As of this writing, the NHL and the NHLPA have still not come to an agreement regarding their collective bargaining agreement and thus, we still don’t know if there will be an NHL season this year.
However, hockey fans need not check the person next to them as they can still get their yearly hockey fix with EA Sports’ NHL 13. For those who are fans of the franchise, you’ll get to go right into an exhibition game or start up a season. The game’s GM mode is also back as well, which lets you guide the team of your choice through the off-season, season and hopefully the playoffs.
Speaking of GM mode, I dug EA’s decision to bring in the GM Connected mode, which lets players basically take the fan-favorite offline mode, online. EA has somehow allowed for up to 750 players in one league…in a single league!! How can that many players be in a league you ask? Well that takes into account players who want to be GMs, a commissioner and of course NHL players.
I went online a few times to try it out and though it can be annoying to sometimes have to wait for other players to act (same thing for Madden 13), it’s pretty damn entertaining; just be sure that the folks you are playing with can be reached (ie. friends of yours), so you don’t have to sit and wait. In fact, just generally speaking, this whole “Connected” mode EA is pumping out in their sports titles, is great.
Another new mode EA developed for NHL 13 is NHL Moments Live, which essentially lets you relive moments from past hockey games, whether they’re from a few years ago or a few decades ago. Take for instance the ability to take on the role of Wayne Gretzky, as you try to dismantle the Philadelphia Flyers in 1981. We’ve seen other sports games do this in the past and they’re pretty enjoyable modes. The one issue I took with it though, and this is coming from someone who’s not a diehard hockey fan, but when you play these old scenarios, your teammates are players from present day rosters. To me that’s just a huge oversight and maybe this has to do with licensing older players but it does take away from the experience in my opinion and would rather not have the mode than for it to be presented this way. Fortunately there are plenty of scenarios from recent seasons, so some younger players may not even notice it.
Where the real meat and potatoes of the game is however, is with EA’s “True Performance Skating”, which makes the gameplay feel a lot more realistic play-style. It does take a little bit getting used to, but in the end, you’ll appreciate having to be more strategic in terms of how you control your player. For instance, if you’re zooming down towards the goal, you can’t just turn on a dime anymore; you’ll find it a bit more difficult to maneuver at high speeds, while skating slower gives you better control. Again, the change gives the game a more sim-like quality, rather than being arcade-y. I do wish however, that the AI would also play in the same manner, as they don’t seem to make very many mistakes at all, so when you’re the only one making them, it can be a tad frustrating.
Presentation is also fantastic, with the game running pretty smoothly and providing some picturesque arenas and character models. In passing glance, you could probably confuse a game of NHL 13 with a game on TV…it looks that good.
So while the NHL season still hangs in the balance, it’s nice to see EA has given fans a nice alternative with NHL 13. The game provides a noticeable difference in how it plays and gives gamers plenty to do from its ample offerings of modes.
So fear not, NHL season or not, NHL 13 is a good alternative (or companion) to getting that much-need hockey fix.