It is that time of year for avid sports gamers: the
extraordinary few weeks when most of the major titles are
released. Hayden Meikle casts his eye over the first two
For: Xbox 360, PS3, Vita, Wii, Wii U+
The sport: American football.
The cover boy: Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin
Johnson won a 64-player fan vote. He hasn't yet succumbed to
the infamous Madden Cover Curse.
Glossy bits: The game immediately socks you in the
face with an intense video featuring fearsome Baltimore
Ravens veteran Ray Lewis. The presence of leading
commentators Jim Nantz and Phil Simms - in virtual form -
adds to the television feel of the presentation. A radically
overhauled menu quickly settles in. And, while the graphics
are virtually identical to last year's, the game does feature
a much broader variety of cut scenes and animations.
New feature: The big change is the introduction of
something called Connected Careers, which effectively
replaces the old Career and Superstar modes. Choose to be a
player (created or real) or a coach, and embark on a journey
to the Hall of Fame. There are weekly and season challenges,
and experience points can be used to upgrade whatever skills
you like. Those who prefer to game online can join one of
thousands of created leagues, or set up their own. It's a
deep, addictive mode that fuses RPG elements with classic
sport simulation. Oh, and there's a neat fake Twitter feed
that reports on the big in-game news.
Gameplay: Mostly the same as last year - and no
But it seems the passing mechanics have been tweaked and
improved. You now notice receivers looking up and around
more, and the buttons floating above them are greyed out if
they are not in a good position to take the ball. The whole
look-pass-catch package seems smoother.
Kinect-ability: For the first time in Madden, Xbox 360 gamers
can use voice commands for "audibles", or changing the play
at the line of scrimmage.
Grizzles: There is no fantasy draft option for those
of us who liked seeing what sort of super-team we could
assemble for a season.
The verdict: It is honestly getting to the point where it is
hard to see how Madden can get much better. Madden 13 looks
good and feels great, and the Connected Careers mode is a
For: Xbox 360, PS3
The sport: Ice hockey. Or, as the North Americans know
The cover boy: That would be Philadelphia Flyer
forward Claude Giroux, also chosen based on fan voting. The
Canadian was third in the NHL in scoring last season.
New Zealand link: Claude Giroux shares a name with a
midget wrestler who, as "Tiger" Jackson, teamed up with our
beloved Bushwhackers in the WWF in 1992. Thanks, Wikipedia.
New bits: An epic, online-only Be a GM mode that
frankly looks quite scary. Otherwise, it's mainly tinkering
with AI and the physics engine. I missed NHL 12 so have no
immediate comparison, but it seems there has been a lot of
work done on how the skaters feel, look and move. You can
skate backwards now, and the days of flying around at full
tilt, turning on a dime, are over.
Real-life physics now apply.
Girl power: NHL 13 breaks some significant ground by
including two (real-life) playable female characters. There
is now significant pressure on the Fifa series to include
some female footballers.
Gameplay: Ice hockey is a bit like football - pass and
shoot is the name of the game - so it has always translated
well to video games. The action is fast, but not
intimidatingly so, and smooth. And there is an extraordinary
range of modes.
Grizzles: Still no Ice Blacks among the international
Bonus: Part or all of the coming NHL season could be
lost to a lockout. Look for the game to sell like hot cakes
among fans desperate for their hockey fix.
The verdict: It doesn't have the global appeal of
Fifa, or the sheer pull of Madden. But NHL 13 is a slick
sports game and takes no time at all to get you looking good
on the ice.
• Next week: Meikle's impressions of Fifa 13.