EA Sports has brought its latest offering just in time for hockey season with EA Sports NHL 23. Just when you think that there is nothing else that can be enhanced or added to a sports game to necessitate another game (other than the updated rosters), they’ve managed to find ways to make the game more immersive and accessible than ever before.
The amount of updates to NHL 23 is truly astounding. Let’s start with the fact that you can play online games cross-platform now, provided it is the same generation. So, for example, if you had a PS5, you can play with or against other players on the same console, but you can play against players on the Xbox Series X/S and vice-versa. The same goes for PS4 and Xbox One. This increases the matchmaking pools across the board.
You can also play intergender hockey in Ultimate Team mode with the addition of IIHF Women’s National Team players. You can now make your dream team of players, no matter who that may be. Canadian Forward Sarah Nurse even made the cover of the game.
NHL 23 is also EA Sports’ second time using the Frostbite Engine to bring the fans into the game more than ever, including more realistic reactions to the action on the ice, new celebrations and the ability to customize your Stanley Cup Celebrations and Hat Trick Celebrations in your arena.
“The amount of updates to NHL 23 is truly astounding.”
You get a chance to make a last-minute play in desperation, even as you are falling to the ice. 500 new animations allow you that last-ditch effort to get off a pass or a shot if you or falling or the puck is loose. Playing through the game, you feel these moments as you take a grazing hit and you still manage a decent shot on goal rather than the old version where the puck is 6 inches away from you, thus impossible to hit. This addition will surely create some new highlights for your reel.
Other updates include improved AI for the Goalies to create more realistic gameplay, added X-Factors to help individualize the players, so it matters more than ever who you put on the ice and more customizable franchise modes, allowing you to choose the number of games, teams, divisions, conferences, salary cap and more. The visuals have also been enhanced (as one would expect), and new strategies are at your avail.
I am the level of sports gamer who will let a lot of years pass before I upgrade to the next version of a game, and frankly, it’s been a bit since I have played an NHL game (Is Mario Lemieux not playing anymore?). What they do for people like me in NHL 23 is so nice because they allow for a system of controls that reflects the old days of EA Sports NHL games. The year that is referenced started with a 9. I don’t want to talk about it.
In addition to the simple controls is the Skill Stick system, wherein the controls are all handled via the two sticks on your controller for both offence and defence. I did try it, and people who are not so well-versed in the control system may want to ease into it, particularly with shooting. The best way to ease into the system is by EA’s Hybrid controls, giving you access to the button push controls but allowing for a limited version of the skill stick.
The initial setup was also really good because, in addition to your controls, you can customize a number of settings to cater to the type of gamer you are right away, and it is laid out in such a way that it feels more like an interview than a menu.
The pace of NHL 23 is incredibly fast for either solo or multiplayer play. The games don’t drag out at all, so you can knock out a few games in a franchise or just play one last quick game before taking off for the day. The gameplay is smooth and accessible to players of all levels. The only little thing that I noticed is that I seem to get the same animation whenever the goalie covers up the puck, forcing a face-off. This always led to a similar ‘almost-fight’ animation which grew a little stale.