the GM of the Florida Panthers and shape the roster the way you want it to be, while you could have your friends play on the team as various Panthers and lead your team to victory. This mode has a lot of potential and will only grow into a bigger community as more players get the game. Along with these are the standard Play Now, offline GM Mode, Shootout, Hockey Ultimate Team, and of course the ever popular EASHL mode, which I am going to talk about for a few.
EASHL stands for EA Sports Hockey League. It stands as arguably the most popular mode among NHL games. Basically, you are a single player on an online team with a player that you create. As you level up by winning games and contributing to the game with team play and scoring goals and assists, you gain experience points, which you can put in one of many statistical categories, such as Offensive Awareness, Shot Blocking, Speed, and numerous others. Through each month is the regular season, where you play teams and develop a Win/Loss/OT Loss record. The last week is usually the playoffs, where you have to win four straight games in order to become one of many "champions" of the month and get a special pre-game ceremony for the following month. It is one of the best game modes I have played in any game and it keeps you coming back for more.
Presentation wise, the game has ever improving graphics. Just when you think the facial animations or players or even the ice could not look any better, it turns out that it could. NHL 13 is a very pretty game. The soundtrack is one of the best in the series, and does not have one bad song on it.
Overall, NHL 13 is a fantastic game. It is the best hockey game of this generation and one of the best of all time. The gameplay keeps you coming back for more, the presentation is top notch, and the physics and A.I. are much improved from the previous year. NHL 13 is worth a purchase from any hockey fan.
P.S. On a side note, if anyone wants to join my EASHL club that has an Xbox 360, my gamer-tag is ii Cha0s and the name of the club is "Florida Sabrecats". If anyone wants to join my GM Connected League, the name of it is "FLAD". Hope to talk to all of you online!