Starting with the positives, the new True Performance Skating is fucking brilliant. With changes to player explosiveness, top-end speed, and momentum this year, you can truly see a difference in the way the game is now played and is a lot more realistic than games of the past because of this edition. You now have the ability to cleanly beat opposing players in footraces for the puck if you get a better jump and the difficulty in trying to turn at full speed is nice to see especially when you have an opponent lined up in the trolley tracks. The physics-based skating takes some time to get used to, but it's a revolutionary change just like the skill-stick of NHL 07 that needs to be embraced. On top of this, you now have the ability to skate backwards with the puck anywhere on the ice allowing for more creativity and an authentic game experience.
The Artificial Intelligence in NHL 13 has been greatly improved with the new Hockey IQ actually making those computer controlled players useful. Rather than just moving around the ice, you'll find the CPU actually fulfills the responsibilities of the positions they are supposed to be playing. They'll find open ice for breakouts and passes, and even pick up open men to take away scoring chances on backchecks. The best AI upgrade however has been in net with goalies able to read plays and react to other players other than the puck carrier. This means those guaranteed cross-crease goals aren't going to be your bread and butter in NHL 13 so you'll need to find some more realistic ways of scoring. It can't be expressed enough that there will be a lot less "what the fuck was the computer doing?!?" this year with the new AI improvements.
New game modes such as NHL Moments Live and GM Connected will offer some replay value if you're bored of the usual shit, but the Be A Pro and Be A GM will still be the staples to rely on. The CPU GM's in Be A GM have been improved with a new GM Brain for greater trading logic, where a cool thing in the Be A Pro is the ability to request trades and be placed on the trading block by your GM. No more being stuck in Columbus for 3 years and you get to see what kind of value you have by the players involved to acquire you. This feature should have been implemented in Be A Pro from the time it debuted.
Now for some of the disappointments in NHL 13:
- In the NHL Moments Live game mode when playing with the legends, you merely play as the legend on the current NHL team rather than from the time period in which the moment happened. So when you're trying to score 50 goals in 39 games with Gretzky you'll be on a line with Eberle and Hall rather than Kurri and Anderson. Would have been nice to feel like you were actually in the historic moment rather than simply recreating it with modern players.
- To me, the fighting sucks. I don't like the POV fighing angle in which you simply move the right stick up and down as fast as you can. Fights aren't always stationary, you should be able to grab on to a jersey and move around on the ice a little. You should be able to jersey guys to get the upper hand, and even draw blood. These are all fighting aspects from previous NHL series games that should be combined to make the best video game hockey fights possible.
- It's cool that there are new legends, but the Be A Legend game mode still doesn't motivate me to play for hours with Jeremy Roenick in order to unlock Dominik Hasek. While the NHL Moments with legends is a good idea, they failed on that for the above reason. On top of the Legends issue, I feel like EA Sports missed a big opportunity with the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series and the 25th anniversary of the 1987 Canada Cup. Would have been awesome if those Legendary Teams were available to play with.
- For international games, the jerseys are still just team flags which is shitty. We realize the licensing is probably tough to get, but we're sure you have some pretty creative designers over there to create a unique jersey and logo that makes sense for the different countries in the game.
- Although you can still receive goaltender interference penalties, there is no more running the goalie over in hilarious fashion as you send them sprawling across the crease. Instead, they move a little and don't appear to be taken out of the play too much. We were really looking forward to making Mike Smith spin like a top.
- While the physics-based skating engine is unbelievable, sometimes the games look like Timbits Hockey with players lying all over the place after dishing out hits and tripping over each other. Another issue I had was David Desharnais knocked over Dustin Byfuglien with a hit in one of my games. I have a hard time believing a 5'7", 175lbs player could knock over this guy:
Overall, the game is spectacular, but the game is not perfect with a few wrinkles that should be ironed out in the next year to take the game to an even higher level. We rate NHL 13: