NHL 23 Review
Developer: EA Vancouver
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre(s): Sports, Simulation
Platform: Xbox Series X (also available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Playstation 5)
Age Rating: PEGI 12 / E10+
Release Date: 14/10/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
The NHL 23 review has been on my mind ever since I first started seeing the adverts for the game. I have written the NHL review for the last few iterations of this game, and I always find myself eagerly awaiting the next round of challenges. For this NHL 23 review, I have focused mainly on the HUT gaming option, but more on that shortly. The reason why I chose to focus on the HUT gaming mode is that NHL 23 is a vast game, offering a lot of different game modes. For my NHL 22 review, I focused on Franchise Mode. These games are largely carbon copies, with the focus mainly placed on improving the technical side of things. Therefore, to keep them fresh, I opted for a different focal point for this review.
Does NHL 23 have any new features?
No, NHL 23 does not have any new features, but it does offer some expansions to existing ones. In particular, there are new movesets and animations. NHL 23 looks a lot like NHL 22. Looking back through recent years, each iteration of the game is largely similar. X-Factor players are back; only this year, two new ‘powers’ have been included in the game. The biggest change to NHL 23 is the introduction of female players.
The different NHL games, or any annual sports title, run a lot like a book series. There is a tried and tested formula, and it works. James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell, and Lee Child all follow a formula in the books. They understand there is no need to reinvent the wheel every time. In NHL 23, the game modes remain the same as they have been in previous iterations.
Below are the 12 game modes offered by NHL 23.
- Play Now
- Be a Pro
- Franchise Mode
- IIHF Tournaments
- Ones Now
- NHL Threes
- Season Mode
- Playoff Mode
- World of Chel
- Online Versus
- Hut Rush
- NHL Threes Online
How many game modes does NHL 23 have?
NHL 23 has 12 different game modes. To go through all the game modes in depth would be far too imposing of a read. However, below I’ll explain the basics of each of the 12 game modes before diving into the meat and bones of my NHL 23 review.
Play now is the most basic of the available game modes. It is the classic exhibition option. Select your team and play a game. This one-off competition carries no weight for anything else in the game.
Be a Pro
Be a Pro is one of the premier NHL 23 game modes. Create your character and set off on your career. Choosing whether you want to start in the Memorial cup and through into the NHL draft or as a young player in Europe with dreams of NHL glory. Play through multiple seasons, upgrading your character along the way.
Franchise mode allows you to take control of your favorite team from a managerial perspective. Of all the NHL 23 game modes, Franchise Mode is the only one that gives you the full simulation experience. Manage your lines, control the front and back of house and ensure you meet the owner’s expectations. Franchise mode allows you to focus on only the managerial side of things, simulating your games along the way. Alternatively, you can take control of your team and play every game. Franchise mode is also the only one of the NHL 23 game modes that allow you to control and manage the affiliate AHL teams.
Tournaments game mode offers you the chance to play in one of two top tournaments from the hockey world. The Champions Hockey League and the Spengler Cup. Playing this mode is an isolated event and has no standing on any other NHL 23 game modes.
IIHF tournaments are the same game made as Tournaments; however, this offers you the chance to compete on the international stage. There are three tournaments to choose from in this game mode. World Junior Championships, World Championships, and Women’s World Championships. Once again, this game mode is isolated and has no bearing on other NHL 23 game modes.
Ones Now is one of the more unique NHL 23 game modes, as it is a three-player offline game. Three players take the ice, all trying to score in the same goal. Games only last three minutes and offer a fun alternative to regular NHL play.
World of Chel
World of Chel is one of the online game modes that sees you take on the world in online gameplay. World of Chel offers a wide range of collectibles and rewards, including player upgrades and modifications.
NHL Threes is a fast-paced game mode that sees teams compete in 3-on-3 conditions. It’s a fun way to play the game, especially if you only have a few minutes but want to get a bit of time on the ice.
Season mode is one of the longer game modes that will see you play through a whole season in your chosen league. NHL 23 lets players choose from thirteen different leagues from around the world.
Playoff mode sees you take control of your favourite NHL team as you chase professional glory in the Stanley Cup playoffs. This game mode is unrelated to the season mode or any of the other NHL 23 game modes.
Hockey Ultimate Team
Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT) is a vast game mode and is an entire game in itself. We will discuss this game mode in more detail shortly. Consisting of online and offline games and challenges, HUT is one of the classic EA Sports game modes that aren’t for the faint-hearted but adds immense replayability.
Online Versus is another of the classic must-have NHL 23 game modes. Online Versus is the online version of Play Now. Find an opponent and battle it out in a single game to see who is the best.
HUT rush is a game that is also found within the HUT campaign. A weekly competition that sees you allocated two teams, often a three-player and a five-player team. HUT Rush offers its own rewards system. Players earn points by playing HUT Rush games. This game mode offers both online and offline play. Each week a new list of challenges is set, with bonus points awarded upon completion.
NHL Threes Online
NHL Online Threes is the same game mode as offline NHL Threes, only this time, you play online against other players from around the world. It’s a fun way to play a game. However, if you’re interested in online play, some of the other game modes are more rewarding.
My Journey Through NHL 23 Hockey Ultimate Team
This year, I decided that my NHL 23 review would focus on the Hockey Ultimate Team mode. I have played HUT in the previous iterations of NHL too, but never to its full capacity. This year I went all in on the HUT grind!
Do not be fooled. HUT may seem like it is bursting with things to do, and it is. However, the grind is real. Unless you are going to fork out a lot of cash to get the big rewards, you are going to have to grind like it’s the year 2000 and you just brought home a copy of Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2.
Inside HUT, there are multiple different game modes. In essence, NHL 23 Hockey Ultimate Team is a full game within the game.
HUT Challenges are daily and longer-running challenges. Each one offers up to three rewards based on accomplishing the identified goals. The further you get through the challenges, the bigger the rewards become.
HUT Rush is a game mode within NHL 23 Hockey Ultimate Team that offers its own challenge system. Weekly challenges are set, requiring players to perform certain tricks, hits, or score particular types of goals. Points are awarded during the games for style and stringing together big hits and different dekes. Reaching the challenges also offers big bonus points to help you move through the ranks and get better rewards. These rewards are applicable to all the HUT game modes.
HUT Squad Battles
HUT Squad Battles is a weekly league played against AI opponents. Cycle through different teams and earn battle points for winning games. Higher difficulties offer higher rewards. While the games are played offline, the league itself is online. However, there is no competition against others. The more you play HUT Squad battles, the more points you are awarded. The higher you finish in the league each week will determine the rewards you get.
HUT Rivals is an online mode where you play against others in a weekly competition. Winning games in HUT Rivals allows you to enter the HUT Champions League. I have yet to play NHL 23 online. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, I am not that good at NHL 23. I can beat the computer on most difficulties, but there is a big jump to playing online. Finally, lag is a constant issue, making it hard to play a fast-paced game like NHL 23.
HUT Champions is where the online elite live. Qualifying for any of the HUT Champions seasons is a feat in itself – to me at least. HUT Champions is played in weekly rounds and is a place for those that have the tricky deke moves and shot types committed to muscle memory. I have never qualified and do not think I would survive even if I did.
HUT Sets and Exchanges
HUT sets and Exchanges are not a gameplay mode, but it is a very important part of the HUT system. As you play, you collect players, icons, and power-ups. Cards can be traded in the auction house or traded as part of sets. Completing different sets gives you differing rewards. HUT sets are where the grind really starts to set in.
Is HUT worth playing in NHL 23?
Yes, HUT is definitely worth playing in NHL 23. Providing you are ready for the hard and often slow grind. I have really enjoyed my time playing NHL 23 Hockey Ultimate Team. However, I am far from done with this title. There is still a lot of grinding left to do. Challenges to complete and my own personal quest to reach the upper echelons of the HUT Squad Battle league. Who knows, perhaps one day will be brave enough to attempt an online game.
I am a big fan of Ice Hockey and pay for the NHL TV subscription each year. My team of choice is the Winnipeg Jets, with my secondary being the Seattle Kraken – for the name alone. Because of the depth of available player cards, I have also made it my own personal mission to collect the full card set for all the Winnipeg-based teams in the game.
- Winnipeg Jets
- Manitoba Moose
- Winnipeg ICE
It’s going to be a long road, but there is enough to keep me coming back for more. That is the addictive nature of games like NHL 23. The different modes might all revolve around the same game, but each brings something different. Keeping it fresh. One day I might focus on playing HUT rush, and another day will be Squad Battles. Rotating things keeps me playing the game, keeps me progressing, and prevents it from growing stale.
Is NHL 23 worth buying?
Yes, NHL 23 is worth buying, providing that you like ice hockey. NHL 23 is a game for a niche audience because it is focused on one single thing. Ice Hockey. If you are not a fan, then this won’t be the game for you. It is the same for any sports title. You need to have an interest. Very few people will watch NHL 23 gameplay and think, that’s the game for me. It’s not like a horror title or an RPG that brings in new audiences with its compelling story.
Personally speaking, the new NHL game is a highlight of the year. I play lots of games and love them all, but NHL always calls me back, more than any other sports title.
Are there any bugs in NHL 23?
While I have loved playing this game so far, it has not been without its flaws. I would say that I have had more technical issues with this game than any other NHL title. I’ve had several soft locks, especially during the screen transition at the end of a game in Squad Battles or Challenge mode. I’ve also had a handful of hard locks that made me restart my Series X completely.
While playing NHL 23, I also had a few different gameplay glitches. Skaters getting stuck, disappearing, and reappearing elsewhere on the rink. These were few and far between. To be honest, I found these more entertaining than frustrating, as they were only momentary and didn’t negatively impact my game beyond that instant.
Final Thoughts on NHL 23
As I wrap up this NHL 23 review, I need to think objectively about what it is and what it offers. I love it. I think it’s a fantastic game and it offers a lot. However, it is largely a carbon copy of the previous year’s title. That’s a lot of money to pay out if you already own NHL 22. Personally speaking, I would say go for it because if you’re a fan of the sport, you will love the game, and the small changes will be worth your while. Repetition is the eternal paradox of sporting games. Rating it for the style of game it is and the fun I’ve had playing it, NHL is a cracking title, and I am already excited about next year’s offering. Who knows, maybe the UK league will make it into the game.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4.5 out of 5
You can get your copy of NHL 23 from the Microsoft Store today.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.