NHL 23 Review: Franchise Mode delivers while Be A Pro stalls out

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With the worldwide launch now underway, our NHL 23 Review has had time to consider exactly where this year's installment got things right.

If you're a dedicated Career or Franchise Mode player, this NHL 23 Review should help you decide whether the latest arrival is right for you.

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NHL 23 Review

With the pre order Early Access period now over and the worldwide launch of NHL 23 underway, it's becoming clear where EA Sports put their focus this year.

Right out of the gate, gameplay in NHL 23 is still top notch and even got some subtle upgrades this year with Last Chance Puck Movement.

Though the gameplay doesn't feel drastically different than NHL 22 in any way, good news for longtime players worried about adjusting, the little changes make puck movement feel even more intuitive and natural.

NHL 23 Review
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Presentation also took a few steps forward this year with upgraded lighting and textures as well as the new National Anthem snippets before games and completely revamped Stanley Cup Celebration which shine in NHL 23.

Franchise Mode leveled up with Custom Leagues

Easily the biggest highlight in NHL 23 has been the addition of Custom Leagues in Franchise Mode to provide a whole new layer of versatility.

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While last year's installment gave you the option of doing Franchise in a standard 32-team league or a 33-team league with a new Expansion Team, they've ramped it way up with Custom Leagues.

NHL 23 Review Franchise Mode
LEVEL UP: The versatility of Custom League is a gamechanger in Franchise

This year, you can create a Custom League with as few as 6 or as many as 48 different teams with full customization for the schedule, playoff games, conferences, divisions, standings, and more.

NHL 23 once again brings a fantastic Custom Teams and Arena Creator to the table, and an online Logo Vault like MLB The Show 22 feels like the only missing piece for customization at this point.

Be A Pro is a copy and paste Career Mode

This is the bittersweet part of NHL 23 this year, as career mode was a big highlight in NHL 22 thanks to the upgraded Archetype system.

Unfortunately, Be A Pro in NHL 23 feels literally identical to Be A Pro in NHL 22, and we haven't been able to identify any noticeable changes in the mode at all.

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This isn't that surprising, as EA chose not to talk about Be A Pro in the buildup to launch, likely because of the fact that the mode didn't change.

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The game mode is still solid across the board, but players only interested in career mode would be better off grabbing NHL 22 on sale if they haven't played it already.

You'll still get a great career mode experience out of NHL 23, but anyone who played Be A Pro in NHL 22 will be sorely disappointed.

HUT 23 & World of Chel take baby steps forward

Hockey Ultimate Team is about what we've come to expect in NHL 23, though they did continue to polish and make slight improvements to it this year.

While the addition of women to HUT is a big positive step forward, in practice it's one that doesn't make a big difference in how the mode feels.

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If you aren't a fan of Ultimate Team modes, there's likely not going to be anything in HUT 23 that will change your mind.

NHL 23 Review World of Chel
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World of Chel continues to improve this year by cleaning things up and offering some quality of life improvements like easier opening of reward bags.

However, World of Chel still feels out of place in the larger NHL 23 ecosystem as a somewhat online somewhat solo experience that stops short of fully integrating with Be A Pro.

Verdict

With some extra time now spent absorbing the highs and lows, our NHL 23 Review has identified the clear highlight of this year's game.

Thanks to the addition of Custom Leagues amplifying the mode's versatility, NHL 23 Franchise Mode is one of the best Franchise experiences in sports gaming.

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Overall upgrades to graphics, presentation, and gameplay all continue to add some polish in NHL 23 but don't feel like massive jumps compared to last year.

Be A Pro, as mentioned before, feels identical to NHL 22, and that's something dedicated career mode players need to keep in mind.

Small advancements in World of Chel and HUT 23 are welcomed, but weren't significant enough to really stand out in this release.

Despite the similarities to NHL 22, there's no denying that NHL 23 took a major step forward this year with the Franchise improvements and polish elsewhere.

Upgrades to career mode and additional work integrating women into game modes like Franchise could've pushed things to the top, but EA Sports still delivered a very high quality hockey sim.

RealSport Rating: 4 out of 5

Ready to try out NHL 23 for yourself? Start your journey here.