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NHL 23 Preview: All improvements, as detailed by EA Vancouver

Frostbite year two is a go.

NHL 23 improvements were recently detailed by EA Vancouver, leveraging the second year that the franchise will use EA’s proprietary Frostbite engine.

According to Creative Director Mike Inglehart, NHL 23 will build upon four core pillars: social play, relentless gameplay, HUT competition and living arenas & atmosphere.

NHL 23 social play

Social play is the easiest to explain, really — it’s all about cross-platform gameplay and matchmaking, which we’ve covered here.

NHL 23 relentless gameplay

In terms of gameplay, NHL 23 will introduce a variety of expanded features inspired by its two cover stars.

We can thank Sarah Nurse for loose puck plays, or desperation plays, in which players will be able to make insane-looking passes or shots on goal when pressured. About to stack it? No worries — just make sure you can get pass or a shot off beforehand. Nurse has also inspired one of two new X-Factors in “Relentless,” which provides for easier off-balance or desperation plays. Tied into this new functionality are more than 500 in-game stumble animations which are meant to increase realism.

“Whether you are bumped off the puck by a defender, knocked down to the ice, or see a loose puck into scoring position, you now have the opportunity to make a play in all of these situations ,” said Inglehart.

“Prior to NHL 23, any time you were separated from the puck, you were unable to make a play despite seemingly still having the puck in an honorable position,” he continued. “But this year, if that puck remains in that playable spot, you can pass and even shoot, resulting in amazing outcomes sure to bring the crowd to their feet.”

The Ducks’ Trevor Zegras can be credited with the addition of his (patented) lacrosse-style assist alongside the “Skilled Up” X-Factor that makes said lacrosse-style moves easier to pull off.

Not sure what we mean by that? No worries. Check this out.

Alongside these moves come modernised power play (PP) and penalty killing (PK) strategies, including a new 1-3-1 formation PP and 1-3 wedge and 3-player PKs. More importantly, players will be able customise formations, slotting specific players into specific positions to pull off strategies of their own concoctions.

Defensive capability has also been beefed up in counter to new offensive skills introduced inside NHL 22.

“Defensively, we have provided more value on landing big hits and empowered the poke check to create open ice counterattacks,” Inglehart said.

“What we’ve done with the pokecheck and our gameplay tuning will help in [puck battle] scenarios,” he continued. “If you can actually sort of lance the puck, if you will, with the tip of the stick on the poke check, you’ll be able to push that puck out of those scrums in the corner. The last chance puck movement helps in this area too; when pucks are loose, you have the ability to dive and even make a great pass from the corner before that traffic comes in and starts to get all congested.”

Goalie AI has also been improved, resulting in over 350 new save animations, thanks to 50 new desperation save groupings.

“Our enhanced goalie AI will leave you in disbelief and watching replays again and again as our AI goalie step onto the ice ready to protect the crease like never before in NHL 23,” said Inglehart. “This new feature adapts the human goalie system onto our AI netminders, giving them access to more than 50 new human desperation save groups, resulting in 350 new save animations. This result is more active, acrobatic saves each and every game as the masked men and women do everything they can to keep the puck out of the net.”

NHL 23 HUT competition

If you don’t mind a little loot box as part of your play, Hockey Ultimate Team will receive updates to keep you engaged.

First, women’s hockey will be part of HUT in a big way, with mixed teams and one ratings system that will work across gender.

NHL 23 is the first Ultimate Team in history to include a women’s license and we look forward to giving our longtime HUT playerbase this new and exciting way to play and create their lineups,” Inglehart said. “The women’s roster will be recognised as some of the best players in the world through their in-game ratings; a 94 rating is a 94 rating, no matter who you add to your squad.”

HUT Rivals will offer up rotating game styles with immediately rewards if you’re not the type of player to sit and wait around for the end of a season, and finally, aforementioned cross-play opportunities will also present be available throughout the mode.

NHL 23 living arenas and atmosphere

Finally, EA Vancouver has spent a lot of time revamping stadiums, lighting and the like, though current-gen users will be the only ones to reap some of the benefits.

New stadium crowd awareness will tap into the flow of the game and respond accordingly — EA has said we’ll notice fans’ energy and responses rising to a close game in the closing minutes in the third as compared to a blowout by an away team.

“Crowds will swell with anticipation on odd-man rushes and breakaways, knowing that these moments may lead to a goal or big save,” Inglehart said. “[You’ll] feel the boos rained down from the crowd when the ref calls consecutive penalties against the home team — these are just some of the new reactions this year.”

Remixed goal horns will also add to the unique flavour of each stadium, as will new pre-game presentations that will take advantage of lights and lasers to recreate some of the shows we see from real-world teams.

Finally, EA Vancouver has created new hat trick celebrations that will see headwear fill the rink when a home team manages the feat (and less so if it’s a visiting team that did it).

In terms of new lighting, NHL 23 promises more accurate skin and eyes on big-name stars like Ovechkin alongside new mirror visors and metallic finishes for helmets and the like. Current-gen consoles will also take advantage of more realistic wear on the ice and boards, more accurate shadows and more.

NHL 23 heads to Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series S, PS4 and PS5 on 14 October.

Today’s NHL 23 coverage

NHL 23

14 October 2022
PS4 PS5 Xbox One Xbox Series S & X

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for close to fifteen years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.