Video game review: NHL 13

Adam Williams, Sports Editor Ω

Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers is this year’s NHL 13 cover athlete. – Image courtesy of EA Sports

For years now, the NHL franchise from EA Sports has been unmatched in the industry – NHL 13 is no exception. EA has made a number of improvements in the latest incarnation of the game, which should provide fans with the most realistic and exciting game-play yet.

“True Performance Skating”, which uses a physics-based skating engine, allows players to skate using more realistic animations. “EA Sports Hockey IQ” has improved the artificial intelligence of computer-controlled opponents who should now be making better on-ice decisions. An improved rating system has the game’s players playing more like their real-life counterparts than ever. Every improvement in NHL 13 refines the game-play and makes it feel like you’re really there, there’s no questioning that. But taking a really close look at the game, I have to wonder, has EA become their own worst enemy with this franchise?

Now don’t get me wrong, I love this game. I think EA has done a great job and I know I will spend a number of hours, that I should be using to study, playing PlayStation 3. My only objection is that EA has gotten so good at making hockey games they really haven’t had to change much in the past few years. The game’s graphics have remained largely similar, the game-play is constantly improving but more with minor tweaks than drastic changes, animations and videos are entertaining but really only noticeable to the most hardcore of gamers. EA has gotten so good at making hockey games that I’m starting to have a hard time justifying buying the new version each year. It’s just too similar. It’s a little like being forced to buy the new edition of a university textbook – you crack it open for the first time only to realize it’s pretty much the same as the previous edition, just with some updated scenarios and case studies; and you paid an extra $60 for it. And I’m not trying to say that this is EA Sports’ fault. Kudos to them for creating a game that is largely incapable of being improved from year to year, but as a fan, the price tag for updated rosters and the ability to break my player’s stick on a point shot is a bit of a stretch.

For those of you who are big fans of the franchise, I’m not trying to deter you from buying this game. It’s the best yet from EA and if you’ve loved the game in past years this version will be no exception. I’m simply trying to warn you EA hasn’t recreated the wheel with this one. They took an amazing pre-existing game, made some solid improvements, threw Claude Giroux on the cover and put it on the shelves. If you’re cool with that I definitely recommend buying it. If you’ve bought the franchise year after year as I have, this review probably isn’t news to you. But if you were already starting to get a little frustrated with the game being largely the same from year to year, you might want to think twice about going out and investing in NHL 13; take the extra time to play the demo online and ask yourself if it’s really worth it.

NHL 13 is a great game, but so was NHL 12.