Also on: PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Vancouver
It?s been a few years since I last played a game in EA?s NHL franchise. Even though I was a huge fan of NHL 21, it was literally the last game I played on my PS4 before trading the system in for a PS5, and I never got around to redownloading it.
Now that I?ve played NHL 23, though?well, it feels like almost the exact same game, which is kind of a good thing, I guess?
I mean, NHL 23 is clearly not a badly-made game by any stretch of the imagination. It?s got a wealth of online and offline content, so whether you love playing against others in the Ultimate Team leagues, or if you prefer to keep things offline and build up a franchise or play through a career path in Be A Pro, there?s a lot of stuff to do here.
It?s just that it feels almost identical to NHL 21 (and, I assume, NHL 22, though I can?t say that with any degree of knowledge). In fact, it almost feels like a regression. I remember jumping from NHL 21 from NHL 19 and being wowed by how much faster the game moved. Even though I was playing them on the same system (and even though that system was fading into the sunset in October 2021), NHL 21 still felt like it moved as fast as the real thing (which is to say, very fast, if you?ve never seen hockey in-person).
NHL 23, by contrast, feels slower, with the players feeling less like they?re gliding all over the place and more like they?re awkwardly shuffling from place to place. It even felt this way in arcade mode with the game?s speed turned all the way up, which just seems wrong to me.
Having said that, thanks to that aforementioned wealth of content, there?s still a tonne to do here. I found myself losing hours upon hours in Be A Pro, thanks to the fact that each game flies by so quickly and that it?s so easy to want to squeeze in just one more game. Likewise, the franchise mode has all the depth you could ever hope for, and you can even start an expansion team from scratch (which gives the NHL 33 teams, but that?s a problem for the schedulers, not for you). Again, I put more time than I?d care to admit into playing around with marketing budgets, setting concession prices, and hiring and firing AHL coaches, to say nothing of how much I played when I finally got into the season itself.
Still, as solid as NHL 23 is, it?s hardly a must-play game if you have any previous entries in the series. Given that year(s)-old sports games tend to be pretty inexpensive, that makes it hard to justify buying this one new when you?ll get basically the same experience buying a game from last year or the year before. Don?t get me wrong, you?ll get a very well-made game if you do decide you need all the latest rosters and draft classes, but it?s up to you to decide how badly you need those things.
Electronic Arts provided us with a NHL 23 PS5 code for review purposes.