By Joseph Phung
Score: 9.5 out of 10
Reviewed on: Xbox 360 (also available for PS3)
Fans of the EA Sports NHL series will be pleased with all the additions in this year’s game. With NHL 13, the development team at EA Canada has created another stellar hockey experience and comes a step closer to making the perfect hockey game.
Receiving an overhaul this year is the skating engine, which now looks and feels much more realistic. With True Performance Skating, it works in the following three ways: explosiveness, top end speed and momentum.
Explosiveness is how quickly a player can accelerate when being stationary or while gliding on the ice. Top end speed is basically replicating how fast a player can skate. This is more noticeable with speedy players such as Phil Kessel who can easily breeze up the ice when given space. Momentum relates to the physics and as a result, players can no longer turn on a dime when skating full speed.
Another nice addition with True Performance Skating is being able to skate backwards at anytime, which opens up new creative opportunities with the puck that weren’t possible before.
The development team at EA Canada devoted a lot of time to improving the gameplay for NHL 13 and it really shows as matchups against the AI are challenging, even on the default difficulty.
With the new EA Sports Hockey IQ, the opposition is more aware of what’s around them and does a much better job of identifying offensive and defensive situations, so you’ll have to be on your A-game whenever you play against the AI as it’ll capitalize on any mistakes you make.
The goalies have also benefited with IQ as they’re now more efficient on identifying potential scoring threats and even when beaten, they may also do a variety of desperation saves to prevent a goal from going in. Although the goalies in NHL 13 are generally better, they can sometimes easily be beaten with a top corner wrist shot just like in last year’s game.
Some other complaints about the gameplay include the lack of penalties called during a match even when the penalty slider is set to maximum. Also, the high passing accuracy of the AI opponent feels cheap as it’s common to see them end a match with an accuracy rate of 85 percent or higher. Hopefully these issues will be addressed with a downloadable tuner update or patch.
One of the new modes that’s going to get plenty of playing time with users is GM Connected, which allows you to play, manage and coach with or against friends in your own online NHL league for up to 25 seasons. There’s also a mobile app that you can download for your smartphone to help keep you in the loop of all the stats and transactions happening in any of your leagues.
If you’re looking for more of a solo experience, the Be A GM mode is still available for play. Not much has changed from last year other than the revamped GM intelligence, which now makes more realistic decisions for AI teams.
Another mode that’s worth playing is the new NHL Moments Live. Here, you’ll replay various scenarios from last season and most of the time the goal is to change the outcome of each moment. This isn’t an easy feat as some scenarios are challenging, such as playing Sam Gagner’s eight-point game against the Blackhawks, but this time you’ll have to get three points with five minutes left in the third period in order to break the record for most points in one game.
Once a scenario is successfully completed, you’ll be awarded EA Pucks, which can be used to purchase packs of cards in the game’s addictive Hockey Ultimate Team mode.
Once again, EA Sports has released a great game with NHL 13. The gameplay has seen lots of improvements with its new skating engine and challenging AI. With the addition of modes such as GM Connected and NHL Moments Live, it gives fans a reason to keep playing.
Joseph Phung is a freelance writer based in Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @TheGamer2400