Wednesday, August 22, 2012

NHL 13 Will Be The Greatest Sports Game to Date

Right after NHL Hitz 20-02 that is, but that's in a completely different league.

The NHL 13 demo was released yesterday for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.  With its new physics-based skating and improved AI and character models, even with 20 days before its official release, it is being labeled a front runner for Sports Game of the Year.

The NHL franchise has evolved drastically over the past several years.  I started playing the franchise back in 2008, back when Eric Staal graced the cover, and have bought the newest version every year (with the exception of 2011) since.  This year's edition seems to have maximized all of the efforts made for a more realistic and challenging game, while still having that fun, replayability (not a word, but it is now) that brings gamers back.

Certain presentation aspects have not changed much like the crowd and the sometimes ridiculous announcing by Gary Thorne and color commentator Bill Clement.  Luckily, it doesn't detract from the game.  Playing the game is almost a completely different experience from last year outside of mere presentation flaws.  The in-game animations and the character models have vastly improved from last year -- where Brad Marchand had a Jay Leno-sized chin with light brown hair.

The skating is the best part of the game for a few reasons.  It makes you really think about every inch of ice you cover when you skate, whether you're sprinting, gliding or attempting to change directions.  Turning will cause you to slow down, gliding will allow you to turn a little quicker, and sprinting will allow you to blow past defenders, but at the risky of sloppier puck-handling.

From playing the demo, the AI works pretty well, although the computer seemed to dump and chase every other possession.  Other modes, such as NHL Moments Live, will allow you to re-live historic hockey moments, such as the Kings Western Conference clinching game against the Coyotes.  And GM Connected boasts the ability to connect 750 players in an online league.  You can play as one team, join up to five other players on a completely user-controlled team, or watch from the bench and set your teams AI to your play style.

From the demo, I would give NHL 13 a solid 9.  Well, probably a 9.5 considering the varied game modes, added Winter Classic stadium and Zombie Nation being in the playlist. Go download the demo now.

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