posted by @HeyItsKamo
I was going to write a review of NHL 13 right when it came out, but I was too busy having a fucking brain aneurysm due to the shit Gary Bettman and the owners pulled this fall- those assholes LOCKED US OUT! AGAIN!!
Really, the only upside to the lockout is we didn’t have to see Jaromir Jagr in a disgusting Dallas Stars jersey…
Anyways, it was announced last week that the NHL lockout is over, a new collective bargaining agreement has been ratified, and the coolest sport has returned, albeit with a shortened schedule. And yes, I HAVE been looking into getting tickets for the Buffalo Sabres home opener >:]
No complaints on my part for the shortened season, I’m just glad to have hockey back. If anything, this 48 or so game schedule will be more entertaining and exciting to watch than the usual 82 we get. Think about it- less games means teams are going to need to win as many games as possible to keep their clubs playoff contention alive. The Sabres dropped 32 games last season; 16-32 isn’t going to get them to the post-season this time around. Plus, if a player gets injured (as players tend to do while playing a sport where you toss people onto SOLID ICE, wear shoes with sharp blades on the bottom, and shoot vulcanized rubber discs at each others faces), well that right there could mean the end of a teams winning streak and, essentially, the season- a three or four week injury means a player’s going to miss a quarter of the games!
Every game is going to be like the playoffs- our favorite players are back and excited, and so are the fans. We won’t get that mid-season lag that usually takes place between, I don’t know, December and the All-Star Game. It’s going to be non-stop action… except for Tim Thomas, unless you count eating pizza after pizza after pizza “non-stop action”.
Gosh, so what better time to talk about the best installment of this award winning franchise of games than now?
Figuring this was all the hockey I was going to get this year, I went out and grabbed 13 as soon as it came out. To be honest, this marks the first time since I was a teenager that I actually paid money for an EA Sports title. The same sports games with only an updated roster and a few slim upgrades to the actual gameplay was not appealing to me- I’d rather spend my $60 on a game I haven’t played before.
In the case of NHL 13… well, I’ve played this game a LOT. And it wasn’t just because I was a hockey junkie that needed his sweet sweet fix- this game is actually really good. I played NHL 12, and I really appreciate all the improvements that the developers made in terms of in-game mechanics, online play, and game modes in the latest installment.
The first noticeable update (besides the graphics overhaul) was the new True Performance Skating feature, which uses physics, motion capture, and completely changes the skating dynamic compared to previous titles. I’ve found myself on more than one occasion actually getting mad at the game because of how well the skating physics work. “What the fuck!? Why can’t I pass the puck to my teammates back-hand and then have him deliver a blistering slapshot by turning his body 180 degrees in less than half a second? I could do that in all the previous NHL titles… this some bullshit…”
The skating in this game is as true to life as it can get, that is until next year when the developers overhaul and improve the mechanics again, but I digress. I feel like I have some control, but then when I try and, say, turn too fast while chasing the puck, I lose my edge and fuck myself up right into the boards. Best case scenario in that kind of situation: my speed has been lost, I’ve got no control of the skater and, to make matters worse, I’m way behind the play and my scoring opportunity is gone. This is great if you’re in to games that deliver tons of realism because it really forces you to maintain control of yourself and learn the complex skating system, but it’s bad if you’re a fan of arcade style hockey games (NHL Hitz, anyone?), where the final scores look more like a NBA match than a hockey game.
Using the left joystick controls your skaters direction, which I admit took a bit of time to master. I like to think that I’m better than a novice when it comes to skating at this point, although natural gamer instinct will take over from time to time and I’ll still try and pull off impossible tasks. One feature that I really like is the ability to skate backward with as much control as you can with skating forward. I play this title on the Xbox, so by holding down the LT button, the player you’re controlling turns around one hundred and eighty degrees and skates backward… awesome. I use this most often when I’m in control of the puck, as it’s easier to trick the opposing defenders on which direction you’re actually going to skate- I’ve had a lot of “oh shit, he went that-a way” cartoon-esque moments with opponents, which lead to big goals. It also comes in handy when on defense, especially if you find yourself in a two-on-one disadvantage situation.
There’s also a lot more puck control in this title, in terms of what can be done with passing to teammates or deking with the puck on your own stick. Again, it takes a bit of getting used to in terms of the dekes that are at your disposal, but once you master them the game becomes a lot more fun (and high scoring). For the past few months, I’ve pretty much exclusively played Be A Pro mode -a mode of gameplay where you create and control one player on a team for an entire season- and in 72 games I’ve been able to rack up 109 goals, thanks in a large part to the upgraded deking system. Combining what I’ve learned with the new True Performance Skating and the returning Skill Stick feature (true-to-life stick handling of the puck) it’s pretty much lights out for anyone I face.
I’ve enjoyed playing normal exhibition games (Play Now and Online Versus Play), but again, I’m a big fan of the Be A Pro mode. In this type of play, you create a player (this is the only player that you control on the team) and throw him on the NHL squad of your choice- the rest is up to you. I’ve played hockey for more than half of my life, all of it as a goalie, so naturally I decided to make a Right Wing playmaker with a taste for big hits and even bigger dekes- being a goalie sucks. The better you play and the more challenges you complete (score 50 goals, get 100 assists, etc.), the more experience points you earn, which are used to improve your players statistics. Stats rage from offense (wrist shot accuracy, passing accuracy, slapshot power, etc.), to defense (body checking, fighting, etc.), to all around abilities (speed, agility, durability, etc.). I’ve spent the majority of my XP on body checking, wrist shot accuracy, and speed- a combo that, when used properly, put my created Pro at the top of the scoring list for my first season of Be A Pro play.
Another huge improvement over previous NHL titles is the introduction of a new AI system, the EA Sports Hockey IQ. It’s a real jerk at first- the computer kicked my ass game after game until I learned the controls and was able to start working the puck and run some plays on the ice. Defensive computer opponents are much better, often times poking the puck away from either myself or one of my computer comrades, or straight up flattening us with a body check. Goalies are also revamped this time around, making them smarter and quicker- previously impossible saves are now the norm, as goaltenderss can perform “desperation saves” to keep the puck out of the net, but that’s not to say they can’t be scored on. Goalies are now smart enough to look for the pass in a two-on-one situation, making one-timer goals more rare. Damn…
NHL Moments Live, one of the new features in NHL 13, is probably my favorite game mode in this title (besides playing against the Boston Bruins and taking penalty after penalty for cross checking that mutant Chara- go back to the hole in Chernobyl that you spawned in!). You get to digitally relive a variety of exciting, true to life moments from the 2011-12 season, as well as a select few from the past, and play them out on your own. Some of these moments include: “With 20 minutes left in the third period, score 1 goal as Steven Stamkos while playing against the Winnipeg Jets” which is like replaying the game last season where Stamkos scored his 60th goal of the 2011-12 season. Most of the Moments want you to re-play the event just as it happened, but a few give you a shot to change history- defeat a team to knock them out of the playoff race, etc.
Being a goalie myself, my favorite NHL Moments to play are the ones that put you between the pipes. While each Moment has a different back story, the main objective is usually: don’t fuck up/allow any goals, or get a damn shutout. This is easier said than done, especially when you crank up the difficulty to the superstar level. After completing the Moment, you earn a set amount of “EA pucks” for your account- the amount of pucks you can win increase with the difficulty… bastards.
At first, I had no idea what the hell the pucks were for, and then I started up a Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT) campaign and quickly learned that pucks are the most important thing. Pucks are used to buy packs of digital cards in the HUT game mode, which can be used or traded, depending on your teams need. For example, my first pack of cards contained a few NHLers -Nate Gerbe, Mike Knuble, Martin Biron- and a lot of junior players -Tuomos Pihlman, Eetu Poysti, Gabriel Dumont- so those are the players on my roster. I can set the lines up however I want, and of course I can trade and buy more packs for more players. Each player needs a contract (3 game contract, 9 game, etc.), so you need to keep playing and earning pucks so you can buy more packs and get more contract cards. Also in the decks are cards that give you players better skills (plus 5 offensive awareness, team captain, plus 10 agility, etc.), but be careful- in order to get more pucks… well, you need to win games. My current record is 4-8-0, so I don’t have as many pucks as I would like. It doesn’t matter though- each game is different as the teams you face are also a menagerie of random professional and junior hockey players.
I don’t really have anything negative to say about NHL 13– it’s better than I expected. The player animations and environment are the closest thing to playing hockey besides actually heading to the rink and lacing up the skates. The game modes are fun and, despite the repetitive play, never get boring- although, that just might be the hockey fanatic in me talking. The music, sounds, and play call are all very well done, as are the controls- even the fighting system has improved over last years release. Random glitches (if a player on your squad ties up an opponent along the boards and you try and check the opposing player, you glitch right through the boards and into the stands) and less than accurate player models are my only beefs with this game (Thomas Vanek’s face looks like a fucked up Igor monster or something).
If you haven’t already, skate to your local game store and pick this one up.
Like this article? Hate it? Let Mike know in the comments section!