[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 trailers this week that suggested NHL 13's gameplay innovations would rival the franchise-defining debuts of the Skill Stick in NHL 07 and real-time physics in NHL 11, the publisher listed two major gameplay changes and two new modes in the announcement press release.
In NHL 11 and NHL 12, the physics engine only simulated collisions between players. This year, a feature EA Canada is calling True Performance Skating "authentically replicates the explosiveness, momentum and top end [sic] speed displayed by today's NHL players," thanks to "physics-driven skating and over 1000 new animations." After seeing Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh chase down Devils forwards on would-be breakaways in the Eastern Conference Finals, and prevent the skaters from getting off good shots, I'm excited to find out if that kind of play will happen in NHL 13.
The other new feature, an artificial intelligence system called EA Sports Hockey IQ, promises to overhaul the behavior of and interactions between players, goalies, and teams. Until now, players didn't have true awareness of everything happening on the ice, and goalies couldn't react to anyone but the puck carrier. It also sounds like the system will differentiate teams by bringing hockey strategy into play, and let you customize those strategies to craft your own play style.
EA Canada is also expanding Be A GM, which it says is the series' "most popular offline mode," to the Internet. GM Connected lets friends join in a 30-team online league, with the option of playing as a player, general manager, or coach. In addition, the developers are working on a mobile app that will presumably offer some level of interaction with a league when people aren't playing on their console.
NHL Moments Live will be a hockey equivalent of the Madden Moments Live feature in EA's Madden series, a mode that lets players relive salient moments from the 2011-12 NHL season and sometimes challenges them to rewrite history. The "Live" part of the equation means that EA Canada will periodically update the mode with moments from the 2012-13 season.
EA will be releasing a Stanley Cup Collector's Edition for NHL 13, which comes in a tin embossed with Lord Stanley's Cup and offers a variety of digital bonus content for $79.99:
- Two Stanley Cup® Theme Hockey Ultimate Team packs featuring randomized player items from the Western and Eastern Conference Champions
- Gold Jumbo Hockey Ultimate Team Pack (Regular) featuring 24 randomized items, including an exclusive Wayne Gretzky Hockey Ultimate Team Legend and six other rare items
- A CCM Boost Pack featuring the all-new CCM RBZ stick (For use in Be a Pro and EA SPORTS™ Hockey League)
- A 10% discount on a one-time purchase at shop.NHL.com
NHL 13 will launch in North America for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on September 11, 2012, and in Europe on September 14, 2012. Expect more details on the game at E3. For now, you can check out the first screenshot in the gallery below, and continue to vote on the player who will appear on the NHL 13 cover; the campaign is currently in the quarterfinal round. (The only correct choice, of course, is Henrik Lundqvist.)