EA SPORTS NHL 23 is just NHL 22 with a few new additions that won’t make it worth your money if you own last year’s entry. In fact, it’s almost insulting that the game is full-priced.
Big budget sequels regularly roll around in gaming, aiming to build on fundamental lessons from what happened before and be bigger, better and more bombastic. Throughout history, sports games have been a bit of an exception to this rule, as they are annual releases, with less than a year to overhaul and fix things for the next game. However, with NHL 23, enough is enough.
The NHL series may not be EA’s most popular, but it does have some of the best gameplay that makes it, and has been for several years. Unfortunately, resting on its laurels has left the same gameplay stale.
The few moment-to-moment core action upgrades the series has gotten in NHL 23 just aren’t robust or don’t do enough to get me excited.
NHL 23: Important Details
- Developer: EA Vancouver
- Price: $59.99 / £49.99
- Publication date: October 14, 2022
- Platforms: Playstation, Xbox, PC
NHL 23 Trailer
Minimal improvements and broken ice
When you load up NHL 23 for the first time, you’ll be greeted with a menu of everything “new” in this year’s episode and veteran players will be instantly impressed.
The big addition to the gameplay on the ice this year comes in the form of ‘last chance’ moves, which allow players to make insanely desperate plays, just like in real life.
NHL 23 will not win any trophies this year.
Additionally, NHL 23 includes some new animations, including highlight saves that should feel much bigger than how the game’s outdated broadcast shows them.
I remember playing a game where the opposing team’s goalkeeper saved a glove that made me say “wow” rightly. The point is, it was a save from the highlight reel that didn’t get a highlight. No repetition. No chance to relive the epic moment from a different angle. Nothing.
NHL 23 is basically the same broadcast package as NHL 22 and NHL 21. Miraculously, somehow I feel that the presentation of the broadcast has deteriorated severely over the years and its repetition amplifies these concerns only.
Same commentary, basically same gameplay, everything. It’s like playing on ice that Zamboni hasn’t sat on in years. A new Stanley Cup party and female players are just the icing on a stale cake that’s been out in the sun.
NHL 23 has some new animations, but not much else.
Not such an X Factor
After the last chance puck move screen, EA SPORTS is hyped for the addition of two new X-Factors – special player attributes that give them special abilities, such as unique shots.
In my review of NHL 22 last year, I mentioned how NHL 2004 implemented something similar to X-Factors years ago, like having a hammer next to a player’s name if they’re a big hitter.
While X-Factors is certainly an improved version of the NHL 2004 variant, I didn’t find them that much of a problem when they were reintroduced in NHL 22, and I’m even more impressed in NHL 23.
This time, fans will get a whopping two extra X-Factors! Wow! This means we can now access “Skilled Up” by co-cover star Trevor Zegras, which allows the player to set lacrosse-style goals, and “Relentless” by Sarah Nurse, which increases one’s ability to shoot and pass while out. balance.
These are incredibly minor additions and the fact that they are celebrated as second on the ‘what’s new’ screen is telling.
Limited customization in franchise
NHL 23 also offers a “historic” level of customization in the franchise mode, allowing players to change the number of teams in the NHL, the playoff format, and more. But that customization is limited.
While NBA 2K has for centuries allowed players to change the length of a season in any number of games, NHL only does this normally and with minimal supply.
NHL 23 feels the same as NHL 22.
For example, while I could select a variety of overtime formats, I couldn’t select 3-on-3 exclusively for five minutes. It was to be followed by a shooting. As someone who isn’t a fan of the shooting, why can’t I remove it?
I couldn’t replace teams in the league either. I tried to make a league with only 12 teams, but on PS5, for some reason, except for my user-controlled team, the rest were stuck.
Another time I wanted a 40-team league, it drew an assortment of European clubs to the NHL and I couldn’t replace them either. I’m not sure if this was a bug or not, but it really put a damper on the custom options of the new franchise mode.
Apart from this, at least I could choose which playoff format I wanted for each round. A very welcome addition that really had no reason to ever take that long to be implemented.
NHL 23 misses the playoffs
At the end of the day, NHL 23 left me frustrated.
The only good thing I have to say about this year’s version is the noise from the crowd. It’s the best it’s ever been, minus an occasional whistling noise that made me rightly think there was a game stoppage.
Everything else is secondary or, like crossplay, feels long given the current gaming landscape.
At some point, EA will have to change how it approaches this series. I would honestly rate anything “new” in this game on a generous $10 total. Owners of NHL 22 should really only pay that much for this game. Unfortunately, it’s full price.
The verdict – 6/10
If you’re new to the EA SPORTS NHL series, you’ll love this one, there’s no denying it. There’s a lot of joy to be had if you haven’t touched the series in years, but veteran players will feel significantly shortchanged by this year’s title.
Rated on PS5