While many people these days turn to gaming to escape their lives, compete with friends in a military setting, or just experience compelling narratives, sports fans hope for nothing more than a chance to step into the shoes of their most beloved athletes. The problem is that for years even the most accurate simulations have fallen short of reality, constantly reminding us that the players in the game could never think like a real person. But the newest developer diary for NHL 12 shows that this year, EA Sports has a brand new system to bring never-before-seen anticipation to computer-controlled players.

There’s no need to explain the pedigree of EA Sports when it comes to the realm of hockey gaming, as the company’s history speaks for itself. But a lack of competition for NHL 12 this year isn’t leading to complacency for the Vancouver studio.

We were greatly impressed with NHL 12 when we got the chance to play it at E3, taking note of just how many massive improvements have been made to the existing formula.

The newly-relocated Winnipeg Jets won’t be the only difference that long-time fans of the series will notice this year, with an entirely different physics engine at work in NHL 12. But it’s one other small tweak being made that could cause the biggest shift in player strategy.

The ability to anticipate a play that’s about to happen is something that comes naturally to human beings, but has previously been lost on A.I.-controlled players.

All that’s about to change, so take a look at the all new intelligence at work in this year’s game:


It seems that the days of walking the puck through the neutral zone are long gone, although the new challenge of avoiding picked passes could be a source of some high-energy moments both against the computer, and with friends. On the offensive side of things, having players making fast breaks on their own could vastly change the landscape of gameplay, particularly in online multiplayer.

How much the anticipation will factor into the regular games, or whether it can be tuned up or down can’t be known until we play the game for ourselves, but all signs point to NHL 12 featuring even more jump-off-the-couch twists and turns than past entries.

It’s impossible to tell what other changes in the physics engine or A.I. will be the next to be detailed, but we’ll keep you posted as they’re released. That’s if the all new net battles aren’t enough to keep you intrigued.

NHL 12 will be bringing an even more realistic simulation to hockey fans when it’s released for the Xbox 360 and PS3 on September 13, 2011.

Oh, and for all you Jets fans, here’s something to make the wait for an official jersey a bit easier to bear. It may just be a photoshop, but you can’t argue that the new logo looks great in action:

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