When the first glimpses of the NHL 13 trailer were released during E3 2012, the hockey world of EA Sports was instantly gratified. When the trailer dropped on June 5th, we were all immediately excited to hear that the EA Sports development team gave the boot to their “three year physics engine”, which basically says that for three year periods, the games will stay the same with minor tweaks in between. I’m sure we can all remember how big the gameplay difference was from NHL10 to NHL11, being that NHL10 was the last year of a three year stint. This meant the NHL11 physics system would be completely new, and so it was. But as all gamers do, we try to find ways to take advantage of the game and exploit different gaming styles to produce the most efficient style of gaming that keeps us winning but also keeps us happy. And a style that kept us winning and happy in NHL11 and NHL12 was the ubiquitous 2-on-1 goals, sprinkled with tremendous breakaway opportunities that usually led to the lamp being lit. It only took a few months after release day for everybody to catch on. Once the winter and spring months hit, it seemed as if the glitches grew exponentially on a weekly basis. Gamers voiced their frustrations on YouTube, and writers revoked their benevolent views that they happily penned back in the fall months. I myself wrote an article on the NHL12 let down and it can be found at www.vioniq.com. Of course, the flaws I wrote about are simply not acceptable for games, especially for the colossal EA Sports, which annually puts out games that are considered the gold standard for the sports genre.
The unofficial intergalactic gamers union (aka all gamers) knew that the NHL13 game had to be nothing less than spectacular to win back the support of its fans, and with EA Sports running around with its tail between its legs after a rough 2012 year, it was going to be just that - spectacular.
For NHL13, EA Sports started off correctly. Instead of making a black ops style decision of who makes the cover, they decided to give the choice to the fans. This strategy hyped up the audience and gave EA the attention they needed to help promote a fantastic game. Claude Giroux won the cover, which still seems like witchcraft to me, being that the whole planet hates the Flyers, aside from Philadelphia that is.
Anyhow, the game itself delivers. An overhauled IQ system and performance skating physics generator makes the game feel tremendously better. It makes the gamer feel the actual presence of players on the ice, rather than just make us feel like there is random AI skating around as obstacles on the ice. Superstars like Sidney Crosby and Pavel Datsyuk now have a time to shine in NHL13, unlike any other game previously released, being that the traits and attributes actually contribute to the overhauled gameplay. For example, players in NHL12 rated as an 83 could still stickhandle like the crazily rated Dastyuk, 93, which makes no sense. Another example would be players who are listed as grinders, with ratings up to 80, could still easily score as much as the ridiculous Crosby, 95. That doesn’t happen in NHL13, as it seems that the “no BS” system was employed this year at EA HQ. Having players like Crosby and Datsyuk on the ice in this game actually produces instant effects. Not only in goal scoring but with puck possession and with time on attack stats as well, similar to how it happens in real life. Furthermore, 2-on-1’s are cut down to basically non-existent; being that the goalies now position themselves how they’re supposed to. The defensemen also showed up for NHL13, which is brand new for the NHL franchise being that past games felt like playing the All-Star game, where defensemen haphazardly chip away lazily at the offense. In NHL13, the defensemen post up with actual IQ, and now mark up on men that do not have the puck, which is brand new for this year. Don’t even try sneaking those dinky passes across the crease, it won’t happen. Don’t bother trying to dance with the puck in the slot; you’ll get lit up by EA’s new boastful, egotistical defensemen. However, it is now easier to score from longer range, which makes the game more realistic, but requires an immediate change of how you, the gamer, plays this game. Screens are more common as well, and with snipers like Ovechkin and Malkin on the ice, you better watch those corners. As a matter of fact, you better watch everything, because NHL13 is a game you don’t want to forget.
In the end, the NHL13 game is a huge success. From the cover vote, to the player interaction, to the overhauled physics engines, all the way down to the limited edition game releases. I commend EA Sports for bouncing back from a rough year, and for finally opening the market to the consumers who ultimately helped EA Sports craft the game. The gameplay is exquisite, the intensity has shot through the roof, and the community keeps growing annually. Granted, there are still flaws to this video game - but let’s keep in mind that there is no such thing as a perfect video game, and that the opinion of a good game depends on its gamers. However, EA Sports did their best to make everyone happy, and they did a solid job. The NHL franchise has been around for almost 20 years, and is still a developing game. Year by year they make progress, and before you know it, the game will be perfect within a next couple years. After all, life is a work in progress. This game could not have come at a better time: with the NHL Lockout looming to be a year long, you might want to go out and buy this game. It’s going to be a long winter without the real NHL, but it will go faster with this fabulous game. NHL13 is a must buy for all, unless you have triskaidekaphobia that is.
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