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NHL 16 photo
NHL 16

NHL 16 goalie trailer shows none of the best things Patrick Roy ever did


Home of the Roypper
Jul 24
// Brett Makedonski
Goaltenders have exactly one job: tend to the goal. Don't let the puck hit the twine. Accomplish that through whatever means necessary. Force them to the glove side where you make web gems like Willie Mays. Flash the five-ho...
EA Sports Trainwreck photo
EA Sports Trainwreck

EA Sports was the most cringeworthy thing at E3 thus far


But it's still early in the week
Jun 15
// Jed Whitaker
This is an actual tweet from an actor hired to be "Tha Hoop Gawd" by EA to pretend to be a celebrity during its conference. This was approved by someone at EA. Tha Hoop Gawd came on the stage to demo the GameFace app for NBA...

These are EA Sports' big focuses for Madden, FIFA, and NHL in 2015

Jun 15 // Brett Makedonski
Without a doubt, Madden is the EA Sports franchise that's been given the most attention over the years. It'd have been easy for the publisher to ask for some more subtle changes like even slicker presentation. To EA's credit, it's working out a new take on a gameplay staple -- a risky venture in an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" culture of gaming. EA Sports has coined the term "Air Supremacy" for its Madden focus, and it begins at the position everyone starts with: Quarterback. There's greater control over the passing game now when helming a football team. Touch passes have been implemented to offer some variation in between lobs and bullets. The developers have altered how passers move on the run by using different animations for rolling out (yet looking for a receiver), and a full-on scramble. Maybe the biggest change to the quarterback position comes in the form of body positional passes. As an example, the presenter brought up the Seahawks' last offensive play in the Super Bowl this year. Russell Wilson threw a mid-body pass, and it was picked off. If he had thrown a low one (as he should have), the worst case scenario would've likely been an incompletion. With this installment of Madden, the player will have that sort of pinpoint control over every pass. However, passing is a two-way street, and no quarterback will put up Hall of Fame numbers without an apt receiving corps. Madden 16 also focuses on wideouts, as they can implement different styles to make catches. Maybe an ill-thrown pass calls for them to go up and challenge a defender for a ball. They likely won't gain many yards after the reception, but they might actually catch it (and more importantly, the chances of an interception go way down.) Or, maybe the situation is optimal for them to rack up some yards after catch. Do that, and pick up a first down. Those are just a few of the circumstances where Madden 16 lets you choose how to catch the ball after it lets you choose how to throw it. Lastly, ever eager to capitalize on the growing fantasy football trend, Madden 16 has a new fantasy mode. Draft Champions is a 15-round fantasy draft that allows you to build a team from all NFL players and play a full season. The publisher described this as the type of mode you might play if you had a couple hours to kill before you went to bed. The seasons are designed to go quickly, allowing you to draft an entirely new team relatively quickly after finishing one campaign. While Madden's focuses are easy to identify, FIFA 16's are a little more nebulous (apart from the women's national teams that were added.) They're centered around the player as the playmaker, but mostly in how all the surrounding pieces move. In a nutshell, EA Sports is upping the competency of FIFA's AI. It's improving positional defensive sense and how they defend as a unit. The goal (GOLAZO!!!) here is players have to be more strategic with their attack. Passing better be done with a purpose, or the opposition will just take the ball from you at midfield. But, working down the pitch and clinically finishing should feel like an actual accomplishment, one that sends you running and shouting toward a section of fevered supporters. This is the most difficult enhancement in the three games to recognize at a preview event. These are changes that define the very core of the sport. For instance, with Madden it's easy to play and realize "oh yeah, the quarterback is doing those things they said he would." It's not as simple with FIFA this year. If it's as improved as EA says, hardcore fans might recognize it, but more casual players might just think "Yeah, this is a good soccer game." As subtle as FIFA's intentions are, NHL's are far more brazen. It's eschewing the likes of physics and presentation for something else this year. Basically, EA's looking to add in a lot of the stuff that was inexplicably absent in NHL 15. Those who are dedicated to the series should be content, as long as they weren't too put off by last year's game. The most notable (re)addition to NHL 16 is EA Sports Hockey League -- an online competitive team mode that was quite popular. It was cut from NHL 15 due to "quality control," but it's back this year. Actually, EA's inclusion of several modes and features is a testament to the fact that it's listening to the fans (or to how awry the last game went). Also present are offline, single player Hockey Ultimate Team; simulating to the next shift in Be a Pro, along with playing a career beginning in the minors; and the ability to manage individual players in Be a GM. As it's moving beyond the growing pains of developing for new consoles, EA Sports is making strides with its hockey franchise. It sounds like NHL 16 will end up being the game NHL 15 should've been. It's just a shame it took an extra year. So, that's where EA Sports' intentions lie for Madden 16, FIFA 16, and NHL 16. They're all different in the varying degrees of change that needed to be made. Some, like NHL are more apparent, while Madden just moves a bit closer to that sim experience. But, they all look to be on track to be an improvement thanks to their one big focus.
EA Sports preview photo
EA Sports round-up!
Another year, another collection of EA Sports titles. EA's in a fortuitous position in that it has the video game rights to three of the five most popular athletics wrapped up. Demand for these games seemingly never wanes bec...


EA Xbox One sale photo
EA Xbox One sale

Xbox One sale: $10 Titanfall and Garden Warfare, $36 Dragon Age: Inquisition


I'm tempted
Jan 26
// Jordan Devore
It's much easier to stomach Electronic Arts when you're only paying a fraction of the original price, as is the case with these Xbox One deals via Live. Come on, latecomers. This one's for you: Battlefield 4 - $13.20 Battlef...
NHL 15 photo
NHL 15

NHL 15 predicts entire hockey season, probably gets it horribly wrong


L.A. Kings again?
Oct 01
// Brett Makedonski
EA Sports used NHL 15 to simulate and predict the upcoming NHL season which begins next week. The results are most likely terribly wrong because nowhere does it anticipate that the Colorado Avalanche will be crowned Sta...

Review: NHL 15

Sep 24 // Brett Makedonski
NHL 15 (Xbox One [reviewed], PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)Developer: EA CanadaPublisher: EA SportsRelease: September 9, 2014MSRP: $59.99 The direction of EA Canada's focus on developing a hockey title for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 is clear -- prioritize the actual game of hockey. Through a thorough revamping of the physics system, the action's more convincing than ever. With the puck acting as a puck and not a spherical ball, small quirky plays happen with regularity, such as a pass hopping over a forward's stick. Likewise, the new physics make their impact on the 12 players on the ice. Crashing the net has never been so fun, as the huge pileups can lead to plenty of sloppy scoring chances. It's also a joy to watch the goaltenders make save after save in differing fashion as they react to the chaotic nature of both the players and the puck. It's tough to estimate exactly how nuanced and deep this physics rehaul goes -- like if the boards at Joe Louis Arena are livelier than other rinks -- but it's enough to make a noticeable and constant impression. For all the work that's gone into physics, it'd be a moot point if NHL 15's AI didn't act like hockey players would. Fortunately, they do. Defensemen will almost always stay at home, making it incredibly difficult to go coast-to-coast alone. Forwards will immediately jump on the backcheck after a turnover, getting the headstart on regaining control. Everyone usually just feels like they're in the spot they should be. [embed]281559:55723:0[/embed] This AI competency means that there really isn't anything in the way of a consistent scoring glitch or strategy that I could find. Maybe wristers halfway into the attacking zone went in more often than they necessarily should, but there's no wraparound trick or one-timer combo that will almost always work. Despite its mostly spot-on gameplay, NHL 15 isn't without its occasional moments that remind you this is just a videogame. In Be a GM mode, I lost Gabriel Landeskog for an extended period of time, but not before he skated up-ice flawlessly and scored a goal immediately after the commentator declared that "he looks shaken up." Likewise, I once surrendered a penalty shot for an infraction along the wing, despite having another defenseman directly in front of the net. Moments like these are staunch reminders that even though the gameplay is good, it's still far from perfect. Really, the one thing that may go the furthest toward tying together NHL 15's illusion of "this is real hockey" is the presentation. Featuring a commentary team of NBC Sports' Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, and Ray Ferraro, fans would be hard-pressed to ask for a better line-up calling the game (except for you, everyone in Canada). The beginning of each match-up starts with a "live broadcast" that genuinely makes each game seem more important than it really is. What's most impressive about the presentation is how in-depth and dynamic it is. The team will talk about different angles to the game, profile certain characters, or discuss who's on a recent hot streak. Even though you think you know what they're about to say, the commentary's almost always a surprise, as there's a bevy of lines for many situations. Adding to that effect is the mid-game contribution from Ray Ferraro, who's at ice level, and will periodically analyze a player's game, whether it's showcasing his big hits or chronicling his tremendous saves. Of course, this excellence in production translates to the visuals, as one would expect from a game on current consoles. Everything that's happening is sharper and more detailed. The player models look fantastic, and give plenty of reason to watch post-goal celebrations. When you watch the ice shavings as the goalie carves up the crease after an intermission, well, you get sort of nostalgic for that trademark hockey rink smell. But, for everything it does right on the ice, NHL 15 missteps horribly off-ice. This year's iteration is simply stunningly lacking in game modes and options, especially compared to NHL 14. Fans of the franchise will likely be affected in some way, as the list of things nixed is too great to ignore. Just as a sample, gone are EA Sports Hockey League, GM Connected, Winter Classic, Be a Legend, and regular old season mode. Those are just some of the greater examples. Even for the modes that remain, many are scaled back in inexplicable ways. For instance, in Be a Pro, it's no longer an option to simulate to the next shift. You're just forced watch mindlessly from the bench. Unfortunate enough to take a penalty? Then you might as well just go make a sandwich or take a restroom break. Be a GM is similarly stripped. For a mode that thrives on control, NHL 15 gives you next to none. The AHL affiliate teams have been done away with, and players in the minors don't accumulate any season stats -- they just sort of exist without any progress that you can control. There are no longer any goals to aim other than winning (I guess). Probably most egregious, the year-end draft is completely run by the CPU, and the preseason and fantasy drafts are gone. Predictably, the Hockey Ultimate Team mode is plenty intact. After all, EA looks at it as a central piece to making $1 billion from extra content this year. However, the only way to earn pucks now seems to be from playing online -- no longer picking up a few from time spent in singleplayer modes. Or, (as EA would surely like) just open up that wallet of yours. For what it's worth, EA's patching some of these missing features back into NHL 15. Already added are a playoff mode, coach feedback in Be a Pro, and the three stars of the game (how the latter was ever overlooked, I'll never know). Coming soon are online team play and the aforementioned ability to control the draft in Be a GM. That's the extent of the plans that EA has outlined thus far. It's all such a shame because at its heart NHL 15 is a very solid hockey game. It just doesn't do any of the non-hockey stuff right. Honestly, newcomers to the franchise might not even notice. But, series veterans would feel incredibly cheated. If nothing else, this is a great foundation for EA Canada to build on as it gets more comfortable developing for Xbox One and PS4. There are undoubtedly great things in the pipeline for the NHL franchise, but NHL 15 isn't a part of those plans.
NHL 15 reviewed photo
On-ice first star, off-ice distraction
With regard to sports games, the most important facet of any given title should always be the actual playing of the sport. That's how NHL 15 is. It mostly shines when you're on-ice, leading the charge through the neutral...

NHL demo photo
NHL demo

NHL 15 demo is up on PS4 and Xbox One


Play it if you want. Or don't. I'm not a cop.
Aug 26
// Steven Hansen
You can play as either the New York Rangers or LA Kings, test out that new skill stick they're flaunting, or go into a free skate practice mode if you're new. 
NHL 15 photo
NHL 15

NHL 15 flaunts its alliteration with the Superstar Skill Stick


See how the system's changed
Jul 24
// Brett Makedonski
Slapshots from the point, cheeky tip-ins, and wristers through traffic are all perfectly fine, but when you play an NHL game, you want to embarrass your opponent. You want them going to get their jock out of the rafters...
NHL 15 photo
NHL 15

Pucks and players are more chaotic in NHL 15


All thanks to the laws of physics
Jul 18
// Brett Makedonski
About a month ago, I explained how EA Sports' big focus for NHL 15 was physics. In the event that you didn't believe me (or hate reading), this video adequately sums up the studio's intentions. Watch it to learn how pucks bounce or to see Matt Duchene crash the net like a total badass.
NHL 15 cover photo
NHL 15 cover

Boston Bruins' Patrice Bergeron to grace the cover of NHL 15


Beating out Canadiens' P.K. Subban
Jun 24
// Brett Makedonski
[Update: EA Sports has sent along the cover art, which can be seen below.] At tonight's 2014 NHL Awards in Las Vegas, the winner of the NHL 15 cover was revealed. The athletes went through a fan voting process, begi...

EA Sports has one big focus for Madden, FIFA, and NHL this year

Jun 09 // Brett Makedonski
Madden may have been the franchise that's received the most love and care from EA for more than a decade, so it might be the one that's seeing the most nuanced changes. A lot of the upgrades to Madden 15 deal with presentation. There's no question about it: EA Sports wants you to feel like you're watching a football game when you're playing a football game. As soon as a game starts, that level of immersion begins to take effect. As we were shown a match-up featuring the recent NFL champion Seattle Seahawks in their home venue, we couldn't help but be impressed by the attention to detail. Wide-angle shots of the stadium, close-ups of the coach, the camera shaking from the intensity of the crowd -- it all positively smacked of watching a playoff game on television. That degree of presentation depth extends throughout the entire experience. New to Madden 15 is a full-fledged halftime show, explicitly tailored to the game at hand. Apart from detailed discussion about trends and certain plays in the first half, there's also on-field entertainment, statistics, box scores -- again, all the stuff that you could expect from a Sunday afternoon broadcast. [embed]275792:54268:0[/embed] There's also a bit of refinement taking place with regard to gameplay. One of EA's biggest priorities was to get away from using the skill stick to wiggle through plays, but instead concentrate on authentic strategy. Working toward being as close to a true simulation as possible, Madden 15 puts more emphasis on wise play-calling than unrealistic juking. However, Madden 15 will offer a bit of hand-holding to help acclimate those that haphazardly select plays like they're pointing out names in a phonebook. An updated approach to the play-calling screen shows players a strategic pick, a community pick, and a personalized pick. The strategic pick outlines what the opponent is likely to do, and hopefully reinforces your actions by teaching you about the game. The community and personalized selections don't sound as if they'll be as strategically refined, but, just like Madden, sometimes the popular choice is popular for a reason. If the improvements to Madden 15 hold a central theme of presentation, the one relating to FIFA 15 is undoubtedly emotion. Soccer is a game that brings out the passion and emotion in players and fans alike, after all. That's going to be nowhere more evident than in FIFA 15. EA set the framework for this feature last year; this year it's fleshing it out. Emotion and intensity of all 22 players on the pitch will be tracked at all times and constantly changing. The victim of a hard tackle might become angry at the opposition, and his teammates might too. A player that skies a ball in the box might be disappointed with himself, and react as such. Something as ridiculous as a keeper letting in an own goal might destroy team morale, at least temporarily. Of course, the emotion all translates to the players' other statistics, effectively acting as a boost or hindrance of sorts. Even though the emotion system will affect matches of FIFA 15 at its deepest level, it will have plenty of opportunities to become the star of the show. The greatest example of this may be after important goals are scored, as celebrations are now more grand than ever. Ten player dogpiles and elated sliding and hugging are sure to add an appropriate exclamation point to important moments and monumental wins. The emotion doesn't just stay on the pitch, however. It bleeds into the stadium. Rowdy crowds that hang onto every corner kick and through ball know how to act for any circumstance that might arise. Further, supporters are represented by the specificity that they're known for, and well, it's tough not to get goosebumps watching all of Anfield sing "You'll Never Walk Alone." EA's third major sports title for the year, NHL 15, focuses its intentions toward something much more integral than presentation or emotion. NHL 15 aims to revamp its physics, an aspect that affects the core of the hockey experience. Now that development of these titles has moved to its fourth generation, EA Sports stresses that consoles are equipped to do things that were never before possible. One such thing, and maybe the most notable improvement to NHL 15, is that the puck acts more like a puck and less like a ball. It may seem silly at first, but it's a sizable upgrade. Pucks are nothing like spheres, and being able to recreate their true movement adds that layer of realism that EA Sports yearns for. Expect more awkward bounces off of the endboards, funny hops over sticks, and deflections past goaltenders that weren't possible before. All because the puck acts like a puck now. Obviously, the puck is far from the only thing on the ice. There are also 12 athletes, 10 of which are skating about at breakneck speed. The physics improvements extend to them as well. The collision and hit detection for them has been overhauled in an effort to make every bodycheck unique to the forces being applied. In theory, because of the great number of influencing factors, each check will be like a snowflake -- no two the exact same. That's where EA Sports' intentions lie for Madden 15, FIFA 15, and NHL 15. The focal points may appear to smack of more subtlety with each passing year, and maybe it's because that's exactly the case. That's a luxury that EA Sports has on its side as it inches ever-closer to realism.
EA Sports photo
EA Sports round-up!
EA Sports is in a good position with its athletic franchises. The demand for annual iterations in each series is high enough to warrant frequent releases, but sports don't really change. This allows the developers to focus on...

NHL 15 photo
NHL 15

First NHL 15 screen isn't of an Avalanche player like it should be


Guess where my allegiances lie
Jun 02
// Brett Makedonski
EA Sports has released the first screenshot for NHL 15, and it features San Jose captain Joe Thornton rocking an unimpressive beard, because they're the Sharks and their long list of playoff flameouts disappoint in both the c...
NHL '94 Anniversary Mode photo
NHL '94 Anniversary Mode

EA brings NHL '94 Anniversary Mode to NHL 14


They even took out the ads!
Jul 11
// Steven Hansen
Hockey and non-hockey fans alike might remember the iconic NHL '94, the first NHL game to feature actual NHL rosters, teams, and logos. It also removed fighting and blood per league concerns. True to its era, NHL '94 offered...

NHL 14 fight system revamped, collision physics happening

Jun 13 // Steven Hansen
Last year's game made skating feel great and grounded. Making plays, defensively or offensively, feels largely about positioning and finesse, almost like a ballroom dance. As hardcore as hockey is, they're ice skating -- and doing so incredibly well -- so making skating such a focus and making it feel great is fantastic. Adding the collision physics to this previously implemented system means the latter doesn't fall flat when players collide, ruining the effect. Backwards skating feels a bit smoother, too, as well as defensive pivots and defender AI. L1 now lets you do a one button deke in the direction you're skate, while L2 does a spin in the direction you're skating. With proper timing, you can avoid the big, physics hits and hopefully break away for a goal. The fights now feature real time damage that you can see on players face. More importantly, they're in third person and don't break your immersion when fights begin. Good hits feel absolutely devastating without feeling overblown, which is impressive. Additionally, you can grab, evade, and blend crosses and uppercuts. Not only did I win the game 2-1, but I won fights 3-0.  Otherwise, the game plays as fabulously as it always does. The game I played was 0-0 well towards the end as both of us played sloppily and took penalties while in conversation. After I sniped a last minute goal, though, things went tense and we both went silent and soon the game was an intense 1-1 that I ended with a 30 seconds left spin move and sneaky goal. As tense and fun as ever.
NHL 14 preview photo
Fight tech implemented from Fight Night
One of the weird things about NHL 13 was its newly implemented first-person fighting system. Well, that system is getting removed because it takes the player too much out of the game. In its stead, some of the tech from EA's...

PS Plus Update photo
PS Plus Update

Closure free on PS Plus tomorrow, Critter Crunch $1.40


Mmm delicious rainbow vomit
Feb 11
// Kyle MacGregor
There's one deal on PlayStation Plus this week that just seems too good to pass up. Starting tomorrow, Critter Crunch will be available for only $1.40. At that price there's almost no excuse not to be regurgitating color...

Review: NHL 13

Oct 10 // Steven Hansen
NHL 12 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 [reviewed]) Developer: EA Canada Publisher: EA Sports Released: September 11, 2012 MSRP: $59.99 Players no longer feel like gliding ghosts out on the ice. Ice chips spray up on sharp cuts and momentum is preserved. An object in motion tends to stay in motion, after all. When you take a sharp break up (or down) ice, you can feel each stride length digging into the ice. I actually played a game of Madden 13 right after some NHL 13 and felt I had less a solid foot beneath me in Madden, weirdly enough. You’re more grounded on ice. The extended physics, True Performance Skating, and EA Sports Hockey IQ all work in concert to produce the most nuanced hockey title to date. With the Hockey IQ, the new governing AI, players are aware of every other player on the ice, rather than just those in their immediate vicinity. Goalies are aware of more than just the player controlling the puck at any given moment, while new animations afford them independently controlled limbs that can make for exciting desperation saves and less mechanized, exploitable goal keeping. What all this means, in short, is that play feels true to life, more akin to the fluid, organic art that is professional sportsmanship than a mechanized recreation. Save for some occasionally wonky collision detection on hits, the game is, in some way, indistinguishable from the real-life product you’d watch on television. This faithful representation does something most sports games don’t: it starts teaching you about the nuances of hockey and does so implicitly. It challenges you, but doesn’t necessarily assume you know what the heck is going on in the sport (and I know plenty of ardent sports fans who actually know very little about the sports they root for so strongly). It does well what great games do, but what sports games often eschew or ignore, basically. It teaches you how to get better through play -- and you often don't even realize it until after the fact. If you opt to take the brief, explicit intro tutorial, the first thing you do is shoot and the second thing you do is shoot aimed shots. The third thing it teaches you is how to engage in and win a fist fight. Hockey, folks. If you’re curious, triangle (or Y) still engages and it’s still in first person, though it appears to have slowed down and become a bit more measured since NHL 12. Left and right on the left stick to dodge punches, L2 to use your free hand to block, down to tug on opposing player’s jersey – a quick right stick delivers an uppercut. The punching parallels shooting. Flick the stick up (straight, or towards left or right, depending on where the opposing player’s head is) for a jab; pull the stick down and up for a full-fledged punch. I know I’m in the minority in thinking the fighting in hockey is stupid. “Part of the culture” and all that nonsense. Fighting in the series is rather hilarious, though, emphasizing the inanity of it, like playing a less self-aware NFL Blitz. Of course, it also has the practical use of giving you an energy boost if you win. To its credit, the game also does a good job of subtly nudging you in the direction of proper play without successive tutorials, which is great because there’s way too much content to relegate to tutorials. The game is as robust as ever, filled with enough different modes to keep you content for far longer than the year’s wait until the next release, though modes like NHL Moments are only good for short bursts. New kid on the block is the huge GM Connected, which can accommodate up to 750 individual players in a single league if you have the bureaucratic wherewithal to organize such a logistical nightmare. Having human-run teams, despite the difficulty in organization, is better than dealing with the offline, improved-but-still-flawed managing AI, from whom you can still bait bad moves (or just let it make the bad moves on its own and capitalize).I still prefer couch co-op, which NHL 13 continues to do with aplomb. Still, the ambition of GM Connected is duly noted and the heavily invested fanbase will undoubtedly enjoy the opportunity to play, manage, or coach en masse. Hopefully the its next iteration will be a bit more streamlined and optimized, however, as the menu navigation is both a bit labyrinthine and irritatingly slow -- be prepared for a lot of waiting during navigation. As the third period of a one-to-one stalemate began, after winning a faceoff I made a mad dash for the opposite net. At the last moment, as I skated towards the goalie from the left at breakneck speed, I gingerly slid a pass across the ice to the AI teammate trailing behind me on the other side. I automatically assumed control and flicked the puck into the upper right corner of the net -- just beyond the goalie’s outstretched arms -- that bounced off the steel and in for a goal. Inadvertently, in real life, I fiercely pumped my fist and growled an emphatic “Yes!” Growled, not yelled, because it was well past midnight and I was still playing. NHL 13, at its most basic level, is just fun to play when you get right down to it, even for someone who might only watch hockey during the playoffs and Olympics, or not at all. With another work stoppage induced in the oft-locked out league, NHL 13 is also one of the few outlets for hockey fans this would-be season, save for getting out on the ice yourself and getting your teeth knocked out. You could do much worse for a substitute.
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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 yea...

Preview: NHL 13

Jun 11 // Steven Hansen
NHL 13 (Xbox 360 [previewed], PlayStation 3) Developer: EA Canada Publisher: EA Sports Release: September 11, 2012 NHL 13’s new True Performance Skating system is the highlight of this iteration’s developments. Though a player’s skill on skates is essentially the crux of their overall playing ability, skating in the series has never amounted to anything other than holding down the analog stick to fly around. While that’s all well and good for someone like me who plays the series casually, I’m sure hockey buffs get irked by the unrealistic movement. True Performance Skating adds over 1000 new animations to the physics-driven skating system. EA touted the more realistic reflection of momentum, and I noticed it immediately during my hands-on with the game, whether it was when I crashed my player -- hard -- into the boards, trying to turn on a dime, or finding myself unable to level opposing players when I didn’t have much momentum behind me. In his aforementioned review of NHL 12, Samit was a bit irked that the newly implemented full contact physics engine didn’t always work quite as you might expect it (tiny blokes still being able to check opponents that towered over them, etc.), but the game I played pointed towards a much more realistic representation of physics. The physics system is said to have been applied to players’ individual limbs, making momentum important, while also emphasizing more subtle gameplay, like jostling or generally manning up against an opponent to keep them slowed and off balance. Similarly, and as I mentioned, it is no longer an easy feat to turn on a dime and shake defenders. The other touted addition to NHL 13 is its revamped AI, the EA Sports Hockey I.Q. In previous NHL titles, player awareness was restricted; players were only cognizant of other players in their immediate vicinity, while goalies only focused on the opposing player in control of the puck at any given moment. Probably because of all the punches to the face. Now, all players are entirely aware of everything going down on the ice. This smarter, more aware AI will theatrically lead to a more true-to-life hockey experience, and less little unrealistic oddities cropping up which take you out of the game. There are a few other new additions to NHL 13, including the new true broadcast view. I played about half in the broadcast view and it’s a pretty rad thing. It’s a bit jarring to get used to the horizontal orientation, especially if you’ve been playing with the franchise’s standard vertical view for a while, but it works well. It looks like you’re watching hockey. The previously offline Be a GM mode is being taken online, allowing you to build and manage teams with -- or, I suppose, against -- pals. EA is working on a mobile management companion as well, if you’re totally into it. Also coming is NHL Moments Live, which might sound familiar to anyone who’s played another sport game. Basically, you play out hockey scenarios that have occurred in real life and have to replicate them; for instance, nailing a comeback win with five minutes to go in a game. New moments from the upcoming season will be added intermittently (probably for a price). If you dig the National Hockey League or just the series, there doesn’t seem to be anything to scare you off picking this one up. It’s still fun to play, it still has great analog control, and the implementation of the physics system seems to have gone more smoothly this time around.
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EA’s NHL series has been pretty damn great for a while now, and the latest entry in the franchise shows no signs of mucking up its track record. The team is sticking to making great hockey games. No plans to just skate ...

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EA highlights NHL 13's True Performance Skating system


May 28
// Jason Cabral
The NHL franchise has always done well, but some fans still feel that it's getting a bit stagnant as of late. With this next iteration in the series, EA looks to introduce a few new enhancements that should change ...
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NHL 13 announced, will deliver new AI and skating physics


May 18
// Samit Sarkar
[Update: You can now watch the debut trailer, which focuses on True Performance Skating.]EA Sports has officially announced NHL 13, this year's iteration of its critically acclaimed hockey series. After releasing two teaser ...
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EA Sports opens up NHL 13 cover to 60-player fan vote


Mar 29
// Samit Sarkar
EA Sports' Madden cover fan vote has been a massive marketing success, and this year, the publisher is trying to engage hockey fans in the same way by letting them choose the NHL 13 cover athlete. The voting is open right no...
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NHL 12: They're Coming


Aug 09
// Liam Fisher
EA Sports would just like to let you know that NHL 12 is, in fact, coming.
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EA infuses magic into NHL 12's AI to anticipate your move


Jul 25
// Brett Zeidler
To say the last few installments of the NHL series are pretty good is an understatement. Every year EA Canada comes up with great ideas on how to improve their amazing line of hockey games.  This year is no different as...

Preview: NHL 12

Jul 10 // Steven Hansen
NHL 12 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [previewed]) Developer: EA Canada Publisher: EA Sports To be released: September 13, 2011 Naturally, I picked up the game and donned the uniforms of my local San Jose Sharks, leaving a fellow attendee to pick the Detroit Red Wings. The ensuing game was a bit more anticlimactic than the matchup sounded, however. It ended up somewhere between an exercise in futility and a nail-biting thriller, as we both proved rather inept on offense, though each of us made a handful of rather exciting plays on goal. In typical Sharks fashion -- that is, disappointing me -- I (Niemi) let up the only goal of the game with 30 seconds to go, eliciting cries of elation from my opponent and a bit of surprise from the crowd of one that was watching our game. While a number of gameplay tweaks have been made -- 300, according to NHL producer Sean Ramjagsingh -- anyone who has played the NHL series before should know what to expect, which is a hockey game with a lot of depth and complexity that’s also simple enough to not be too intimidating right off the bat. The biggest point that was emphasized regarding NHL 12 is its hat-trick of gameplay improvements: Anticipation AI, Dynamic Goalies, and Full Contact Physics. Anticipation AI is aimed to have players react dynamically to what is happening in the game. For example, if the puck is going to change possession, the AI recognizes this change before their teammates actually take control of the puck, thereby eliminating the wasted time in transition from defense to offense. An extra wrinkle to this system is that players with certain tendencies are supposed to react in different ways. For example, when a loose puck is about to come into his team’s possession, Alexander Ovechkin will break away and try to put himself in prime scoring position. Dynamic Goalies represents the removal of goalies as stalwart, immovable forces. Goalies are now fair game to be knocked around -- you can even knock their masks off -- and the net can be dislodged. So, knock the mask off Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas’s face and don’t like the look of it? Well, go shove him around. More importantly, goalies will defend the net more realistically, which should include covering angles better and making desperation flails on shots they don’t have a chance at, which could lead to some exhilarating, close saves. The Full Contact Physics Engine is meant to give appropriate weight to players. In past NHL games, a hit would result in a fall, in a direct, causal relationship. In NHL 12, however, a “balance control system” has been implemented, by which a good skater like Sidney Crosby is better able to maintain his balance on a drive in through heavy traffic and towards a guarded net, allowing him a chance to get a shot off. Similarly, small players attempting to deliver a crushing blow to a player that has 80 pounds on them might actually knock themselves off balance, and bigger, stronger players are more effective at clearing and dominating the area in front of the net. One other notable change to the game is its revamped Be a Pro mode. “What we found out in [NHL] 09 was that sitting on the bench and watching the AI versus the AI wasn’t a fun experience, which is why most people put themselves back out on the ice, giving them unrealistic ice time,” Ramjagsingh admits. “So this year the whole concept is ‘earn your ice time.’ So, basically, you’re given tasks and the better your play, the more ice time you get.” Additionally, if you’re not playing particularly well, you can now fast-forward to your next shift, at which point the game will update you with the current situation of the game and then put you back on the ice, eliminating time spent watching AI play. While I wasn’t able to gauge the full of effect of these supposedly key gameplay additions during my brief hands-on time with the game (I did watch Niemi’s mask pop off at one point, though), they sound good in theory, and the strong core gameplay remains. It may not be the dramatic evolution that some fans of the series are hoping for, but NHL 12 is looking like it will be strong, refined iteration of the consistently well-executed series.
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Admittedly, it has been a while -- like, a couple of years -- since I last sat down with EA’s NHL series, so I was a bit nervous that I might make a fool of myself when I got my hands on NHL 12 at EA’s Summer Show...


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