Ask anyone, and I’ll always same the same thing: my favorite sports game of all time is NHL 94 and I still play it regularly.
The EA Sports rep on hand put a smile to his face when I mentioned that and replied, “After playing NHL 13, you won’t want to go back.” After some hands on time, I can see why.
Skating has been completely re-worked, featuring not only new animations, but far better physics. Even as recent as NHL 12, mechanics have been a bit wonky, allowing players to rush down the ice, stop on a time, turn, and shoot. Those days are long gone, as your momentum will carry you too far, causing more of an arc as you attempt to position yourself. Not only does this make for a more realistic game, but a more strategically one.
Hockey is a game of careful planning, tactics, and patience, all three of which were needed during the hands on time. The EA Sports rep was quite impressed with my ability to pick up after a 19 year lull between NHL titles (I did play NHL 2K6 a lot, but obviously, that’s a completely different game).
Of note, this was my first time using the shot stick in the series, and it’s really easy to pick up, as is fore checking, but what’s remarkable is the fact that it’s all easy to pick up even with the new skating rework, as well as the option to pivot for better puck handling and defensive placement. Just as an attacker can blast down the ice, so can the defender, and only when positioned properly, he can use his momentum to put himself in place for the perfect poke check, breaking up a scoring chance. On the opposite end of the spectrum, being too obvious as you line up a huge hit doesn’t always work. It did once for me, but the EA Sports rep saw it coming a second time, adjusting perfectly. My momentum put me out of the play and I had to rely on the quick reflexes of Jonathan Quick to prevent being scored on.
I’m really anxious to see how playing NHL 13 over an extending period of time holds up in comparison to, say, NHL 94. Both do offer an accessibility that allows you to pick up the controller and jump in, but NHL 13 combines that with far more realism and tactical play. I’m looking forward to getting more hands on time with the title.