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article imageReview: If I can't watch hockey, might as well challenge my NHL 13 skills Special

By David Silverberg     Oct 18, 2012 in Technology
The NHL lockout is frustrating many hockey fans, but the EA Sports franchise keeps rolling along with an updated version of the classic. NHL 13 offers stunning graphics, improved gameplay and challenging AI, but falters on a few minor additions.
EA didn't veer too far to the left or right with NHL 13, which is a wise move. Why mess with an icon? Reviewed for the Xbox 360, I found the game to be smooth, fun and visually arresting, even though I have a few small quibbles worth noting.
As always, you have the option to play any team in the game, and can enjoy single games, tournaments, and full careers. As with its predecessor, NHL 13 lets run franchises, set yourself up as a GM, create a player to lead from the junior leagues to the NHL, and much more.
When it comes to gameplay, physics has vastly been improved. It's not crazy easy to pass to a winger anymore; you need to direct the pass with the left stick, otherwise you are passing to the opposite team. Passing off the board is also somewhat easier, but also riskier.
I like how you can also turn and skate backwards on demand now, which is helpful if you're defending against a 2-on-1. EA tweaked skating motions, which are baked right into the controller now, letting you feel big takeoffs, quick stops, and sharp turns.
Screenshot from NHL 13 video game
Screenshot from NHL 13 video game
Courtesy EA Sports
The turbo button is now on the left stick when you depress it, which takes some getting used to (it used to be one of the triggers). After a few games, your left thumb is going to hurt, but perhaps I'm not the most stalwart of gamers. I get tired after two hours of Halo, after all.
You have to play real hockey in NHL 13. The AI has improved, so much so you can't just dangle and stick-handle your way to a goal. One-timers aren't going to be as fluid as in NHL 12. The smarter AI challenges you to pass back to the blue line, move the puck better and find open shots and chunky rebounds. And winning faceoffs are incredibly tough, so I'm not sure if they added something more challenging there or if I got worse at faceoff timing.
The sounds and sights of NHL 13 are pretty similar to NHL 12, with a few improvements to the faces of the players. The Sedin twins look a bit more realistic, for instance, and how the bodies move in instant replays are more life-like. Commentary has also improved; the NHL 12 lines were pretty mediocre and lame, and there's a bit more insight coming from the voices in the booth with the updated version.
Screenshot from NHL 13 video game
Screenshot from NHL 13 video game
Courtesy EA Sports
One quibble that bothered me and a friend was the added step needed to access game stats between periods. In NHL 12, you could see your shot totals right in the menu, but now you need to press X to access those stats. What's the point? Shouldn't a new hockey game cut down on the steps needed to get useful stats? I don't see the value in this tweak, but maybe EA has some divine reason for making me press one more button than required.
NHL 13 will satiate all those puckheads looking to appease their hockey appetite during the lockout. Just don't expect big scoring games, thanks to the improved AI. Some games will feel more like soccer matches than hockey games, but hey, play Blades of Steel if you want 12-5 games. I prefer a tight competitive 2-1 match-up, even if I don't get the satisfaction of a hat trick.
More about nhl 13, Video game, Hockey, Xbox, Gaming
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