LONGUEUIL, QC. – Without any National Hockey League hockey to watch on my television, like many of you, I’ve been spending more and more time playing with my two kitty cats around the apartment.
Phatty McSchmatty doesn’t really play all that much, spending the majority of her time just lying around and rolling onto her back so her belly can be rubbed (sort of like me in a relationship.) Scratchmaster Tricky on the other hand is a fusion of mischief and excitement. She’ll actually fetch toys that I throw around the apartment just like a dog would, but will manage to break three household items in the process (sort of like me, whenever I retrieve anything in my apartment.)
I already know what many of you are thinking, “But Steve, I don’t even own a cat, I don’t even like…” That’s not important right now; we’ll just consider you an exception if you fit the preceding statement. I’m talking to you @All_Habs.
On a more serious note, with a slight void to fill not having any NHL hockey to watch and write about at the moment, I’ve purchased the newest hockey video game, EA Sports NHL13 – the latest in a long series of games released yearly by Electronic Arts.
The game has been released annualy since 1991 (22 years) with a different athlete appearing on the cover every year, is available on 19 platforms, is developed by EA Canada and published by Electronic Arts (EA) under their sports brand, EA Sports.
After playing quite a few games with their latest release, online for the most part, I decided to write my own review of NHL 13. For this review, I decided to grade the game in five categories that are important to me, being:
- Menu navigation
- Artificial intelligence
- Idiot proof
- Just plain old fun
Each category will be evaluated on a 100-point scale and seeing as this is my review, I decided to develop my own ponderation for each category, which is illustrated in the chart below.
Without getting into a heavy discussion about this, I simply decided that menu navigation was least important, fun most important and the other items fall in the middle equally, thus explaining my ponderation choices.
If you’ve played the game before, you’ll surely (hopefully) identify with some of the points below but before we start, I want to point out that I’m not a hardcore gamer. I would consider myself the occasional gamer, and therefore ask that you take this review with a grain of salt (accompanied with lemon slices and tequila shots), as I have not explored every game mode that the game offers as of yet.
Steve’s NHL13 Game Review (PS3)
To put this as professionally and eloquently as I possibly can, the menu navigation in NHL13 sucks like a frogfish on the ocean floor. It’s absolutely terrible. Lord of the Rings terrible.
The game offers you a multitude of different options, ranging from Hockey Ultimate Team (whatever that is), to GM Connected which allows you to be the General Manager of a hockey team, join online leagues and play against other players. This mode appears to be quite popular with the Twitter folks. It doesn’t stop there. You also have the ability to play tournaments, playoffs, battle for the cup, the Winter Classic, EA Online hockey league, and the list goes on.
From all the various modes that are available, I’ve only ever used two of them, those being My NHL 13 where you setup your game settings and options, and Online where I play all my games.
They even went and threw in a category called, NHL Moments Live which appears to be a space-filler where you can download videos of historical “NHL moments”. (Yawn, I have the Internet for that.)
There’s just too much. You literally get lost while navigating through the menus the first few times around. I don’t see the necessity in having so many different game modes when it appears that for the most part, everyone plays the same ones.
By playability, what I mean is how easy is it to actually play the game. With a little over a hundred games under my belt, I have to admit that I find this game a little difficult. Maybe I’m getting old, or maybe I just really suck, but it’s really difficult for me to get a hang of this game.
Sometimes, especially when skating at high speed, it appears my player loses all ability to turn. If I initially begin my turn on the left boards for example, at times my player will end up running into the right boards before completing the turn. I’ve seen buses with more agility.
Other times, my player will lose the puck and for reasons that are still unknown to me, my player will either go down on one knee or just flat out dive onto the ice. Since these situations usually happen in the offensive zone after I’ve created a turnover, it doesn’t help me very much in trying to back-check and help out my teammates.
Passing is now more difficult than ever with advanced pressure sensitive gameplay when using the buttons on the controllers. The longer and harder you press on the pass button will determine the strength of your pass, and you can’t forget to point the analog in the right direction. My passes are often too weak, or just too hard to handle.
Shooting isn’t much easier. When you’re all by yourself, it’s one thing but in traffic, it’s a whole other ball game (puck game?) In those rare occasions where I’m able to get one-on-one with the goalie, I realize that I have not developed any finesse to snipe in some pretty goals. Also, I now realize that I have yet to successfully connect on a one-timer attempt.
For hardcore gamers, I’m sure the learning curve is much easier to deal with, but for someone like me and I would imagine that I fall in the majority as an occasional gamer, even after many games I find it difficult at times to maneuver my player around the ice.
The artificial intelligence in this game is a little difficult to grade because I’ve seen both night and day. At times, the AI is the absolute worst, Gollum kind of worst. Other times, it appears to be one step ahead of me on every play.
In the Online Hockey League mode that I play with a few friends, what often happens is we end up being three people playing a team of three other people and the remaining positions are filled with AI players.
Very often it seems that if you don’t ask the AI players to pass the puck to you quickly enough, they will just end up creating turnovers that will frustrate you to the point of wanting to gouge your own eyes out, and even worse, often leads to the other team obtaining a breakaway.
Other times, the AI players position themselves perfectly and you can easily set them up for goals or give and go type plays.
Overall, you have to take the positives with the negatives on this one.
For me, this applies to online game modes, and their ability to be idiot proof. Let me elaborate.
I approached this game with no set expectations, but the more that I play, the more I realize that there are many things about the game which irritate me and for the most part, they have to do with the online players and not necessarily the game.
I guess that when you play in an online game community where players of all ages have the ability to speak to each other over wireless headsets, you have no choice but to expect that you’re going to hear a lot of crap, and I mean a lot. Hardly one game goes by where I don’t hear a face palming comment, whether from a teammate during the game, or from an opponents during the pre-game trash-talk sessions.
What frustrates me most is just what utter morons some people can be while playing online games.
In one of my recent games (six vs. six, goalies too) our team’s goalie, either out of frustration or affinity towards the other team, decided to skate out of his net every time the opposing team entered our zone, leaving an empty net for them to shoot at, which allowed them to score on practically every shot on net.
In a different game, one of the players on our team decided to stop playing, but didn’t quit the game. The result was that after every face-off, his player would remain motionless in his spot, while we were left with four players to defend against five.
Very often, players who fill up the forward positions quit the game if their team starts falling behind, leaving the remaining players to have to play with additional AI players. The team that’s already ahead gains a tremendous advantage and it’s often difficult to find a way back into the game.
If only the game allowed you to change your position when this happens, the defensemen could move up to forward and give the team a chance to compete. This however, isn’t possible.
The menu navigation is a problem but I ensure it doesn’t become one for me by constantly playing the same online game modes.
I would imagine that over time and with practice, the playability is something that will improve for me, however the learning curve is rather steep.
Whether good or bad, or even a mix of both, AI is part of all games and is a reality you always learn to live with in any game.
No matter how idiot proof you could make a game, I always tell myself better idiots will come along anyways (not that I made up that saying, or anything.)
In the end, what most of us are looking for out of a game is to have fun. Even though for me, the game has much to improve upon in all the categories I’ve listed above, I still manage to have a lot of fun playing the game, especially with my buddies online.
Category: Game review