NHL 23 will be the first sports game to feature female players in Ultimate Team mode when it releases on October 14th – a major step for a genre that has only recently begun to meaningfully showcase women’s athletics.
It was one of the highlights of the second year of the NHL on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S, after making the leap to the current generation of consoles last year. Other notable additions include cross-platform matchmaking, meaning Xbox Series X players can play with their PS5 counterparts, and a more customizable Franchise mode.
“Hockey really is something for everyone”
But it’s the addition of players from the International Ice Hockey Federation [IIHF] Women’s National Team to Hockey Ultimate Team, which really excels and brings well-known players like Sarah Nurse onto the ice alongside their male counterparts. To celebrate, NHL 23 will feature Nurse on the cover alongside Anaheim Ducks center Trevor Zegras, who pulls off the lacrosse-style flip pass that stunned the hockey world last year (and will be possible in NHL 23).
“It’s a great honor to be the first woman on the cover of the EA SPORTS NHL franchise,” said Nurse, who plays for Canada. “Hockey truly is for everyone, and I’m excited that NHL 23 celebrates the diversity and inclusiveness of the sport. I hope that having more women represented in such a prominent game will inspire young girls everywhere to know there is a place for them in hockey.”
Hockey Ultimate Team [HUT] is the NHL 23 version of the card collection mode that was criticized in Madden and FIFA for its focus on microtransactions. Female players will appear in packs and the auction house, and their ratings will be comparable to their male counterparts, meaning that a “94 rating is a 94 rating no matter what,” according to EA.
The addition of female players to Hockey Ultimate Team is part of an overall push in EA’s sports games. Following England’s victory at the European Women’s Championship this summer, FIFA 23 will add women’s club football for the first time. NBA 2K has similarly featured the WNBA since NBA 2K20, with Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi starring on this year’s cover.
Elsewhere, NHL 23 will look to improve its gameplay with new “desperate shots” that can be performed when players stumble onto the ice, improved goalie AI, and updated powerplay strategies. The presentation is also upgraded with an improved arena atmosphere, including a brand new hat trick animation.
Franchise players can build their own customizable league with up to 48 teams or just six, while also customizing salary caps, number of games, and playoff formats. In fact, dedicated simulation enthusiasts can recreate virtually any era in NHL history.
Cross-platform matchmaking will be available in the EA Sports Hockey League online team mode, HUT, and in World of Chel with a casual focus. The immediate benefit for players will be an expanded player pool, although cross-play does not include the ability to play with colleagues on previous generation consoles.
Looking for a momentum change
NHL 23 will be the long-running franchise’s latest attempt to regain momentum after mostly struggling through the previous generation of consoles. Last year’s release updated their gameplay with special abilities known as Superstar X-Factors while moving to the Frostbite Engine, but as our review pointed out, it was an “uneven leap into a generation visually” with “choppy comments, inconsistent Audio and repeated cutaways during breaks make it harder to immerse yourself in hockey than it was during the series’ highlights.”
Notably, the NHL recently hired two new senior developers – Mike Inglehart, a former Wii Punch-Out!! and Ghost Recon developer, who will serve as creative director, and Cris Haluke, a former Halo developer, who will join as senior producer. They join the team led by general manager Sean Ramjagsingh, who has been with the series since 2008.
NHL 23 is coming to PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S on October 14th.
Kat Bailey is Senior News Editor at IGN and co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Do you have a tip? DM her to @the_katbot.
https://www.ign.com/articles/nhl-23-gameplay-release-date NHL 23 gets gameplay details, release date, and a big premiere for women in sports games