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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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