NHL 22 | A successful reset ★★★★½

NHL 22 is, according to EA Sports, « the biggest leap forward the franchise has ever seen ». That we dared to touch a winning recipe for 28 years required audacity, but we did it with tact and a few novelties that are worth the detour. A nice reset.

Posted Oct 15, 2021

Karim Benessaieh

Karim Benessaieh
The Press

The change is striking right from the home screen, which has always been a challenge for this game that has grown from year to year and offers dozens of different modes. Two years ago, we had to wander through all these rather complex possibilities, then, last year, we offered an interesting solution, which consisted in pinning only the last four modes used.


A new home screen has been designed to NHL 22, with four tabs grouping all the modes.

This year, we opt for a new presentation: the modes are grouped into four categories, accessible by a tab at the top of the screen. This is where you can choose, among other things, to go with an immediate game, to start a new season, to play online or to start the career of a hockey player of your invention.

It is indeed much clearer. There is, however, a great absence: no more sophisticated tutorials, video support, which taught you to combine keys in an implausible way to feint. We are simply entitled to training sessions, alone or in teams, which demonstrate certain skills. Shame.

X Factor

But it is not on the home screen that EA Sports has focused its announcements, rather on a novelty that we have felt coming for a few years, with the personalization of certain stars. 50 of them, including five from the Montreal Canadiens, are now entitled to what has been called the « Superstar X-Factor » skills. You will easily recognize the “X-Factors” on the ice: they are accompanied by a brown and gold diamond indicating that they have an extraordinary ability. Tremble if you have more than one in front of you on the face-off.


Big stars like Auston Matthews and Carey Price—this was before the big announcement—have an “X-Factor” that automatically puts them in a daze on the ice. Price can perform a superhuman « post-to-post » transfer, while Connor McDavid, for example, handles the puck while skating like a god. Each player starts the season with a single X-Factor quality and more unlock over time.

The others have more modest « superstar » qualities, like short slap shots « Let it Jump » for Brendan Gallagher or « Thunderbolt » for Shea Weber — another one the devs programmed before the announcement that the we know.

Bright Engine

What does it change on the ice? Honestly not much, after ten hours of play. We obviously see that the best players are always faster, more precise, and that some of their gestures show the famous diamond. But the management of these 29 “Superstar X-Factors” remains nebulous, considering that the stars already had increased capacities before. At most we are allowed with this addition to see inside the artificial intelligence that animates them.

Let us mention on the other hand a novelty heavily underlined by the designers and more flagrant, the use for the first time of a game engine usually reserved for first-person shooters, Frostbite. The information will no doubt excite industry professionals, for good or ill since Frostbite has a reputation for having a lot of potential while being difficult to manage, but it is notable in certain aspects of the game.

The first, undeniable, is that we use the capabilities of Frostbite to adapt the light and the state of the ice to the evolution of the match. You really see the ice transform during the periods after the Zamboni, going from shimmering to whitish with skate marks, and the replays are noticeably more realistic, with subtle reflections on players’ equipment and clouds of ice sent in the figure of the goalkeeper.


Stats appear unexpectedly in the face-off circles to give you an indication of how the game is going. An idea that broadcasters could surely retain.

The other addition could be called revolutionary soon if broadcasters were inspired by it. A form of augmented reality is used, especially during stoppage time, to project various relevant statistics onto the ice, such as the comparison of shots on goal or the time of possession of the puck. Combined with the ability to change your play style directly with your controller during the game, these innovations are said to increase game flow speed by 50%, according to EA Sports.

Same smoothness

It is also impossible not to notice that the resemblance of virtual players to real humans has been considerably improved. We are far from the ten standardized models: we recognize for example the friendly face of Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, once again especially during the covers.

But let’s talk about the real business, the game on the ice.

It’s hard to tell if the game, with these improvements and the use of next-gen console capabilities, is actually faster or more subtle. Previous versions of NHL were not quite snails and we find with the same pleasure, after a few hours of adaptation, the finesse of the passing games, the precision of the control of the direction and the force of the shots. The PS5 controller, on which we tested this game, is also richer, going beyond simple vibrations to really give the feeling of friction on ice. Accustomed to playing this game with headphones, we were also pleasantly surprised to hear the shouts of the teammates and the coach coming out of the controller, as well as the thunderous music when a goal was scored.

It should be noted here that these possibilities, if they are not fully mastered, can give rise to frustrating moments. We tried the game online, against an experienced American player who had chosen the Colorado Avalanche, before retreating sadly in front of what was shaping up to be a beating. Semi-pro level artificial intelligence is enough for us, for the moment.

And how not to succumb once again to the Career mode, which allows you to build a player from A to Z, to play matches to lead him to the National League while multiplying interviews and meetings with hockey officials? We are dealing here with the equivalent of an RPG slipped into a completely fascinating hockey game, where each of your answers and your performance adds or takes away points from you.

Successful little details

The verdict: generally positive for the changes made, which do not distort a game that has stood out for two decades as the best for hockey. Small details like the state of the ice and the display of statistics on the face-off circle are really well done. The great innovation of the « Superstar X-Factor » did not convince us too much, since the stars already had their tricks before, even if they were not clearly indicated when they used them.

And enjoy it in the virtual world, Shea Weber and Carey Price are in top form.

NHL 22

Developer: EA Sports

Release date: October 15, 2021

For Xbox One and Series, PS4, PS5

Price: from $79.99

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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