Released on Friday the 14th EA NHL (20)13 was touted as the best hockey video game since EASN NHL (19)94 for Sega Genesis (and that game was EPIC).
There were also rumors it would be the best sports video ever. This review is for the PS3 release. With the real NHL on lockout and players off to Europe to play hockey, this could be the only hockey you get this year.
Let’s revisit EA NHL (20)12 to start: NHL 12 was actually a good game. Online modes where you can play with your friends head to head or in a leauge. Season modes, player creation, Full NHL, AHL, and Intl League rosters and roster control during season mode. These carried over from NHL 11 but with some problems. You lost the ability to edit custom camera angles, Saved gameplay settings would not take and you would have to reenter your options from scratch. Also if you tried to play more than one game at a time, your custom settings would not stay loaded. During season mode the Winter Classic game was not part of the schedule…..
Now on to EA NHL 13…..
Game presentation and gameplay:
This is probably the saving grace of this game release. The graphics are crisper, there are new cut scenes and the commentary was updated – though you should turn commentary off and have your friends call the game while you play. The physics of skating was improved and gone are the days when you could take impossible diagonal turns. The game flows very nicely. The goalies and their behavior is much improved. Glove saves look “wicked” and they are more reliable. Everything from top down looks better than ever, this much is true.
Saving Data and Customizations:
At least this time around when you set you initial options, the settings stay saved. Perfect that is fixed now. BUT….. you cannot import season data saves from the prior NHL (20)12 game!! Are you kidding me! Still! I spend 3 hours recreating all my players and settings. 3 HOURS! But all sports games are like this. And all sports games need to understand that if you are going to be forced to buy the new version each year you should be able to port over your custom players and season saves!! C’mon EA, you’ve been doing this since 1990s!!
The Winter Classic: For those unfamiliar, the Winter Classic is played around New Years outside in a baseball or football arena.
For this year’s game release the developer’s decided on the Philadelphia location. This is not bad, BUT Fenway Park which also hosted a Winter Classic game tuned 100 years old this year and it would have been PRIME MARKETING to use Fenway Park.
EA you blew a great chance. But my suggestion is they create all outdoor venues and offer them as downloadble add-ons.
Also again, the Winter Classic does not appear on the season mode schedule but as a separate menu option, so you cannot use custom players.
If they have the All Star Game as part of the Season Mode schedule then the Winter Classic should also be found here too.
Lazy Game Planning / Goalie Masks:
The NHL pro level is all dolled up and looks the best. But if you decide to play on the AHL and Intl levels you start to see some odd things.
Example, I created an AHL season for the Portland Pirates. They are now the farm team for the Phoenix Coyotes. What’s odd? The jersey shoulder patch has the correct Coyote logo but the goalie mask has the NHL Buffalo Sabres logo still on it. ARE YOU SERIOUS!?!?!?
In fact all goalie masks on all skill levels are all from last year regardless of team affiliation. Very very sloppy.
My suggestion for EA Sports is to create an archive of various goalie masks in hockey history. Can’t be done?Well they can go here: http://www.goaliesarchive.com/index2.html and start scanning images.
This way you can have your goalie wear masks from all levels and most do not contain team logos in case the affiliations change.
Final Grade / Thoughts:
Whether its a tech device or video game, the trend is to force consumers to buy once or twice a year a product that is only barely updated or improved upon. EA NHL 13 is a prime example of this but again, all sports video games are like this and that is a shame.
With the superior graphics and game presentation they could have nailed it large with some clean up work and allowing the import of prior version data as well. If this is your first skate around the EA NHL rink then like MLB 12 the Show, you picked the right one and the best one (Other than NHL (19)94 that just stands on its own forever). If you are a veteran of the series, enjoy the facelift but don’t expect the engine to be improved upon.
I give this game 3 out of 5 stars, I give ALL current sports video games series 3 out of 5 stars until they fix data import issues.
I like this game, I really do. Parts of it are really superior. I just dont like the 3 hours of setup time before I even play a game year after year after year.
ADDENDUM – Post Release Notes, A Week of Playing: OK so I’ve been playing NHL (20)13 for a week now. And I need to retract a couple of things. One, settings are not fixed and the games loses your settings if you try to play more than one game at a time. Especially if you set any custom songs/sound events for your team. Second, back in NHL (20)11 at the end of each game you saw each of the 3 stars of the game get announced and skate out for a wave to the crowd. This has been MISSING since and is NOT in this current game.
I compared game load times and save times with NHL (20)11 and the current NHL (20)13 is so bogged down with data. Load times are slow and not stable. I’m sorry to say this BUT NHL (20)11 was a much better release.