Video game review: ‘NHL 13’ doesn’t hold the shutout

By Brendon Field

To continue the annual tradition, EA Sports has released “NHL 13.” As they have been doing with many of their sports franchises, this year’s installment focuses much more on improving the core gameplay as opposed to features. The familiar question “Are the changes worth $60?” still looms here.

The biggest change in NHL 13 is the revamped skating system. The game goes for a more realistic type of play. Momentum is much more important and skaters can no longer turn on a dime and reach max speed within half a second. Shot and pass accuracy also now depends on speed. The physics system is greatly improved with body checks becoming more realistic and in turn more effective. The pace of the game is slowed slightly and lowers the chances of cheap breakaway offensive tactics. Overall the new system is for the better. The game seems more authentic and I feel like I have a stronger sense of control. One of my biggest complaints with “NHL 12” was that when I losing, I could never really tell what I was doing wrong or how to fix it. This time around one’s mistakes are much more apparent and their effect on the game is more substantial.

The AI has also received a noticeable upgrade. Computer controlled players are now much more aware of their surroundings and no longer need player control to retrieve a puck six inches away from them. They are able to recognize plays and adapt to changes on the ice much faster than in previous games. The goalies are now much more balanced. They’re more likely to save basic slapshots and less likely to stop chaotic rebound shots.

The amount of content in “NHL 13,” is quite staggering; that is, if you haven’t seen any of the last four games. The game modes are basically the same as “NHL 12:” with GM Mode, Be a Pro, Be a Legend, Online Leagues and Season Play. The only major addition is GM Connected, which is basically the online leagues with the ability to do team transactions. While the games’ modes are aplenty, they all basically boil down to the same thing: you playing hockey against somebody else. There is also the Hockey Ultimate Team feature which allows you to build a fantasy team and play in tournaments. It’s a very expansive and well made mode, but there’s one major issue with it. In order to be good at it, you have to pay to buy packs of players. Why? Because EA loves to grub for extra money for what should be free content. That’s pretty aggravating, and the score is receiving a sizeable deduction because of it.

In terms of aesthetics, not much has changed. The graphics have received a slight improvement, and in game animations are now more specific. The commentary is mostly recycled, but is still good on its own. I do have several minor complaints. The menu system in the GM Mode for actions such as trading and scouting can be very confusing. Changing lines manually is difficult and annoying. And the ability to implement custom music is not an excuse for the terrible default soundtrack.

Going back to whether or not you should dish out $60 for “NHL 13.” If you have not done so for any of the past three or four installments, definitely pick this one up. If you have, then I would say give this a pass. “NHL 13” is certainly a better game than “NHL 12,” but it’s only worth getting if you were completely dissatisfied with the last one or two entries. While “NHL 12” did have its frustrating aspects, there was nothing about it that had me begging for an overhaul, let alone a very expensive overhaul.

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