Familiar but Feels Good – NHL 22 Review
The regular season in the NHL has started and that means only two things – the Leafs will start off well before falling off a cliff, and a brand new EA Sports title is hitting shelves and digital marketplaces. We’ve been playing NHL 22 for about 6 days, and while things feel very familiar yet again, there is enough changed here to keep the familiar game play and feel, somewhat fresh!
One major note to make is this will be the first NHL title available on next generation consoles. While FIFA and Madden received next generation updates last year, NHL was left in the dust with no next generation upgrade available. And when you fire up NHL 22 right after playing NHL 21, the graphical improvements on a 4K TV are instantly evident. Everything is more vivid, smoother, and more which does make for a better gameplay experience. Unlike RPGs – which I find still play well despite some graphical issues – sports title really are best played with the best resolution possible, and NHL 22 definitely delivers that next generation feel. Which means, if you typically don’t upgrade your NHL experience each and every year, the ability to play on Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 alone is enough reason to dive in this year.
This is aided by a brand new engine for the game, the Frostbite Engine. This makes for a better, next generation experience with better images all around, most notably because of the lighting.
So what’s not new? Mostly everything, really. Play HUT, play CHEL, play franchise mode. It’s all back, with the biggest tweaks coming across all modes in the form of X-Factor players. NHL superstars will finally feel different than the rest of the pack in NHL 22, and that’s something I’ve been wanting for ages. Auston Matthews now has a killer shot when pulling out of a deke. Other players have better passing abilities, skating abilities, shooting abilities, and deeking abilities. Some goalies have better reflexes, or better rebound control. Superstars finally feel like superstars, and I’m all about it.
I played primarily in HUT, where new gameplay options allow you to pack low level superstars, but level them up using Power-Up Cards and/or in game currency! It gives you more options for your coins, and with packs being so easily obtained via HUT Rush, Squad Battles, Rivals and more, I find less reliance on using my coins for packs, which allows me to use them in other ways, primarily on the market and upgrading players. It works well, and makes HUT a more enjoyable mode than most others.
Across all the modes, a few gameplay tweaks are long overdue, although they bring up new issues. Poke checks in previous NHL titles would almost guarantee a 2 minute tripping penalty, but that does not see to be the case in NHL 22. Instead, you can poke check to your hearts content and generally get away with it. Obviously, this creates a few issues online, where hte poke check is king and everyone does it…always…like all the time…
The other major improvement is the realism of the game, specifically those cross crease passes. Those work from time to time, but I feel like the success rate of that play has dropped from a 75-80% down to a 30-35% if not lower. So there is no way to really, consistently cheat the system like in past games. As someone who loved to exploit the cross crease pass, I’m devastated. But from a gameplay stand point, I understand the reasoning.
But as we said off the top, there are many reasons to pick up NHL 22 even if you own NHL 21, chief among them the upgraded graphics and frame rate on the Xbox Series X / Series S and the PlayStation 5. That enough makes taking the plunge this year worthwhile. All the other tweaks, in our opinion, are gravy, like those players who pile up second assists!