NHL 23 PS5, PS4 gameplay trailer features a surprisingly strong list of improvements

On the heels of its reveal trailer, NHL 23 has presented a fitting look at some of the gameplay changes we can look forward to. In a surprisingly meaty video, we get a glimpse of some of the improvements coming with the latest iteration of the only NHL game on the market. Let’s dive!

The first piece of the trailer is dedicated to a suite of new animations related to games of desperation. By the standards of sports titles, the amount of work EA Vancouver puts into this area is downright robust. Presented as a collection of over 500 new animations, the Desperation Pieces look set to allow players to maintain control of the puck for extra movement after being tagged. You can take shots or throw passes without looking behind you while falling, a fairly common occurrence in a real hockey game. You can also activate it manually by double tapping the shot or pass near a loose puck.

The next change concerns the implementation of the strategy. The strategies have remained largely intact for years now, so NHL 23’s improvement on these is unexpected and surprisingly significant. A new power play setup (1-3-1) and a new penalty kill setup (1-1-2) join the previous setups. Additionally, you will now be able to change player positions during a face-off, which was fully automated and often frustrating. Nothing was worse than winning a powerplay tie, only to have the puck go out of the zone because there was no one to receive it. But perhaps the most interesting strategy change is that you can now assign power play roles to individual players, allowing you to select a dealer, finisher, and puck carrier. High-flying d-men like Cale Makar are often referred to as “powerplay quarterbacks” and these role assignments should allow such things to really reflect on your digital rink. The further evolution of strategies is an “assist” mode, where coaches recommend changes and you can choose to accept the new strategy on the fly or stick with what you had.

X-Factors is also seeing changes, with Trevor Zegras getting a dedicated X-Factor for his incredible flip pass. Sarah Nurse also gets a new X-Factor that dramatically improves passing and play while using desperation plays. Beyond that, the rest of the pre-existing X-Factors receive vague « upgrades ».

The AI ​​is also getting a host of changes, starting with goalkeepers getting 300 new animations. Described as « previously only available to human goaltenders », these new animations should hopefully improve AI puck tracking and positioning, as year-old AI goaltenders to another tend to be, well, stupid. Oddly, the suite of animations was previously only available for player-controlled Guardians, so they’re not technically new. A few new quality of life improvements were also featured. Skaters will now gesture with sticks towards open players, much like they do in real hockey, and raise their sticks when near the bench to indicate line changes. Not terribly game impacting, sure, but they definitely add to the authenticity.

While this is a smaller change, one of the most exciting changes is an improvement to passing assist. Passing assist in NHL 22 was appalling, going in the completely opposite direction to what you probably wanted on any given game. The trailer indicates that a lot of attention was paid to power and passing out of sight, which were definitely the biggest culprits last year. To help balance this, defensive play is also getting some changes, with defensive positioning being more heavily rewarded. Checking for poke hits was way too easy when you were in bad position last year, so your speed will now be severely hampered when trying to steal the puck.

Overall, the range of changes is welcome. Being an annual sports title, don’t expect NHL 23 to be a vastly different experience from last year’s title. Or the year before. But the changes outlined here paint a picture of a game that should – hopefully – be a slight improvement. EA’s NHL titles are in better shape than Madden at least, but that’s not a very high bar.

What do you think of the changes brought by NHL 23? Are you interested? Are you going to wait for a sale? Grab a drop-pass in the comments section below.

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