history's last known example of the NHL
and NHLPA being on the same page.
Today marks the official release of NHL 13, the latest version in the much beloved series of hockey video games from EA Sports. Fans around the world are busy downloading the game or lining up at stores in anticipation of seeing what the developers have come up with for 2012.
Of course, this year's version may be more important than most - after all, thanks to the pending lockout the game could be the only NHL hockey that fans get to see for months. But is it any good? I got my hands on an advanced review copy, and I can report that the results are mixed.
Here are some of the new features, latest improvements and unfortunate bugs that can be found in NHL 13.
- The developers are hyping that the new "True Performance Skating" system, although there are still moments when the skating animations remain completely unrealistic. For example, when I skated towards a defenceless opponent while controlling Raffi Torres, my skates stayed on the ice.
- Players will be able to choose from five different difficulty settings: Easy, Medium, Hard, Impossible, and "Guy who has to handle public relations for the NHL owners".
- "NHL Moments Live" is a new feature that promises to let fans relive the most memorable moments from recent seasons, which has Edmonton Oiler fans excited since previous versions of the game never included the draft lottery.
- In a nice bit of cross-promotion, the game will access the worldwide database of FIFA Soccer 13 owners, find the one with the most pathetically abysmal record, and promote him to president of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment.
- The game can also be purchased in a special "Stanley Cup Edition". It turns out to be exactly the same as the regular version, except when you try to take it home from the store Gary Bettman will refuse to hand it over until you've posed awkwardly for photos with him while everyone boos.
- When simulating into the distant future, the calendar's "Advance ahead by one week" button has been replaced by a new one that reads "Ask Shane Doan for his latest free agency decision deadline and he totally means it this time really".
- The game's tutorial mode does a great job of educating the next generation about how to play so we know that whoever programmed it is lazy and overpaid, thinks Brent Sopel.
- The game boasts an improved AI system that will allow the computer to adapt to your tendencies, meaning it will take three shifts for it to realize you've been using the same "swoop down the wing, spin around in the corner and then blindly throw it out front for a one-timer" move since NHL 94.
- "Be a Pro" mode returns and does a great job of simulating the day-to-day life of an NHL superstar, although in this year's version that mostly just means standing awkwardly behind Donald Fehr during press conferences while repeatedly pressing the "try really hard to look like we're not going to cave this time" button.
- Users will notice a much smoother animation on the penalties frequency slider this year as they're moving it back and forth wondering why it never freaking does anything.
- NHL legends Jari Kurri, Doug Gilmour and Dominik Hasek will be available and can be placed on the roster of any of the 30 teams in the league; or, as Doug Gilmour will refer to it, "that team you forgot that I already once played for".
- The inclusion of Haley Wickenheiser and Angela Ruggiero marks the first pair of women to be included in the series since the Sedin sisters, according to every giggling teenager you play against online until you finally smash your headphones to pieces with a hammer.
Bugs and Glitches
- All players are rendered in three dimensions, which these days is several dimensions short of what would be required to display all of Dustin Byfuglien.
- The game's marketing brags about how the music on the game's soundtrack will create an "authentic NHL arena experience", but that's not really true because the songs are occasionally allowed to play for more than three seconds before some team employee in the stands grabs a microphone and starts screaming marketing messages at terrified fans.
- A major free agency bug: I signed a player to a front-loaded 14-year contract. But no matter how many times I mashed the "wink" and "nudge" buttons, when I simmed ahead to the 11th year the guy was still showing up to training camp.
- Finally, in what we can only assume was some sort of oversight, the game's packaging is missing the rebate form you can send to the NHL to get back the 24% of the price that you'd originally agreed to pay but now don't feel like paying anymore.
(Previous DGB game reviews: NHL 12 | NHL 11 | NHL 10 | NHL 09)