Gone are the good old days when I could depend on a hockey video game to give me an exciting day. Just look at this new “NHL ’13.” It’s as thrilling as a cup of frozen ice.
Let’s start with the face-off. I do not feel as if I have an exquisite touch on my hockey stick when the referee drops the puck.
My guess, without exaggeration, is I win about one out of every 20 face-offs. That is dismal. I have tried every trick I can think of to improve face-offs, to no avail.
Then comes the actual skating. This is where “NHL ‘13” shines. Game makers have created a more fluid and realistic sense of motion.
When I control the puck, it’s easy to outmaneuver defenders.
And when I sprint up the ice, I must slow down to make a turn. That’s cool, because it comes across as a more authentic movement. It also means my rival defenders must slow down, too. As a result, I can sprint, out-maneuver opponents, and take a shot.
But to score, I usually need to pass cleanly. And very often, when I try to pass to a teammate, the puck goes in the wrong direction, or it’s a weak pass, and rivals steal the puck.
Shooting the puck at the goalie is fairly easy to attempt. My percentage of scoring is about the same as ever: Terrible.
But as I said, my shots-on-goal would be more accurate if I could pass cleaner. What doesn’t help is, opponents often bunch up in front of their goalie, creating a blockage wall.
Goals can be odd.
My favorite goal was the time I sent a slap shot at an opponent’s goalie, it hit that goalie in the middle of his chest, the puck fell to the ground, and it rolled slowly backward between the goalie’s legs and landed inside his net. What an idiot.
Skating on defense is just as fluid as is skating on offense. It’s quite nice, how I can move my men into position to steal pucks and, especially, to poke my stick out, to block rivals’ passes.
However, I’ve seen my fair share of unlikely goals against me.
My least-favorite goal against my team was when an opponent skater planted himself inside the right half of my net, thereby blocking my goalie, allowing the other team to score unethically.
But what I hate most: “NHL ‘13” reflects the current kill-everybody style of play in the NHL, so I often get tripped and creamed without referees calling penalties. That’s frustrating.
“NHL ‘13” makes me yearn for the days of 16-bit, choppy hockey on Sega Genesis — in 1991. That is sad. I hope next year’s “NHL” will keep the skating, but improve everything else.
“NHL’ ‘13” by Electronic Arts retails for $60 for Xbox 360 and PS 3 — Plays meh. Looks good. Challenging. Rated “E 10+” for mild violence. Two out of four stars.
Doug Elfman is an award-winning entertainment columnist who lives in Las Vegas. He blogs at http://www.lvrj.com/columnists/Doug_Elfman.html. Twitter at VegasAnonymous.