The real NHL season is less than two months away, which means it’s about time for fans to dig into what the next iteration of the NHL franchise will bring to their gaming worlds when it releases in October. Each year, developer EA Vancouver rolls out its pitch to players for why they should buy the next release, and this year is no different. I was given an early, hands-off look at NHL 22, so let’s hit the ice and talk about what players can expect.
The big sell on NHL 22 in terms of gameplay is the addition of a feature called Superstar X-Factor. Within this mechanic are two concepts: Superstar Abilities and Zone Abilities. Superstar Abilities are reserved for only the top players in the league, such as Auston Matthews, Leon Draisaitl, and Andrei Vasilevskiy, just to name a few.
Matthews, for example, has the “Shock and Awe” ability which features his unique toe drag into a shot. Let Matthews have a little space in the offensive zone and he’s likely to burn you. Draisaitl, on the other hand, has his “Tape to Tape” Superstar Ability, which highlights his passing in the offensive zone.
Zone Abilities are reserved for the stars in the league who maybe don’t quite reach the level of a Matthews or Draisaitl. These will be more widely distributed among the NHL player base and will be seen in modes such as Be a Pro, Hockey Ultimate Team, and Franchise Mode.
The goal of Superstar X-Factor is to bring more personality and uniqueness to the gameplay in NHL 22. If players on the ice have applicable abilities, gamers will be able to use these to create impactful moments on the ice, be it in the offensive or defensive zone.
Often when seeing the NHL franchise for the first time any particular year, I’m left to wonder how big of an impact new features will have. I’m still curious about this in terms of the Superstar X-Factor feature, but the visual overhaul coming to NHL 22 via the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S already feels substantial.
NHL 22 is moving to the Frostbite engine from the Ignite engine that NHL 21 used. For those of you that play Battlefield games and feel they’re gorgeous, yeah, that’s the Frostbite engine. In NHL 22, players can expect to see far more detail, including in the visual presentation of the players and even NHL arenas.
This was quite evident with the way lighting works in the game. Light will now reflect off not only the ice to give it more visual depth, but also player helmets and visors, as well as the glass along the boards. I’m sure we’ll all get used to this visual overhaul as the new norm rather quickly, but the visual upgrade in the small amount I’ve seen so far feels significant. Of course, this will be far more evident to players on the new consoles than those still rocking the PS4 and Xbox One. That’s the way technology works.
More to come
NHL 22 is a little under two months from release, and you can bet we’ll get more looks at EA Vancouver’s latest iteration of Chel before that time. I’m as excited to try out Superstar X-Factor as the next player, and I can’t wait to see how it looks on my PS5. However, I’m far beyond gimmicks in terms of what I value in my NHL games. EA says that the Frostbite engine will impact gameplay as well as the visual presentation, and only time and hands-on with NHL 22 will determine if that’s true.