Summary: It would be facile to say NHL 12 just skated by, sticking to the winning formula established in franchise’s resurgence. Still, as is occasionally the case with sports games that don’t need radical fixing, last year’s iteration was one of tweaks and balancing: welcomed AI fixes, improvements made to the previously implemented physics system, and so on.
Excerpt: With the NHL’s fourth work stoppage in less than 20 years now in full effect, hockey fans now have to look elsewhere for their fill of the sport they love. Thankfully, for those of us who don’t feel like cheering on teams from smaller leagues (Go Glens Go!), EA’s annual iteration of the beautiful game on ice is here and is bigger than ever before. But does bigger necessarily mean better or should this venerable series finally call a time out?
Excerpt: The NHL series has been around for over two decades and has garnered plenty of ‘Sports Game of the Year’ awards during this period. This year’s instalment doesn’t boast many improvements in the audio-visual department but instead features a new physics-based skating system, improved AI and a new mode called NHL Moments Live. The series’ popular ‘Be a GM’ mode has also been expanded to incorporate online interaction with other human-controlled teams.
Summary: Lockout got you down? No hockey? No problem!
Pros: The tightest and most polished version of NHL video game hockey yet; controls are fantastic; True Performance skating really does change the way the game is played; a ton of modes to please any hockey fan either online or off; GM connected mode is a staggering addition.
Cons: Some niggling issues that keep the game from being a true realistic hockey sim; revamped trading AI in Be a GM mode is practically broken; casual fans may have a hard time justifying the $60 upgrade over NHL 12; some graphical and presentation glitches; player ratings can seem pretty out of whack.
Summary: So, hockey fans’ worst fears have been realized and the lockout has been confirmed. This is the third in the past two decades, but thankfully this time around fans are well catered for in the digital realm. They certainly couldn’t have expected things to turn out this way in the NHL, but EA Canada has picked a hell of a time to give us a massive update to their NHL franchise.
Conclusion: NHL Moments Live is pretty much DOA. Just a few historic moments are present, and they are marred by having to re-create history with mostly modern lineups. So when you try to stage Doug Gilmour's big 1993 OT goal against the St. Louis Blues, you do so with linemates like Phil Kessel, not Dave Andreychuk, and try to put the puck past Jaroslav Halak, not Curtis Joseph. That takes a lot of the fun out of everything.
Pros: Realistic new physics add tremendous skating authenticity, Smart new player AI, Very challenging gameplay, Ambitious GM Connected mode has promise.
Cons: Smart AI is sometimes too smart, Still some rating quirks.
Summary: Even an uncertain 2012-2013 hockey season cannot put the breaks on EA Sports's latest entry in the NHL game series. If hockey fans do end up with a lot of time on their hands, EA picked the right year to come out with an NHL title worthy of longer than normal play sessions and deeper general manager simulations. Better yet, skating on ice has never felt more natural.