With the NHL mired in another work stoppage, NHL 13 might be the closet thing we get to hockey for a while. And NHL 13 has added some new features and gameplay modes to what was already one of the best sports video games on the market.
Gameplay wise, the biggest addition is the new True Performance Skating. When you have the puck and get in the open ice, you can click down on the left stick and push the puck up ice aggressively. I play with the Blackhawks and you can really take advantage of this with a player like Patrick Kane. If you can get that puck to a player like Kane on a break, he will easily blow by everyone else on the ice. This is something that can be a big advantage to a user, especially vs. an AI that always seems to be in perfect position on defense.
The overall gameplay on NHL 13 isn't too different from the previous few seasons, and that not a bad thing. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. NHL's gameplay has been very solid, so there's no need to drastically change things just for the sake of changing them.
The biggest game mode addition to NHL is GM Connected. GM Connected is the first real online franchise mode for the NHL series. In GM Connected you can have a league where you have all the teams in the NHL user controlled and play through as many NHL seasons as you want. GM connected is a little different than the online modes in Madden 13 and NCAA 13, as GM Connected gives you the ability to play on the same team with friends in a franchise. If you have five friends with the game, all of you can be on the same team and play against the rest of the league. A team can have up to 25 users on it, and that can be the case with all 30 NHL teams. So it's possible to have a league with 750 players (30 NHL teams times 25 players on each team). That would be pretty extreme. I think most leagues will be like mine - me and four other guys.
The leagues can be set to advance (according to the league calendar) every three days, every week, or every two weeks. I have my league set to advance two weeks at a time. So with that setting, the guys in my league will have anywhere from 4 to 8 games to play, and they can play them in any order. Once everyone is done with their set of games, you advance and it will simulate the rest of the games during that time period. The best part about NHL games is that they are nice and quick, and you still get a realistic score. I can play three games of NHL in the time it takes me to play a game of Madden or NCAA Football. As a result, we are halfway through our first season after only three weeks.
While GM Connected is a much-welcomed game mode, it has its drawbacks. As a commissioner I communicate with the guys in my league and let them know if they are playing another user. I'll put them in contact with each other so they can schedule times to play their games. But for some odd reason, GM Connected does not allow you to view the schedules of other people in the league. You can't even view your schedule in calendar form. You can only view the current set of games in your designated time frame. Another strange omission in the commissioner tools is the ability to invite players to your dynasty directly. You can only send direct invites when you initially create the league. After that, someone would have to search for your league by name and request to join. I find it strange that the NHL team left those basic features off of GM Connected. Hopefully they can patch that in at some point.
Overall, NHL continues to be the best, and only, NHL game out there. It will keep fans occupied until the real guys can get back on the ice.
SCORE: 8.5 out of 10.
Filed under: NHL 13