While understandably an after-thought for many in this neck of the woods, EA's stellar National Hockey League (NHL) series remains one of console gaming's most celebrated franchises and for good reason. For over 15 years, the Series - with a nod to FIFA - persists as a standard for excellence in sport gaming, offering significant improvements with almost every release. The last iteration - NHL 12 - received a very big seal of approval from this reviewer and self-confessed ice hockey fanatic.
EA's revving up for its potentially best NHL offering yet, as NHL 13 - arriving in Oz on Sep 13 - finally addresses the albatross of a good...but not necessarily accurate...skating engine. It's 'True Performance Skating' takes into account realities of both starts/stops plus acceleration, also physics of individual players when doing so. As I've heard such claims of updated skating before from EA, I was understandably skeptical. It looks like, however, NHL 13 is serious and backing up bark with significant bite.
NHL 13 also sports an online General Manager mode, plus promised improvements to artificial intelligence ('Hockey IQ') of defenses and goaltenders. Again, I've heard such claims before, only to discover them more the graphical flair variety versus executed as hoped. A toast that these emerge as precribed, combining to reduce the number of near-automatic goals on breakaways = far too frequent an online occurrence. Sigh; if only they could simultaneously reduce wankers who rage quit in the third period.
Last - and for fellow, long term ice hockey afficianados - NHL 13 offers people like us the opportunity to relive glory moments of the current NHL era. I'm gathering this will mirror NBA 2K12's ode - via replay plus updates - to daily/weekly, top notch performances. Something tells me, however, this mode will be absent of Sidney Crosby's over-exaggerations of penalties.
In writing this preview, I confess to cautious optimism akin to footie fanatics upon discovering the release of 'AFL Live.' When your favorite sport gets a high profile makeover and/or re-launch, the fear of disappointment is omni-present. Still, consider NHL 13 a must-purchase for those either looking for something new in the sport arena and/or ice hockey diehards.
Sep 13 the rink opens for laps, with a Collector's (Stanley Cup) Edition (engraved tin, downloadable goodes) to be offered in tandem.