So, if this your first NHL hockey game, everything in it is new to you and you may or may not have an appreciation for the journey that video game hockey has taken. From the early days of five-on-five hockey in Blades of Steel, to the revolutionary NHL Hockey in 1992, NHL 13 puts you in the game like never before.
For those of you who have been waiting for significant improvements in the game since, oh around 2009 (NHL 2010), this game is a solid step in the right direction. The biggest advertised improvement is the new skating engine. Sure, it was fun to pretend that Hal Gill can start and stop on a dime with the skating savvy of a slightly younger Paul Coffey. In NHL 13, the great skaters can really skate while Gill is reduced to a more realistic version of himself: over-sized pylon with an eight-foot twig.
The graphics always look a little sharper with each new edition of the series, and there are always smaller-scale, more detail additions to the game, which make an NHL work stoppage slightly more tolerable.
Where was I?
Oh yes! NHL 13 has addressed its strengths (making the fun stuff even more fun) and some of its weaknesses (still no playoff beards) to put out a sharp product that is well worth your $60 investment. Here are the top 25 most awesome features of the new NHL 13.
Since back surgery halted my blossoming beer-league career, I've enjoyed the player creation part of the game. The NHL 13 options have increased choices to make your player look more like yourself than the creepy game-face option from a few years ago.
When you reach a certain age, you count on your video likeness to win the scoring titles and hearts of dozens. Sure, I'm younger and stronger, faster and possibly more handsome in the NHL 13 world of make believe, but I can grow a better-looking mustache than EA can slap on my likeness.
No. 10 in your program, but No. 1 in your hearts...
The new skating is pretty cool, and it actually looks like real hockey. It is miles better than NHL 12 (I still need to trade it in), which I popped in just to see the difference. Players skate the way they do in real life, which means that if you are chasing a loose puck with Carl Hagelin, you'll get to it before lead-footed Jody Shelley.
The skating is also affected when you are trying to maneuver with the puck. The Crosbys and Datsyuks of the world are going to be more effective when maneuvering laterally or through traffic with the puck. The backwards skating option with the R2 button adds a pile of moves to your deking arsenal and, obviously, when defending your zone.
I suggest some quality time in practice mode with your new skates before you hit the ice for a game.
These are the nerdy detail things that I love about the game. The authentic arenas right down to the banners hanging in the rafters, the real goal horns blaring after a home team score and even arena-specific crowd chants make you feel like you are literally at the arena.
If you don't have surround sound, this is the perfect sports game to get it for.
The player ratings that drew so much scrutiny from a previous article written by some guy with a name like mine were given a makeover, too. Last year's rating categories were based on offense, defense and athleticism. This year, there are six rating categories: shooting, puck skills, senses, skating, physical and defense.
There are then sub-categories for each focusing on each player attribute that contribute to a player's rating. I might have missed it, but I think that head size was also included in the rating system. This would explain Dion Phaneuf's 89 rating.
This is probably the coolest innovation in the game in theory, but it definitely has some wrinkles to iron out. The GM Connected mode allows you to run a team online with other online general managers. You can either play or simulate games, but it gives you the control to run your franchise against live opponents. There is an app for the iPhone that allows you to track and even manage (somewhat) your team from your phone.
In theory, it's a pretty sweet concept. The only problem seems to be with the menu loading times. I expect that to either be worked out this year or next year, but it's a huge step in a very cool direction.
Kind of neutral on this part of the game, but it's still a pretty cool concept. You have an opportunity to match certain historical feats in NHL history—well, at least two to start out with. The rest were significant come-from-behind wins.
The coolest part of this feature is that it is set up to use "moments" from the current year as the season progresses.
Hockey Ultimate Team is a trading card type of game where you are assigned certain player cards and then have to use them to build your team. It's an online mode that the franchise has used for a couple of years. The biggest adjustment to this year with HUT is that your cards do not expire and you can build a stronger team over time.
Another favorite of mine is the new "brain" given to the computer general managers in the game. Though they are obviously pre-scripted, the computer will give you a funny and borderline insulting quip if you offer an unsatisfactory trade.
In layman's terms, the new general manager is more of a Ken Holland than a Garth Snow. If you aren't sure about the difference with those two, then maybe you shouldn't be buying a hockey game.
The EA Sports Hockey League is an online format where you can compete as a team or a player among online players on a team. I never really got into this mode too much before simply because it seemed to play a little slow and there was always something that caused me to get bumped offline. Maybe it was my dial-up Internet? Hmmmm.
At any rate, there are some improvements over the previous versions, including your ability to use your pro in the games and get quicker upgrades to increase your player's performance level.
The Be a Pro mode was a groundbreaking mode brought introduced in 2010 where you could really immerse yourself as an individual player into the game. You could pretty much start out at any level but were ultimately at the mercy of a lot of variables to develop your player.
This year's modifications to the mode include the ability to request a trade, retire whenever you want to, play multiple seasons in the CHL and the Be a Legend mode. The Legend mode requires you to reach certain levels in your Be a Pro mode to unlock the legends. So if you want to re-do Gretzky's career, plan on investing some serious time in this mode.
The overall goalie play in NHL 13 is vastly improved with both the goalie play and your ability to control the goalie. The stick controls of the goalies are more fluid now and give you a fuller, more realistic range of motion on saves.
Goalies also now give up realistic rebounds instead of the "velcro goalie" of years past where the puck would just randomly stick to a pad on a shot. If that sounds like it is easier to score, consider that the computer-controlled defensemen have also been given the AI to clear rebounds just as quickly as they bounce off a pad.
This is another detail thing that used to drive me crazy, but EA has gotten so good at it lately. The players actually look like the real players now. There are a couple of glaring exceptions that may have you do a double take, but for the most part, EA did a great job here. It's cool to go up against Zdeno Chara or a Sedin when they actually look like that player.
Begrudgingly, I finally stopped using the 1994 controls option and got used to the game stick. EA has put so much into the stick development that you literally lose about 85 percent of your players skill and maneuvers by not using the skill stick.
It was sort of like re-learning how to play the game, but it's well worth it when you see all the new moves, dekes and shots you can do. Now, Datsyuk can almost really play like Datsyuk when I control him.
With the new gameplay presentation, EA also gave us a new camera angle with the True Broadcast camera. This angle looks like a legitimate television presentation and really enhances all of the little nuances where the graphics have evolved. Again, I'm a total nerd for the realism of the game, and the new camera angle provides that.
One of the best features of the NHL itself is just as fun to play in the video game. Unfortunately, the Winter Classic is a year behind in the EA Sports world, but it's still a really cool mode to the game.
In NHL 13, you have the option of playing in either the 2011 Winter Classic in Pittsburgh or the 2012 version in Philadelphia. You can play the original game itself or put your own custom team on the ice.
Ever the progressive company, EA has introduced two playable female players in this year's game. Hayley Wickenheiser and Angela Ruggiero will appear along with the other all-time hockey greats with the Legends.
As I have alluded to before, I love the little details about a sports game. Considering I never played professionally, this is about as close as my rickety old backside will come to skating at the Joe Louis arena for a Game 7 playoff game. Part of what makes that enjoyable is customizing the game and the AI to meet my playing level.
Having to learn to use the game sticks to play has lowered my level to somewhere between rookie and pro level. What could be a hair-pulling, controller-smashing endeavor is made more enjoyable by making the game as user friendly as possible. Regardless of your level of play, you can pop this game in today and match up online with someone at your skill level pretty much 24/7.
In addition to female players Wickenheiser and Ruggerio, EA has also added Dominik Hasek, Jari Kurri and Doug Gilmour into the Legend's hopper. The novelty of playing with the Legends is pretty cool if you've gotten bored, or you can always add them to your dynasty roster and play a career with them.
Sorry if it brings out my inner caveman, but I love the fact that it is a lot easier to pick a fight in this game than its predecessors. When you get frustrated by your opponent or just happen to hate the player on the other team, you can pretty much just go up to him and facewash them. Again, apologies to the anti-violence people who think that fighting should be banned, but it's a video game, folks.
The best way to describe this is that there is no pattern to any game and that each game is unique. Video games can get repetitive at times, and there is no greater compliment to pay a hockey game than to say that it perfectly represents the chaos that occurs at times in real hockey games.
The mad scramble for a loose puck in front of the goal or along the boards actually happens in NHL 13. That is the chaos that seemed to be missing from previous hockey games.
Laugh if you want, but this game is going to get a lot of people through the stupid lockout. I haven't gotten to the Stanley Cup Final yet to see if they trot Gary Bettman's trollish likeness out to present the Stanley Cup.
Perhaps a suggestion for the EA game designers would be to choose your Cup presenter. The generic choices could be the President, the league commissioner, of course, or maybe have Gretzky hand it out. He seems like he's looking for a job these days.
Hey, for some of us, $59.99 isn't exactly a drop in the bag. I mean, that's a fancy night on the town at the local Sizzler for me and my lady friend. For all you spark plugs that want to gripe about the price, though, consider that I spent exactly $10 less than that almost 20 years ago for this. The price for almost everything else has gone up, but NHL 13 is no more expensive today than it was 10 years ago. That's a good thing.
Has this ever happened to you? I literally laughed out loud when I watched this because the exact same thing has happened to me about six times. I'm not kidding. The defensive-zone faceoff goal with less than five seconds has sent me into a tirade more times than I care to remember. None so far that I have seen other than this in practice mode.
One of the coolest things you can do in the NHL games, at least the past two years, is give a custom soundtrack to your game. By downloading a playlist from iTunes, you can modify your home arena to play your favorite music in the game for introductions, during breaks on the ice, between periods and after goals. Plus, if you don't like EA's soundtrack, you can remove their songs.
Not too many people know this about me. I don't include it on my resume out of sheer modesty, but I am a 19-time Stanley Cup champion. I've lifted the holy grail of hockey every season since 1993—that's a fact. Chances are that if you have played the EA hockey games as long as I have, you might be just as awesome.
If I haven't impressed this enough on you throughout the slideshow, the game is well worth your time, and skipping that fancy meal at Sizzler. Each year they keep improving the game and taking us closer to the real thing.
Thanks for reading, now get back to your parents' basement, you've got a Stanley Cup to win!