NHL 22 Cools From 'Ignite' And Breaks Ice With 'Frostbite'
Rounding out EA Sports prolific year of sports titles, NHL 22 hits the ice just in time for the hockey season. This time, the long-standing hockey sports title runs on more than a fresh coat of paint. After utilizing the Ignite engine since NHL 15, '22 makes the move to Frostbite, a first for the series. Using EA's proprietary engine, NHL 22 finally joins the likes of FIFA 22 and Madden NFL 22 with all of its major sports titles running on the same engine.
With the change to Frostbite, NHL 22 boasts a higher fidelity than previous titles, including improved physics and graphics. Visor, cloth, and metal reflections are all present, with the condition of the ice changing over the course of a game. Ice sprays, clashing with the skates of the players, also adorn cameras during replays. Facial animations according to the action on the field and many more improvements make NHL 22 a truly next-gen experience.
Relieve The Stanley Cup Finals Or Create Your Own Destiny
Features from the previous NHL games, as well as other EA Sports titles, appear in NHL 22 including the UT mode. As it is expected that the Ultimate Team mode will exist for years to come, players who have played previous versions will earn packs. Those who aren't bothered with the "pay-to-win" model can enter a career mode instead. In this career mode, the player takes a potential prospect as they work from the minors to the majors. It's a Cinderella story that has been told time and time again, with its first match being a recreation of the Finals.
As with most sports games, the player will have to wait for the game to finish installing. While they wait, they can play a tutorial match between the Lightning and the Canadiens. It's at this point that the patented Nay Sucks At Sports Simulators™ comes into play. I set the difficulty settings to Rookie and the ruleset to Arcade as usual. However, there lies a simpler option that emulates the NHL 94 controls. By "emulate," I mean utilizing only two buttons. One to pass and one to shoot. It's interesting that there's a '94 control layout as it was released 28 years ago as the series' third title. Still, this "throwback" was a rather amusing one.
The Action Takes Place Outside The Arena But Not Too Far
Going back to the Career mode, the player is able to create their own character, offering levels expected from a AAA sports game. Almost everything about the player can be customized, including weight, height, facial features, and background. Perhaps the most interesting about creating a character in NHL 22 is the choice of creating a woman character. Considering EA NHL's rocky history with representation in their games, it's impressive that this is an option for players. Regardless, Career Mode plays out like other similar modes from EA. Occasionally the player will answer questions that will either benefit the team or themselves. Being a team player increases compatibility on the ice while being self-centered ensures greater opportunities.
Other moves include several party modes, including "street hockey," and by that I mean it's outdoors. Rather than play in arenas, certain modes like 1-on-1-on-1 allow players to play in outdoor rinks. Some vary from barns, ponds, and other expected rural areas. Part of me wishes for more variety in these types of modes. One of the things I liked about MLB The Show 21 is the creativity the parks players could create. A simple street arena, substituting ice skates with inline skates, would have made a world of difference. Other games like NHL Hitz have done it in the past, but, I'd be comparing orange soda to orange juice. That's a game from a different era and discipline altogether.
Another Year For Hockey Fans, Another Year Wanting Something New
As with every sports game that I'm going to look at from an AAA developer for the rest of my life, NHL 22 is a game for the fans. Players and hockey fans alike will get a lot of mileage out of another year in their latest entry. The inaugural season for the newly added Seattle Kraken is enough of an improvement, adding an entirely new stadium and likeliness. However, the addition of the Kraken has nothing to do with NHL 22 as a game, but as a reflection of the team's inclusion in the NHL as a whole.
Overall, there's not a whole lot different compared to previous entries aside from the change to Frostbite. It makes the playability stable as it's a familiar engine EA is used to running. Other than that, it's the same violent stick-slapping punch-throwing combat sport on ice that fans will expect from the series. Whether NHL 22 is worthy of purchase is dependent on the type of player and level of hockey fans making the decision. Personally, it's not my cup of tea but it's a fine breakfast team for others.
NHL 22 is available on the PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Xbox Series S.