It’s only been a few months since we were all watching the 2021 Stanley Cup finals. While the champagne may still be drying in the bowl of Lord Stanley’s ultimate prize, the 2021-2022 season is upon us and that means NHL 22 is here.
There have been some big changes in this year’s game including the transition of NHL 22 to the Frostbite Engine!
NHL 22 Details
Platforms: PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PS4
Reviewed on: Xbox Series X
Developer: EA Vancouver
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone 10+)
Frostbite Engine gameplay enhancements and next gen visuals
One of the biggest changes to NHL 22 is the changeover of the series to the Frostbite Engine. Now inline with the other sports titles from EA Sports, it’s great to see EA Vancouver taking advantage of the Frostbite Engine and the power of Xbox Series X|S and PS5. When playing on the new consoles you can immediately see the changes!
One of the biggest benefits of NHL 22 built using the Frostbite engine is deferred lighting. As a result, EA Vancouver have rebuilt and relit all of the arenas in this year’s game. Furthermore, the ice now is a prominent and distinct part of the environment and looks much more realistic. If you compare NHL 22 to last year’s game, it’s a night and day difference.
Gameplay wise, passing in NHL 22 seems more realistic than previous games. If you aren’t in a good position to make a pass, it probably won’t connect. And, defending feels much more effective this year. If you are in a passing lane or in position, you’ll more than likely be able to connect with the pass. Additionally, goal scoring is more realistic. While there are still some tried and true ways to score goals, for the most part it feels good.
The Frostbite engine is not the only new addition in NHL 22. Superstar X-Factor makes its way to NHL 22. X-Factor allows for great storytelling and adds new meta to gameplay that allows for more strategy and competition. In NHL 22, X-Factors contain two different tiers of abilities: Zone and Superstar.
Top players and league leaders in the NHL, about 100 players at the moment, have Zone Abilities. Because Zone Abilities are powerful, the “eligible” players only have one each. Zone Abilities range from a variety of different things and some you’ll be able to visually see as they have unique animations when triggered. For example, Austin Matthews has the Shock & Awe Zone Ability. This gives him exceptional power and accuracy shooting out of, or shortly after a deke.
What I really like about Zone X-Factors are the extra depth and strategy they add to gameplay. You’ve always have to be aware of who is on the ice and who you are playing against if you want to maximize their benefit. On the other hand, Superstar X-Factors are more broad and don’t have the kind of boost that a Zone ability does. They highlight the player’s natural talents such as precision passing, a blistering slapshot, or explosive speed on the rush.
Again, thanks to the Frostbite Engine, EA Vancouver has overhauled NHL 22’s superstar authenticity player likeness. More than 100 key star players and generic player head models have been rebuilt to reflect the current season. These enhancements, such as skin and eye shading, are seen not only on Xbox Series X|S and PS5 but also on PS4 and Xbox One. However, as expected, on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S there are more enhancements such as enhanced jerseys and equipment with life-like textures and fabric.
HUT (Hockey Ultimate Team) X-Factor edition
In Hockey Ultimate Team, X-Factor players are now the most sought-after because of their abilities. A new class of HUT cards have been added to NHL 22 that contain upgrade slots. These allow you to enable Zone Abilities to players that have these upgrade slots available.
Franchise mode gets the X-Factor treatment
For Franchise Mode players, NHL 22 adds X-Factors. All-new scouting reports allow you to scout both Pro and Amateur X-Factor players. Once you have your X-Factor ability players scouted, finding chemistry in a line is the next step. Finally, the Seattle Kraken have been added to the expansion draft as well as the ability to start your own expansion franchise with the 33rd team.
Be a Pro additions
With NHL 21, Be a Pro was fully overhauled. NHL 22 adds X-Factor and multi-season story lines. With Be a Pro X-Factors, you create your own player by earning different abilities throughout your career. And, NHL 22 includes new dynamic challenges that allow you to earn X-Factor points to unlock more slots.
NHL 22 sees significant visual upgrades and minor updates to game modes
It’s great to see the Frostbite engine come to EA’s NHL series, and specifically NHL 22. Without a doubt, the visual improvements between NHL 22 and NHL 21 are night and day. The Ignite engine that has long since been retired for other sports games was dated and has held the NHL games back, compared to Madden NFL and FIFA.
Lighting, arenas, player models, jerseys, equipment and the ice all look significantly better and the player’s animations are more realistic. X-Factors play a big role in NHL 22 and impact gameplay and virtually all the modes of the game, some more than others. While I wouldn’t say that X-Factors are a sole reason to buy NHL 22, they certainly play a role.
Something that I found surprising is that there is no cross-play between platforms. So if you have the game on Xbox and want to play against a friend who has NHL 22 on PlayStation, you can’t. What’s even more puzzling is that you can’t even play against friends who own the game on previous generation consoles like the PS4 and Xbox One.
+ Significant visual upgrade with the Frostbite engine
+ X-Factor abilities add strategy and fun to gameplay
+ Passing, defending and goal scoring feel more realistic
– No cross play between platforms or generations
– No major updates to game modes
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF NHL 22
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5