NHL ’13 – Preview

A preview of NHL ’13 I wrote for the website www.square-go.com

Electronic Arts and Ice Hockey have a long association stretching way back to the early days of the Sega Mega Drive. This is because Ice Hockey is a good fit when it comes to video games, being fast aggressive and full of fighting.

NHL ’13 is the newest in this line of games, the latest in the usual EA annual round of updates. Whether or not this is a bad thing is an article for another time, all that matters to us right now is why we should be excited by it because, being honest, ice hockey is a sport that barely gets a mention in this Country.

Firstly there are lots of things with a ™ next to them, as is the way of EA Sports: Ice Hockey IQ promises better computer players, better able to react to what is happening on the ice; True Performance Skating is a brand new skating engine that promises to provide better physics for your players, taking into account acceleration and momentum; the popular online GM Connected mode, a mode that lets you play leagues with your friends, gets an App so you can check with on your online shenanigans.

So all this is very whiz-bang and great but none of it really matters if the game plays like a brick stuck to the pavement with old porridge.

Luckily, from the recent demo, it plays like a dream. The new skating engine has a great weight to it that helps get across the impact of two Canadians with shoulder pads hitting each other at 20 miles per hour. Shooting with the right analogue stick takes some adjustment but slamming home a goal with it soon becomes a truly pleasurable experience. For the retro amongst you, the option is still there to use the old controls based on the old 16bit versions of the game.

NHL ’13 also looks a treat; players animate fluidly and with barely any issues. Even as a demo there are no issues with the frame rate and the presentation is just as slick as you would expect from an EA Sports game. The commentary just about stays on the right side of over the top American cheese with a soundtrack that is mostly forgettable and begs for you to set up a custom soundtrack promptly.

The overall package is filled out with modes that let you play through the career of your own wannabe NHL star or recreate moments in NHL history. Say what you like about EA Sports, that the yearly updates stifles innovation and that the game is essentially the same only with a few more trademarked bullet points, but you get plenty of bang for your buck.

So, hockey fans should lap it up. It’s a game that will go under the radar in the UK given that the sport isn’t as high profile over here but it isn’t one to be ignored. The controls are tight, the game is fast and full of action. Like the sport itself, once you give it a try it’s difficult to let it go.

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