A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
Just like its many (and annual) predecessors, NHL 23 is a hockey game based on the National Hockey League. It lets players take skate as their favorite players, create a custom superstar, or assume the role of a team's general manager. It's mostly positive, but there are fist fights in the game -- just like the real sport.
Positive Role Models
Because the game mirrors the real NHL and its teams and players, if they're good role models in real life, then by association, they're good role models in the video game. Not all players are, of course -- like any sport -- but most show what hard work, determination and professionalism can bring you.
For the first time in the NHL franchise, gamers can choose to play as anyone from the IIHF Women's National Team -- and even skate alongside men in the same squad. This adds greater diversity to the sport. Most real hockey players are Caucasian, mind you, but there is more racial diversity in the sport than previous years.
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Ease of Play
NHL 23 enjoys similar skill stick controls to the last few years, and for the most part feels intuitive and responsive. Plus, there are various tutorials to sharpen skills. Seasoned players will pick it up easily while beginners should also find skating, passing, checking, deking or faking out (based on the word "decoy"), and shooting a breeze.
Violence & Scariness
NHL 23 has some mild violence -- not just in the body checks against the boards, but like the real NHL, has fistfights on the ice between players. When a fight breaks out, the perspective shifts to the two players exchanging punches and grabbing each other's jersey, until the fight is broken up.
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Products & Purchases
Regularly $60, there are some special "X Factor Edition" versions of NHL 23 games for $100, which adds extra content. There are optional in-game purchases that require real money, but no DLC (downloadable content) options. There are also logos of several brands in the game -- on the boards, in the stadium, and on the players -- including hockey names (CCM, Bauer) and other lifestyle brands, like Reebok, Best Buy, Adidas, Gatorade, and others (in Canada, examples include retailers Canadian Tire and Tim Hortons).
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know NHL 23 is a hockey simulation for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S. This is the latest iteration of EA Sports' best-selling hockey game. It aims to straddle the line between simulation and arcade game, with several solo and multiplayer modes. This year, the game includes female hockey players, who can skate and play alongside their male counterparts. Like the real sport, players can body-check others, collide, or engage in short fist-fights. There are multiple versions of the game available for differing price points, and players can also spend real-world money for new items for the Ultimate Team mode. There are also lots of ads in arenas, on players, and on the boards of rinks for CCM, Tim Hortons, and other brands.
Is It Any Good?
As hockey games go, this franchise is still the best there is. NHL 23 folds in more to the already stellar series thanks to adding female players, new animations, some beefed-up A.I., and cross-platform play coming soon, but don't expect a huge leap over last year's game. If it's been a while since you've bought an "Chel" game from EA Sports, NHL 23 is as good as it gets. When you boot up the game, you'll first notice the slicker broadcast-like presentation. Last year's game introduced EA's Frostbite engine to the series, which continues here, but you'll also see new pre-game, mid-game and post-game flare, including highlights of the big moments, a more responsive crowd, and fancier stat presentations during the game. EA Sports says there are more than 500 new animations, so fans of the game series will notice these right off the bat, too (er, or stick), including many more goalie moves. Get a hat trick and watch what gets thrown onto the ice by fans.
The meaty Franchise now gives you more options, too, to fully customize what you want out of this mode -- from the league you want to number of teams and divisions to length of games, home versus away games, and so on -- but not much has changed in scouting, contracts, trading, front office management, and so on. NHL 23 also marks the first year that the IIHF Women's National Team is in HUT (Hockey Ultimate Team), which is great to see (and control) female players rendered on screen. World of Chel has more customization options, as noted, too. Aside from better goalie A.I. (for the most part), the other modes are largely untouched. Those who created a character and played through the Be A Pro mode in NHL 22 will likely be frustrated it's not possible to import a saved file from last year. Cross-play -- that allows PS4 and Xbox One games to play online together, or PS5 and Xbox Series S/X players -- hasn't been included at launch, so it's unsure if it will be newsworthy. Overall, NHL 23 fuses style with substance, to justify the purchase for hockey fans, but only if it's been a couple of years since you've stepped on the ice in this game.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.