EA Sports' NHL video game franchise will return for its 22nd installment this season, and the latest version looks like the best in quite some time.
Many new additions, adjustments and other changes have been made to give NHL 13 a more realistic, lifelike experience in terms of actual gameplay and presentation.
The demo is currently available on Xbox Live and the Playstation Store, and the full retail version will be released on September 11.
Let's look at a complete review of the demo, and examine the player ratings that were released over a week ago.
Play Now Mode
Play now gives people a chance to experience all the new gameplay and presentation features for one five-minute period. The two teams available to choose from are the Stanley Cup finalists from last year, the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils.
After seeing the Madden 13 demo include four, five-minute quarters, I was expecting the NHL 13 demo to include a full game's worth of play, but unfortunately, this wasn't the case.
The presentation aspect of the new game is impressive. Before faceoffs, whistles or any stoppage of play, there are player cut-scenes and broadcast-like camera angles looking over the action. The game definitely has a more TV feel this year.
Free skate allows people to test out the new skating system, and practice shootout moves, open-ice dekes and shooting skills.
The player movements are just much more fluid and life-like in this year's game. The new "true performance" skating system really makes a positive difference in the quality of the gameplay.
No longer can you take just about any player and skate full speed from one end of the ice to the other, stop on a dime, do a 360-degree spin and pass to an open teammate. Players also fall to the ice when they lose balance from stopping and turning too quickly.
NHL Moments Live
The NHL moments live mode is one of the coolest additions to the series, and since many other sports games have a mode where you can replay historic and recent moments from the past, it was only a matter of time before EA Sports integrated it into the NHL series.
The moment included in the demo is Game 5 of the 2012 Western Conference finals, in which you have to help the Kings eliminate the Phoenix Coyotes with an overtime goal. However, you don't have to score the game-winner with Dustin Penner, who was the Kings' hero in May.
If you complete the task, there is a cut-scene where the Kings celebrate, shake hands with the Coyotes (Shane Doan doesn't get mad at Dustin Brown!) and receive the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl.
This could be one of the most exciting game modes in this year's version.
There will be a lot of debate and discussion over the player ratings in NHL 13. EA Sports explained their approach to player ratings on the company's official website.
The scouts base players off individual skills and not by how many points they accumulate in a season. Relying only on stats would leave too many variables in play, including line mates, ice time, strength of competition and so on. By creating ratings based on individual skill at every attribute our scouts are able to more accurately capture the abilities of a player as opposed to artificially inflating them because he happened to have a great year and everything happened to click for him.
Now let's start some nice debate. Take a look at the most underrated players in this year's game.
|John Tavares||NYI||85||Tavares is an elite player and should be, at the very least, an 87 overall. His 85 rating is an absolute joke. He scored 81 points on the Islanders last season. That alone is worth an 87. Plus-minus shouldn't be a major factor in his rating since many of his teammates are poor defensively.|
|Miikka Kiprusoff||CGY||87||Miikka Kiprusoff should be one of the five highest-rated goalies in the game. Niklas Backstrom, Ryan Miller, Cam Ward, Carey Price and Tomas Vokoun shouldn't have a better or the same rating as the Flames star.|
|Jimmy Howard||DET||84||Howard won 30-plus games again and had impressive stats, yet goaltenders such as Niklas Backstrom are rated higher than him. That just doesn't make sense. Howard needs at least an 86 rating.|
|Steven Stamkos & Evgeni Malkin||TB and PIT||91||Stamkos scored 60 goals last year and Malkin won the scoring title and the Hart Trophy, but both are rated lower than Alexander Ovechkin. Huge failure on EA's part.|
|Anze Kopitar||LA||86||The worst rating in the game is Anze Kopitar's 86. After another phenomenal season and a great playoff run en route to a Stanley Cup title, anything less than an 89 is embarrassing.|
Now let's look at some of the most overrated players in NHL 13.
Phanuef has a higher rating than Brent Seabrook (86), Dennis Seidenberg (84) and Alex Pietrangelo (87). He's also just below Shea Weber's rating (89). This is a complete joke.
|Alexander Ovechkin||WSH||93||Ovechkin is the third highest-rated forward in the game despite just having the worst season of his career.|
|Ryan Miller||BUF||92||Miller is a great goalie, but there's no way he should have a higher rating than both Henrik Lundqvist and Jonathan Quick. An 88 or 89 would have been more appropriate.|
MTL ||90 ||I'm a strong supporter of Price, but he does not deserve a 90 rating. In the future he might, but right now he's not worthy. He and Quick should not be the same rating.
CGY ||86 ||Aside from Phaneuf, Bouwmeester might be the most overrated defenseman in the game. He is just one lower than Drew Doughty (87), and he has the same rating as Ryan McDonagh. Yikes!
It's good to see EA taking a more in-depth look at player ratings this year, but the system is clearly not good enough when there are so many shockingly underrated and overrated players.
Overall, the demo and the game look great, and it gives NHL fans a lot to look forward to as we wait for the full game to be released.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also the organization's on-site reporter for the 2011 Stanley Cup Final in Boston. Follow him on Twitter.