Though there are AI flaws, this is by far the most realistic NHL game to date
The graphics are a surprisingly noticeable improvement over NHL 12. The shine off of the ice and the skaters is definitely more realistic and less video game-looking.
Gameplay is phenomenal as usual, in terms of the physics and shooting. It's nice to see that they FINALLY made the poke check work in this game, it will stop a majority of the cross-crease one-timers everyone playing online scored with constantly last year. And the D men actually know how to play defense! Even if you're not controlling a defenseman when the other team tries a cross crease pass, they will usually knock the puck out of the way, unlike last year!
However, it is nice but at the same time a horrible thing that they made the goalies much better this year. The curl and drag wrist shot from the top of the shortside circle does not go in every single time like it did last year. BUT there is a drawback to the improvement on goalies- they make the *new* desperation saves about 95% of the time on shots they have absolutely no business stopping when one plays on All-Star or Superstar. I have had countless times the goalie turn around and dive across the crease FROM OUTSIDE OF THE CREASE and somehow make a save with the tip of their glove or one of their arms.
Also, the gameplay and refs change dramatically on the higher difficulties- every single game against the CPU, if you are winning in the 3rd period (especially if it's by a significant margin) the team you are playing will become the greatest team that has ever stepped on the ice. They will keep the puck in your zone forever, weak shots will somehow go in the net no problem, and they will almost always outskate your players to loose, sliding pucks. The worst part of it all (as if it's not bad enough) is that it's almost like the other team takes control of your CPU players' AI and causes them to commit as many stupid penalties as possible. There's also a high chance that any checks you put on yourself against the boards will result in boarding or charging.
A final note, if you play online, be wary of people constantly trying to skate into the corner, pull up, and skate straight across the ice and shoot shortside. The goal goes in every time, it's this year's "curl and drag from the circle".
Overall, though, this game does blow NHL 12 away. It just feels so much more like a real hockey game. I strongly recommend it. Don't listen to people who say it is garbage- they just can't handle more realism, they want the arcade gameplay back :P