NHL 22 review for PS5/4, Xbox Series X/One

Platform: PS5
Also On: PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC
Publisher: EA
Developer: EA Vancouver
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: Multi
Online: Yes
ESRB: E10+

?Next Gen? hockey is here! The NHL franchise makes its PS5 and Xbox Series X|S debut this year after skipping a free upgrade last year ? la Madden. It?s also my return to the franchise after taking the year off and Matthew covering last year?s release (LINKY). I was eager to see the improvements EA made in the generation jump along with the inclusion of the newest NHL franchise; Seattle Kraken (such a disappointing logo). Does EA give a brand new experience or is it more of the same, like we?ve been getting with Madden year after year? Spoiler, it?s actually a little bit of both.

Let?s start with what?s brand new, beyond making a debut on new consoles. The franchise is now making the move to the Frostbite engine and I?ll tell you it has never looked so gorgeous. Immediately jumping into a game (along with the extremely fast loading), I was blown away with how great the arenas, players, and ice all looked. The skate marks on the rink, the details in the audience, the players? jerseys, I could go on and on. This wowed me more than Madden this season as well. I don?t know if it?s due to playing Madden on these consoles for almost a year now or not having played last year?s NHL, but everything really looks incredible. Then you get to the puck drop and the game starts and it?s silky smooth. The Frostbite engine truly is a great fit for the NHL franchise. My first game really brought back my love for this series.

Once that puck is on the ice and you?re making your move into the opponent?s zone, you?ll see icons next to certain players. The next new feature is X-Factor Players. If that sounds familiar to you it?s because that term has been used in the Madden series for years. NHL decided to copy a feature from it?s big brother and it was a good move. For those unfamiliar, X-Factor is a particular ability a given player has because they are known to be a game changer in some way. In NHL this can be their skating ability, shooting a snapshot, a one-timer, making an impossible pass, being a bruiser on defense, or many more attributes. Memorizing what icon means what can take some time and experience but it?s all worth it for the level of depth given to each team?s roster. I imagine big hockey fans will enjoy checking out how EA supported, or cheated, their team in their opinions.

Those are the main additions that I noticed (along with what EA showcased). I read Matthew?s review from last season and based on my last time playing the franchise, it looks like all of the old modes have carried over and there aren?t any new mode additions. You?ve got the tried and true; Franchise, Ultimate Team, Ones, Threes, Be a Pro, and the online World of Chel. So to many this might be a miss because outside of the X-Factor and the new engine debut, this is featuring all the same modes of the past few years of NHL games. Me personally as someone who took the year off, it?s not such a big deal. But if you are that die hard fan, I still can feel where you?re coming from, especially that EA is taking a cue from other publishers and raising their prices from $59.99 to $69.99. It?s hard to justify that $10 price hike if you picked up last year?s release? good looks can only get it so far.

I do have one gripe that might not be a gripe to most and I expect it doesn?t apply to the XBOX Series X|S release, but EA provided me with a code for the PS5. Owners of the PS5 are very familiar with the brand new DualSense controller and developers trying to take full use of it. For NHL 22, EA decided to have many of the on-ice chatter come through the controller speaker, the gimmick wears thin quickly but I could deal with it. My problem lies with when you or your opponent scores a goal and it plays a soundtrack song through the controller along with the arena bullhorn. This gets annoying very quickly and I can?t imagine it?s good for the battery life on the controller (which is already pretty short). I did reach out to EA regarding if this ?feature? could be turned off, which it cannot. I was instructed that it could be eliminated through the system level settings. That is not an ideal fix as for my other games I might like their use of the controller speaker, so I would be stuck constantly going into system settings to adjust controller settings. This should be an easy in-game menu on/off (patch it!).

So here we are in the 3rd period and we?re down a goal with a minute left and you?ve got to decide? do you pull your goalie to make one last punch to tie it up. In this analogy you?re deciding if you should pick up this year?s release (sorry if the analogy didn?t fit). In my situation I really dug NHL 22, the new engine, the tried and true smooth gameplay, it hit all the check boxes for me. I do wish they had a new mode or two since I last played the series two years ago and that $10 next gen ?fee? can be a tough pill to swallow for fans that pick up the release every year, but it still gets my recommended seal of approval. EA survives the power play, but I don?t know if they can handle another one (another hockey pun, sorry).

Note: EA provided us with a NHL 22 PS5 code for review purposes.

Grade: A-