EA’s professional ice hockey sim series returns to the ice next month with NHL 23, promising some changes and improvements from last year’s game. Fans can look forward to new “Last Chance” moves, additional X-Factor abilities, improvements to AI goalkeepers, the introduction of cross-play (finally!), and more.
Ahead of the October release, we’ll gather everything you need to know before you lace up your skates and hit the ice.
The official release date for NHL 23 is October 14, but those who pre-order the X-Factor Edition ($100) can start the game three days early, starting October 11. The game is coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and Xbox One. As usual, the game is not available for PC or Nintendo Switch.
In a major shift, NHL 23 has two cover stars this year. Anaheim Ducks superstar Trevor Zeglass was on the cover with Canada’s Sarah Nurse. Not only is this the first time an NHL series has two cover stars, it’s also the first time a woman has graced the cover.
Two cover athletes isn’t unprecedented for EA Sports, in fact it’s growing in popularity. Madden NFL 22 featured Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady, while FIFA 23 featured Kylian Mbappe and Sam Kerr.
One of the biggest updates to NHL 23 is the “Last Chance” action. As players stumble across the ice, they can make desperate moves like shooting and passing from their knees. It’s an effort to bring flashy, prominent reel goals to the game to replicate what happens in the NHL. On that note, NHL 23 also added a “Zegras Flip.” This will allow players to pass the ball to players at the net, as Zegrass did last season. According to EA, more than 500 “Last Chance” moves have been added to NHL 23.
Additionally, EA says the AI goalie is better and smarter. Netminders also has an added library of desperate save animations, so this year’s gorgeous grabs look even more realistic. In total, there are about 350 new save animations, including more “active” and acrobatic animations than past games, according to EA.
NHL 22’s X-Factor ability also returns in NHL 23, with a new cover star theme. For example, “Relentless” works on off-balance shooting and passing, and aims to replicate Nurse’s skills. Another new X-Factor ability is called “Skilled Up,” which helps players complete quick moves like Zegras hockey-style goals.
Running on the Frostbite engine, NHL 23 also promises more realistic, responsive crowds who boo players and yell when freaks rush the ball, as well as updates to franchise modes that give players more control over their teams management. In terms of visual updates, there are new skin animations to highlight blemishes and new gear like mirrored visors and gold helmets. Ice will now show more realistic scratches, and will collect in corners as the game progresses. Also, the ice spray will leave marks on the board, just like in real life.
EA’s developers explained that due to the war in Ukraine, NHL 23 will not have any Russian or Belarusian teams. Another thing to note is that the Arizona Coyotes will be playing in a smaller stadium to reflect the real-world breakdown of ice conditions at their home.
female skater in the hut
Another update for NHL 23 is the addition of IIHF Women’s National Team members to the Ultimate Hockey Team for the first time. This means that men and women can skate together in competitive competitions. However, for obvious reasons, the fight was shut down.
As the first in the NHL series, cross-game matchmaking is coming to NHL 23. The feature won’t be released in time, but an update is expected in November. Once live, players on the same generation of consoles can play together or against each other in the HUT and World of Chel. This should help with the long wait times for teams to wait for a match. Too bad the feature won’t be there at launch, but at least it’s in development.
The crowd vibe at NHL 23 this year is getting better and better. Spectators now have more insight into scores, momentum changes and game time remaining and will react accordingly. In addition, spectators will now react more naturally to officials’ calls and generally have a “full range of emotions” in the stands. The crowd will be more excited when the Odds run the ball and drive, and will also boo some of the players and referees’ calls. There’s also a new overtime winning animated sequence highlighting the scorer and team, and the hat-trick celebration is finally happening in NHL 23. Yes, when someone hits a hat, the crowd throws hats on ice like they’re on ice real life.
It’s also worth noting that the Arizona Coyotes will be playing in a smaller, unassuming stadium to mirror the real-life oddities that occur as teams search for a permanent new home. The player model has also been improved, now promising more personality and emotion with additional skin animations (including blemishes). In-game lighting has also been improved, shadows on planks look more accurate, and ice cubes now show more realistic cuts. Also, ice builds and collects in corners like it does in real life, and ice spray can leave marks on the board. EA also added a “new layer of dirt” to each arena’s board to show how the board has been knocked down and discolored over the course of the season.
EA Sports has started releasing player ratings for NHL 23, and you can see the first batch in our NHL 23 top right roundup, led by Patrick Kane (93 OVR).
For more on NHL 23, check out GameSpot’s NHL 23 preorder guide.
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