- Publisher: Electronic Arts
- Release Date: Oct 11, 2022
- Also On: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One
- Critic score
- By date
Dec 19, 2022Tweet Share Share By Brad Bortone on December 16, 2022 in Reviews Prettier, Smoother, And Frustratingly Familiar HIGH The visuals finally feel worthy of new console horsepower… LOW …until the replays are seen up close. WTF SNES hockey strategy shouldn’t work in 2022. Last year I described NHL 22 as a “mildly underwhelming next-gen experience that still holds promise for the future.” Today, after nearly a month of play, I’m describing NHL 23 as a “visually appealing current-gen experience that needs to start delivering more on its promise.” Visually, it’s clear that EA Sports took past criticism to heart. While previous editions hinted at ramped-up eye candy, NHL 23 seems to make the most of current hardware, from player faces to subtle animations. For example, when taking a faceoff, real-time reflections of the overhead scoreboard are seen on the freshly-polished ice surface. As each period progresses, visible deterioration from skaters dulls the reflection until the next one starts. Details like this don’t affect gameplay, but they do allow for a sense of immersion, even from a distant overhead camera. Likewise, player faces and reactions are far more accurate and situationally appropriate, leaving lifeless expressions on last-gen consoles. The league’s current lighting and concert-like presentations are also well-implemented into each opening segment. It’s clear that EA wants NHL to be a visually arresting series in the next few years, and this year’s edition takes a big step forward by focusing on the nuances that make live hockey such an unforgettable experience. Overall, NHL 23 is a strong visual contender in the sports game arena — at least until replays, when the camera zooms in. Once up close, users will see cracks in the graphical armor, as smooth animations seen from above are revealed to be somewhat janky and stilted. It may not affect gameplay one iota, but it seems odd to see butter-smooth movements from one angle reduced to marionette performances, just from getting a slow-motion view of the action. Thankfully, the controls and gameplay speed are more realistic than ever thanks to improved physics, and an AI that demands more user accountability. Easier difficulties will still see goalies turn to swiss cheese on virtually every breakaway, but moderate-to-hard difficulties are fair, challenging, rewarding, and accurate. Disciplined hockey strategy will always beat button mashing in PvP matchups, which should appease many critics of this series, present company included. At the same time, the often-cumbersome control scheme has been made more accessible to newcomers and old souls alike. Admittedly, I’ve often reverted to the simplified NHL ’94 controls to enjoy the game at my own casual pace. For NHL 23, I never even considered it, as for the first time, using a simplified control made it feel as if I was missing out. The streamlined advanced control scheme still takes some work to master, but once it clicks with users, I don’t foresee many gamers regressing ever again. In terms of modes, NHL 23 delivers the usual deep slate of offerings, from the microtransaction-heavy Ultimate Team to the deeper and more engaging Franchise Mode. None of it is new or revolutionary. but it’s all been fine-tuned to keep the focus on the ice, and not the grind of micromanagement. Unfortunately, there are notable flaws in some of the longstanding modes and features. First, the omnipresent Be a Pro mode continues EA’s downward trend of career mode storytelling. At no point during my avatar’s hockey journey did I ever feel engaged or connected to the narrative, nor the decisions I was making. None of it seemed to matter on the ice, anyway. Maybe a deeper dive would produce a long-term storyline reward, but I felt trapped in a week-to-week deluge of minutiae, rather than feeling the excitement of a pro hockey career. Last year, I enjoyed the online “World of Chel” offerings, praising the matchmaking and overall online gameplay balance. This year, the mode took a serious step backward. While the wide variety of arcade and simulation play options is welcome, I had significant difficulty finding a stable game, and the matchmaking usually placed me with far better players than I could ever hope to beat. Over the course of several weeks, I experienced considerably more imbalance and fickle connections than in the previous edition, and before long I disconnected permanently in favor of the same, reliable offline hockey I know and love. Sadly, I think this is the key problem with the NHL series in its current form — despite all the visual sheen, extensive modes, and unparalleled control depth, this is still, at its core, the same game we’ve been playing for decades. Online and offline, even with the engine rewarding well-executed hockey strategy, most games ultimately devolve into a redundant pattern of “check/breakaway/shoot/repeat.” Even on the most stringent difficulty levels, I rarely saw the game AI slow down and run a cohesive offensive series. Instead, it shot at will, never seeking to set up an open skater. There may only be a few realistic ways to present videogame hockey in a playable form, but once the AI chose to play “run and gun” arcade hockey, I realized I was employing the same tactics I did in my college dorm room, far too many years ago. If this series is going to truly progress and make good on the updated visual presentation, more nuanced gameplay will have to become a reality, not just a promise.
Nov 2, 2022NHL 23 will satisfy hard-core hockey video game fans, but if you didn't like the recent NHL releases, this year's relatively small additions won't change your mind.
Oct 23, 2022New animations help NHL 23 make steps toward greater authenticity but the series still needs a major overhaul.
Oct 14, 2022NHL 23 is a step up for the NHL series as a whole, with changes to gameplay features resulting in a much more accessible experience. New inclusions to the game's Franchise Modes and online play also make it one of the best entries yet.
Oct 14, 2022NHL 23 feels a bit more like NHL 22.5. It plays a good game of hockey without a doubt, but everything else around it doesn't feel meaningfully improved enough to justify another $70 purchase on day one. We really wanted to see some more ambition out of the series this year, and instead it seems to be quietly trudging along with relatively minor new features. You'll still have fun with it, but maybe it's worth waiting until it hits EA Play / Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
Oct 14, 2022Ultimately, NHL 23 feels like NHL 22; it's just more of the same, better in spots and worse in others.
Awards & Rankings
Overwhelming dislike- based on 24 Ratings
User score distribution:
Positive: 2 out of 24
Mixed: 3 out of 24
Negative: 19 out of 24
Oct 16, 2022Same **** , but with the number 23. I dream about a good game of NHL since NHL 14.
Oct 14, 2022Disappointing implementation of cross-play, suppose to be the big new feature this year, i mean come on, you can't even play WITH a friendDisappointing implementation of cross-play, suppose to be the big new feature this year, i mean come on, you can't even play WITH a friend that have the opposite console and the market in HUT is not crossplatform.
Almost no graphical and gameplay update, really feel like i paid a full priced game for something that could have been a patch.
The game itself is not bad, but im still looking for that usual leap between console generation.
If you are not a serious HUT player and you just love hockey and play casually, i strongly advise to wait at least a price drop.
If you skipped last year, i guess it's ok...… Full Review »
Oct 16, 2022They put 2 weeks of work in and slap a new number on it every year. Should be illegal
EA sports is a joke