NHL 13 game review - PlayStation 3 (PS3) version played
GREEN Day may prattle on about waking them up when September ends, but I love this month.
Not only does it contain my birthday, it’s also when the good video games start coming out after a summer lull for new releases.
While many gamers will be salivating at the thought of the next over-hyped big-budget shooters looming large on the horizon, I prefer to get excited about the new wave of sports games.
While some of the big games such as Fifa 13 are still getting kitted up in the changing room, first out of the players’ tunnel is NHL 13 from EA Sports.
Having reviewed each annual iteration of this long-0running hockey game franchise for several years now, I feel like a broken record skipping back to the same line of the song once every 12 months when I say that this is the biggest and best version of the game yet. Fact is, though, it is the biggest and best game yet in the NHL series so it’s hard not to repeat myself.
What I won’t repeat is any long-winded explanation of what the NHL game is all about. It’s a sport simulation and unless you’ve never played a sport simulation before, which is unlikely, you’ll know exactly what it entails.
In the case of NHL 13, what you get is a simulation of playing North American professional hockey which is probably about as realistic as it’s possible to get on home consoles. Unless EA finds a way for gamers to be sucked into their TVs to be clattered on the ice by a Canadian man-mountain, this is as close to the real thing most of us are likely to get.
Ice hockey is a fast-paced, physical and at time fist-fuelled sport, and those elements have been captured well by EA Sports down the years and refined further in the latest version of NHL.
If you’ve played any of EA Sports’ games of late you’ll feel right at home with the vast network of menus within the game. These give you almost limitless choice on game modes and options.
If you’re a fan of the sport and can’t find a combination of settings that works for you from the massive amount you can select from, you must have some very strange tastes.
The sheer depth of the game may be daunting for newcomers. There may also not be that many people with the dedication to play through multiple seasons in control of a particular player or team.
Fret not though because, like I do, you can jump into the Play Now mode where two means of your choosing get straight down to business on the ice without the need for any major toggling of rules or gameplay settings.
When you do get down on the rink matches play much as they have done throughout NHL’s history, with many of the yearly tweaks being too subtle to notice.
One area where the developers have clearly been hard at work is in the physics.
The way players move around on the ice is even more believable than before – the quality of their twists, turns, falls and collisions given another boost.
Momentum has been tightened up so players can’t magically spin on their skates and carry on in a different direction at the same speed. Players ‘feel’ heavier and more unwieldy – getting them pointing and moving in the right direction on the ice can be akin to what I imagine driving a tank is like.
As well as the depth of the game potentially being off-putting to newbies, so too might the controls. This is not a game you can just pick up and play. Even though there are simpler set-ups than the default controls available, they still take time to memorise and master.
You’ll also need to be patient about getting the puck into the net and not expect many goal fests early on. Due to the goalies being given almost superhuman skills, expect some low-scoring matches until you get good at shooting, very good.
Persevere, though, because NHL is a game worth sticking with.
I would say that it is a must-have game for all hardcore aficionados of ice hockey but that would probably only apply to a small number of people in this country.
Instead, I’ll widen the net and say this is a must-have game for all fans of sports video games in general.
If you’re looking for a video game which near perfectly replicates a very exciting sport, this one is most definitely worth checking out and spending some hours with during the ever-darker autumn evenings.
9 out of 10
Out now for PS3 and Xbox 360