“NHL 22” from EA Sports shines with its graphics. The gameplay feels familiar, the “X-Factor” keeps it fresh. Little is happening in the modes.
The time has come! Just in time for the start of the season in the world’s best ice hockey league, the matching game “EA Sports NHL 22” is also on the market. Ice hockey fans can look forward to an optical quantum leap. The newly introduced “X-Factor” puts the sport’s superstars on display. Anyone who hoped for revolutions in terms of game modes will have to be content with small steps instead of big leaps.
Players can now have unique attributes. This lets the biggest stars stand out from the crowd. NHL shines here with attention to detail. The best of their respective teams have perfected special skills. These can be particularly sharp or precise wrist shots, for example, or particularly nimble changes of direction. With lots of such attributes, the top athletes are becoming more and more similar to their real-world role models.
The new X factor
And: The new gameplay feature offers a new dimension. You can now put the individual strengths of your players in the limelight and learn those of the stars of your opponent in order to better adjust to his tactics. The first trips out of the ice feel otherwise familiar. Even in NHL 22, virtual ice hockey cannot match the dynamic, gripping events of a real NHL match.
The players feel immobile in some situations. As a player, you quickly learn the usual patterns of how to get into the opposing third, avoid losing a puck there and how best to come to an end. Instead of dynamic and creative attacks, well-trained moves often lead to success. As a reminder: in the previous year, you already knew before every game that some goals and conceded goals would fall through quick advances over the wings and subsequent one-timers.
What feels new, however, is the passing game and defending. Both of these seem unusual and more difficult on our first trips on the ice. Although we have been playing the game regularly for around 20 years, the AI makes us feel dizzy at first, even on the medium difficulty level – patience and skill are required here. The learning curve is particularly steep when defending properly and avoiding unnecessary puck losses when setting up.
But “NHL 22” can shine with its presentation. It starts when the game starts. There are animated backgrounds in the menu. When the capitals are faded in, the Washington Monument is shown in the background, for example. Optically great! This continues even after the start of a match. The game makes you feel like you’re on a live broadcast on American sports TV.
Those who like realism will be happy
AR projections of statistics on the field or on the boards are new and make a difference. The appearance of the player itself also clearly stands out from its predecessors. The facial expressions look more real, the player portraits are closer to reality. The feel and sound ensure that you are right in the middle of the action as soon as the referee drops the puck for the first time. Suddenly the trainer yells at you from the controller.
You feel the first check through the vibration of the controller. The corresponding sound directly from the controller while the commentator speaks from the television. If the first goal is scored, the siren and stadium music boom from the controller right in front of you. So you feel as close to the action as never before. Anyone who likes realism and this form of virtual sports experience will be happy. The whole thing gets a bit too loud and intrusive for us after the third door siren at the latest, we keep reducing the volume.
The usual modes
At first glance, much of the Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT) has remained the same. This is the mode in which you improve your team by opening packs or trading your drawn cards. Similar to the comparable FIFA mode, this also causes criticism: the lootbox mechanism is disreputed as a pay-to-win. Packs can also be purchased for real money. Those who pay more have a better chance of quickly building a strong team. The popular fashion franchise has been expanded to include the new Seattle Kraken team. As before, you can either carry out the Expansion Draft with the sick yourself or heave your own team into the NHL.
This is not new, but it is well thought out and a lot of fun for hobby managers. New: You can now hold job interviews with coaches. Each coach has their own strengths and weaknesses and their own ideas on how best to put lines together. In other words: You should get the right players for the right roles in your coach’s system in order to get the most out of the squad. Of course, the X-factor also plays a role when putting your team together. Even when scouting young stars that you want to draft. Otherwise everything looks very familiar.