NHL 22 has been released and is available for all fans to buy and play. With the newest title in EA’s NHL franchise finally out, it felt appropriate to take a look at the game, its new features, what it does well, what it could have done better and more.
One of the biggest changes to NHL 22 compared to previous titles in the franchise is the utilization of the Frostbite engine (exclusively on Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X|S), as well as the inclusion of Superstar X-Factor Abilities.
Without further delay, then, here is the review for NHL 22.
The mechanics rating is based on facets such as skating, hitting, and the overall physics of the game.
Rating – 7.5/10
With NHL 22 utilizing the Frostbite engine for the first time ever, the expectations are that the game will feel smoother and more realistic to the real-life product. It’s impossible to simulate full realism in a video game, at least that seems to be the case right now, but NHL 22 does a good job at emulating a sense of reality better than previous titles in the franchise’s history.
Some noticeable changes to mechanics that were refined this year were hitting, passing and most notably poke-checking. In the past, it was hard to properly execute a poke-check without the constant fear of taking a tripping or hooking penalty as there has been for years. With the new system, poke-checking feels fixed, though may actually be too strong in the other direction as it’s much easier to utilize poke checks to get out of sticky situations.
Admittedly, there becomes a point when consistent, notable improvement becomes hard to achieve every single year, and there have been strides made in this category in the past; one notable change in NHL 21 was the work on defense and goaltending AI to make them feel more genuine and authentic. As it stands, refining mechanics rather than totally revamping them seems like the path forward.
Related: NHL 21 Review
The addition of Superstar X-Factor abilities is definitely a plus for NHL 22, but it’s still strange that it took this long to implement the system in the NHL franchise given that it’s been in Madden for a few years now. Still, better late than never in this regard as having superstar players feel like superstar players goes a long way in adding to the authenticity of the game.
Still, while NHL 22’s mechanics do feel improved because of the Frostbite engine and Superstar X-Factor Abilities, it would be disingenuous to say that they feel groundbreaking compared to years past.
The rating for gameplay is based on the overall feel of the game.
Rating – 7/10
The same thing that was said about NHL 21 can be said about NHL 22; the gameplay for NHL 22 feels very similar to that of the gameplay for NHL 21 in many ways for better or for worse.
The new menu system as a whole looks better visually and feels far easier to navigate through than the previous tile-version that wasn’t very intuitive or easy on the eyes. It’s an improvement, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s entirely fixed.
It’s almost impossible to notice that the clunky feeling in the menu system truly takes away from the all-around experience. Any time the user has to cycle through anything in the menu, it feels like a chore and ultimately doesn’t lend to a positive experience.
Whether it’s scrolling through the main menu, or picking a team to play with, choosing uniforms, setting lineups and anything in between, the system just doesn’t feel optimal.
An example of this that really stands out and which could lend to a better experience in the future would be real-time visuals when changing camera perspectives in-game. It was incredibly frustrating cycling through all of these options to see if anything was different from past games, and being forced to go through the menu system every single time to change the angle before returning to the game and seeing how the changes looked. Creating a template that shows how each option looks within the visual menu itself would be far better for the experience overall.
While the gameplay itself may feel similar to past games, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing. At the end of the day, the game itself feels good once all of the settings are optimized and the user is actually in a game. Though the mechanics may not feel groundbreaking, they do still feel familiar and comfortable which definitely matters. Changing something just for the sake of changing it isn’t a good idea and NHL 22 has maintained a similar style to past titles.
Is the gameplay perfect? Not by any means. It definitely feels like the on-ice gameplay is better than the out-of-game gameplay, though, and a lot of that comes down to the presentation changes made in NHL 22.
Ratings of NHL 22’s presentation are based on how realistic the game looks as well as the atmosphere the simulation places you in.
Rating – 9/10
Though the mechanics of the game may not feel vastly improved from past games, the presentation of NHL 22 is something that definitely feels improved. This is impressive, too, given how good the presentation was in NHL 21. One of the most impressive and noticeable changes to NHL 22 comes in the form of augmented reality.
Rather than popping up random overlays displaying stats and information, NHL 22 has created a system that provides key game information right into the surroundings, such as on the ice surfaces, on the glass behind players in the penalty box and more. In all honesty, some of these implementations would look good in the real NHL product and would amplify the experience as a whole. This is an (intentionally) subtle win for NHL 22.
Outside of the augmented reality changes, NHL 22 also benefits from various micro improvements in the game thanks to Frostbite. From micro-detail on gear and in the environments to dynamic lighting, uniform improvements, eye animations, improved skin shading and more, the presentation looks good in NHL 22.
Something else of note is the overhauled player likeness’ added to NHL 22. The franchise rebuilt over 100 star players and generic head models to better reflect the current season and provide a more detailed looked for some of the most popular players around the league.
The ratings of NHL 22’s Game Modes is based on the variety of game modes provided as well as their depth.
Rating – 6/10
A new game doesn’t necessarily mean a new set of features in terms of game modes for NHL 22. While Be A Pro and Franchise have both been updated to include Superstar X-Factor Abilities, the game modes themselves feel unchanged for the most part.
World of Chel was changed with an easier-to-navigate menu system, which is certainly positive, but doesn’t change the overall experience too much at the end of the day.
Notably missing once again from EA’s NHL franchise was a single-player, story-based game mode similar to Face of the Franchise (or previously Longshot) in Madden and The Journey in FIFA. This has been something fans have asked for in the past but to no avail, unfortunately. While it isn’t the end of the world to not have a story-based game mode, it’s still disappointing that there isn’t one.
In the end, the game modes feel largely unchanged and though they should still provide fun for the user, there isn’t a whole lot to write home about regarding them.
The Replay Value ratings are based on how likely someone is to continue playing the game after the first handful of playthroughs.
Rating – 9/10
If you’re a fan of the NHL franchise, you’ll likely spend a lot of time playing NHL 22. The game is a lot of fun and maintains a lot of the aspects of gameplay features that keep fans coming back day after day, year after year. For any gripes there may be about the franchise not necessarily making leaps and bounds year after year, the game remains fun and offers unlimited replay value throughout its lifecycle.
While a story mode would have been nice to add to the game, it’s also the type of feature that wouldn’t necessarily add any replay value to the game. Typically, users will go through such game modes once or twice and then move onto the multiplayer aspects of the game. Because of this, the lack of a story mode in NHL 22 doesn’t hurt this category at all.
Overall Grade – 38.5/50
The final grade for NHL 22 at launch is 38.5/50 (or 77/100).
NHL 22 feels like a game worth picking up for avid fans of the franchise looking for the most authentic-feeling game to date. While the game isn’t groundbreaking in any way, it certainly provides an updated feel that should make for an overall positive experience when playing the game.
Visually, the game looks as good as it ever has and that should only continue to improve in the future with technology advancing so rapidly. The presentation is certainly the strongest point for NHL 22, and the replayability remains as high as ever.
While there are always going to be complaints, there’s also always going to be good that goes along with the bad. Some might want to focus on the bad as it’s easier than acknowledging the good, but in general, NHL 22 definitely scores a positive grade as a whole due to the fun the user can have playing it for hours and hours each and every day.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for seven years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.