NHL 13 then, this one could be interesting. The game and the review I mean.
Let’s face it, growing up as I did amidst the landscape of the industrial North of England where it rained a whole lot more than it snowed and Ice rinks were the domain of namby pamby kids that wanted to pirouette and twirl rather than get the hockey sticks out, it’s fair to say ice hockey is a sport that has never been a part of the masterplan for me.
Strangely, that also applies to the video game interpretation too. I’m almost ashamed to say I’ve never played an ice hockey game. It’s a poor show from someone so deep into a video game addiction but it’s true. I’ve also never played Goldeneye but that’s a story for another time. For now let’s get back to this new brutal world of speed, slugging and slapshots I’ve just discovered.
As you’ll have realised I’m coming at this game as a complete novice, I know none of the players, few of the teams and, importantly, scarcely any of the rules. But, I’m game and keen to embrace this brutal sport.
The EA Sports NHL franchise has eclipsed all competition to be crowned the king of video game ice hockey. It took mere minutes before I began to see why.
I eased gently through the tutorial, vital to a newcomer such as myself. I left very impressed by how incredibly fluid and intuitive they felt. The control a gamer feels over the players on the ice is tantamount to how deeply involving a game such as this can become, if done wrong as we’ve seen in other sports games, such as PES of a couple of years ago, the player ends up in a frustrated and disconnected state. In NHL 13 it’s fantastic and beautifully precise. Passing, shooting, bodychecks and punch-ups all become slick within minutes of play and I began to wonder what I’d been missing in all those years I’d given ice hockey the cold shoulder (no pun intended).
The games themselves are frantic affairs with little time to breath let alone formulate a gameplan. I’m sure seasoned veterans and lifelong fans will be slicing up the ice and opponents in no time, but personally I found myself in a ‘higher state of Madden-ess’, that’s John Madden-ess by the way, where I had no idea what was going on, but I knew where I had to go to score and trying to get there was thrilling!
It’s a state I encounter often when taking on the American idea of sport. I enjoy it despite minimal knowledge of what the hell is actually going on. As an example, in my first foray onto the ice the third period ended and I was back in the game and ready to nick it in the fourth, except there isn’t a fourth in ice hockey……yeah I know now!
Anyway back to the action, and another great aspect is that the impact between players is outstanding. Every bone rattling collision feels deeply satisfying, in fact knocking an onrushing player clean off their feet transcends video games, it’s sheer poetry in motion and something that never got old.
It took me a few games to really get to grips with things but during the learning period I was never left frustrated, and bearing in mind I was close to launching my pad through the window following a particularly disappointing FIFA session earlier today, that’s impressive.
I played on casual and found it challenging as a newbie which was a nice experience. The computer offers a substantial opponent and means when you step up to the next level you know you’re ready for it.
As for features, well this is an EA Sports title so it’ll come as no surprise that it’s cram packed with goodies and modes-a-plenty.
The traditional career mode alone could keep you playing right until the eve of NHL 14 as it’s full of the sort of depth and longevity we’ve come to expect and love from EA’s sports titles.
There’s Hockey Ultimate Team that is obviously great but as I know none of the players it sort of kills the excitement, I could land the Ice Hockey ‘Messi’ and not bat an eyelid.
There’s also GM Connected in which you can literally get online and connect with friends, enemies and basically anybody out there in your own formed leagues. It’s been seen in other games but it is surely the way forward for online sports, genuinely competing in well run leagues across the networks. In this mode you can be a player, commissioner or general manager further adding to the variety.
Added to that bundle there’s also the chance to play through some pivotal moments from Ice Hockey seasons past and change history, a bit like Bill and Ted, but without the ice hockey,and the changing history bit. It’s a cool feature that was probably lost on me but would certainly be a blast for fans of the sport. EA promise more moments will be uploaded as the seasons progress.
The current rosters are present, and full of names I didn’t recognise, but of course I know millions will readily step into the skates of their heroes.
Graphically NHL 13 is a superb looking beast. The animations on players are lifelike and the whole package has a sheen and polish few other games seem to reach. It’s on a par with its FIFA and Madden cousins and that is no small feat.
Now how to rate the game? I come in as a newcomer and I’ve been left gobsmacked, sometimes literally (it’s a brutal sport), at how brilliant this game is. I feel foolish at having never dabbled in the dark arts of stick and puck. But, most players will have already enjoyed earlier versions and chances are if I was to stick a ten on this I’d be doing those gamers an injustice. Chances are NHL 13 isn’t hugely removed from its ancestors. Therefore I’ll score this appropriately.
NHL 13 is a wonderful addition to the roster, not just of NHL titles but also of most gamers varied sports collection. It delivers a deep, slick and stunning experience for newcomers and veterans alike. When I got here I only had time for ice when it had a healthy shot of whiskey atop it. I leave, liking my ice fast, blood spattered and surrounded by screaming fans, I think you could say I’m a convert.