NHL 13 Review
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NHL 14 takes the ice in a new way, and it brings with it retro and new players alike with NHL 94 Mode. Even if the menus are slow and the AI is stupid, 14 is still a strong outing that any hardcore fan, as well as the retro and new, will gladly pick up and play.
- NHL 94 coaxes new and retro players to the ice
- Live the Life digs deeper into player's lifestyle
- Fighting is a right, not a privilege
- Slow menus bog down RPG-like experience
- AI is shallow and unsophisticated
- Collision Engine simplifies gameplay
EA Sports has worked hard lately to make its sports games even more realistic. With updates to yearly franchises, including FIFA and Madden, the sports games are getting more than cosmetic upgrades. There's a clear mission to make our favorite sports titles play and look like the real deal. For the longtime fan of these games, the realistic gameplay is likely a welcome addition, but there's also that risk of alienating newcomers. For NHL 13, the very basic change to the skating system is enough to throw off even the most diehard loyalist. If you give it enough time, you'll find this is the most realistic--for better or worse--hockey experience to date.
It took me several hours to enjoy NHL 13. I must say, the game disappointed me out of a box, and that's saying a lot for someone who puts EA Sports' NHL series right up there with the greatest sports titles ever. The skating mechanics are dreadfully slow, there are some issues with hit mechanics, and animations are occasionally off. It feels like you are controlling a tugboat instead of an agile athlete. I don't consider myself an elite hockey gamer, but I always do pretty well in any sports game. However, I was surprised at how difficult NHL 13 is in the first few play sessions. Is that a bad thing? No, not at all. By the end of my time reviewing NHL 13 I felt a sense of accomplishment by learning how to properly skate and use my teammates' terrific A.I. I can't say this is my favorite NHL game, but EA Spots laid some new groundwork this year and future editions will surely improve upon these basics.
True Performance Skating is the biggest change to the series and one you'll recognize instantly if you've played any of the titles in the past. It's a physics-based system that replicates real-life skating style of actual hockey players. The system takes away the arcade feel of previous installments and instead slows things down a bit. You won't make fast dashes or turn quickly at top speeds without turning up a ton of ice and ultimately coming to a stop. In the long run, this works extremely well and forces you to rethink how you'll play. But right out of the box it feels terribly slow. Give it some time and you'll learn the ropes.
Goalies also had some work this year it seems. They are far more agile and will stretch to grab a puck. It means that scores will be minimal, again adding to the realism. I liked this tweak and think it's one of the strongest parts of NHL 13. Poke-checks also seem much stronger than in years past. It's pretty easy to get a defender in line to block an opponent's shot.
There are a few things that feel a bit confusing given the new skating system is clearly an attempt at real life hockey. For example, the opposing A.I. rarely fouls you or gets called for icing or offsides. You could argue that the A.I. has improved--and, in many ways it has--but it's hard to feel like you are playing a realistic hockey game when your opponents turn the puck into a magnet.
All of this combines together to force you to rethink the game, rethink your play style, and rethink how you coach your team. The new Hockey I.Q. is touted as delivering more real-to-life hockey with every player on the ice reacting to everything that's happening, not just what's in front of them. It feels like you have a lot more choices this year as players do a better job of handling and cradling the puck.
This all took a while to grow on me, and I'm still not convinced I love the outcome, but the improvements to gameplay are welcome and I am hoping next year irons out some of wrinkles. Some may argue that slower skating ... (continued on next page)
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