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E3 2012: NHL 13 hands-on

E3 2012NHL

Our hands-on demo with NHL 13 showcased some of the largest signature changes in EA’s long-running puck franchise since the 07 iteration, which introduced dual sticks that have since been implemented in nearly all EA Sports titles. Our demo started with an EA rep explaining the ways in which things had changed since what they admitted was a disappointing outing last year.

NHL 12 had no momentum”, said the rep, explaining the way they’d put 1,000 new skating animations into NHL 13 and running us through their application in a practice match.

We fled up the ice and it was true. There was a dramatic, noticeable improvement to the skater’s push, every time the blade hit the ice. We went into replay and watched it again. EA made it the focus of our time with the game and rightfully so. They have achieved a newfound kind of momentum and it’s more clearly the way someone moves down the ice.

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Players who go flying down ice and set up constant breakaways will now have less chance of scoring once they’ve sped down ice. It’s more about the realism, finally matching the quality sense for presentation and the skill stick in the part that’s most essential to hockey, the skating. However, there’s also janky parts with trembling legs and a bit of that uncanny weirdness which comes with videogames attempting to capture the absolute reality.

Then we played a match. Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils. It was for the cup. It was a rematch of the one on television and because they’re the underdogs, we picked the New Jersey team.

NHL 13 handles well enough mechanically and the changes to the skating have definitely added a new sense of control (or the lack of it due to the realistic nature of how people move along ice). This feels like yet another step towards the full realization of what these games are about, another leap forward in terms of how the sport realistically works and away from the idealized way we mechanically think hockey works.

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There is also a new layer of strategic depth in there. Goalies follow better, perhaps too well. Jonathon Quick followed through with all my shots but one that slipped through on an off-chance. We found it harder to score on the easy setup. The one-timer was no longer the end-all solution to the problem of moving the puck to the net. There were also additional strategies and formations added that offer further nuance for the more dedicated NHL player.

Although we ended up losing 3-1 to an EA rep, we had a spirited match and were reassured that for the first time since NHL 09, EA are back on the right track with their fan favorite franchise. This is what the sport is about and exists as a fuller realization of what hockey is about for those of us who love it. As per usual, NHL 13 will meet its annualized release schedule this Fall.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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