The developers of NHL 13 have made some hefty promises over the past year, and the video evidence seems to be backing up their case. With the upcoming season still less than guaranteed, the team EA Sports have released plenty of gameplay trailers hinting that NHL 13 will be likely to deliver.

The new game modes being expanded upon and introduced this year had previously been alluded to, but the extent to which players will be able to compete online is hard to illustrate. Thanks to the new GM Connected mode, players are able to work together with friends (should they choose) to compile a league of 30 player-controlled teams, with each friend playing the role of a specific General Manager.

As explained in the reveal of the full mode’s options, it seems that basic framework will include multiple modes of play. Previously considered a game mode aimed at the most singularly-dedicated hockey fans, GM Connected will be bringing unprecedented levels of multiplayer to the NHL series.

Take a look at the new features as NHL 13 Producer Andy Agostini explains why those fantasy draft or hockey pool hold-outs might finally delve into some friendly online competition:


Of course, anyone who’s been paying attention to NHL 13 knows that the new skating and body positioning systems will be essentially redefining the moment-to-moment gameplay. In no uncertain terms, the developers have heard the cries for more realism from the series’ most devoted fans, and raised the level of difficulty substantially.

Where previous games had relied upon increased odds and lucky bounces for the AI-controlled opponents to raise difficulty, things have changed. Making the players who aren’t under the player’s control behave more intelligently, thanks to the new Hockey I.Q., looks to remove many of the exploits and – for lack of a better word – ‘game-ness’ that had plagued past releases.

Ineffective poke-checks, brain-dead AI teammates and a lack of team cohesion all contributed to a less convincing sense of simulation. Luckily, as EA Sports’ Ben Ross explains in a trailer devoted to NHL 13‘s defense, players are in for a treat:


It’s rare that increasing difficulty, increasing the level of realistic simulation, and harnessing more refined AI and mechanics can all be achieved at once. the fact that it’s being done in a single year will likely have many die-hard fans re-thinking past outrage. But no  matter how painful the transition will be, what we saw of NHL 13 at E3 2012 has us convinced that one of the most highly-praised sports franchises in history will be setting the bar even higher.

Of course, that’s only if the product has the right amount of polish: an issue that EA Sports is finally addressing. As explained during our hands-on demo of the game, Electronic Arts finally provided the necessary means to deliver a complete graphic and presentation overhaul. Better lighting, more realistic character models, highlights, and a live pan-and-zoom broadcast camera are just the tip of the iceberg.

Seeing the vastly improved visuals in person spoke volumes, and the newest trailer shows off each new feature beautifully. Have a look:


There will still be plenty to see before NHL 13 is released, but the constant flood of gameplay trailers and developer sneak peeks are sure to get buzz started. Producing an annual sports title is sure to encourage accusations of complacency, but the development team that has made a habit of surprising skeptics looks poised to do so once again. Provided the changes all work in practice, that is.

What new features or gameplay changes seem the most promising to you so far? Does the increased difficulty and AI intelligence seem like a move towards realism, or a bit too punishing for the average player? Leave us your impressions in the comments.

NHL 13 will be released on September 11 for the Xbox 360 and PS3.

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