15 Oct 2021 1:02 PM +00:00 UTC

NHL 22 Review: Next Gen sets a new hockey gaming standard

Our NHL 22 Review started with first impressions via the Trial and Early Access, and now it's clear where this year's game shines.

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While it's not a perfect game, this NHL 22 Review will show why this year's installment may be the best the series has produced yet.

NHL 22 Review: Next Gen is setting a new standard

NHL 22 is building upon over three decades of franchise history in pioneering hockey video games, but they've managed to up the ante once more.

NHL 22 is the first game in the series to move to Next Gen, and the jump to PS5 and Xbox Series X|S has also seen the series move to the Frostbite Engine.

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NHL 22 review in progress
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SHIMMER: Watch that ice glisten beneath your skates

All of this has culminated in the most gorgeous NHL game that's ever been made, from the nuances of skate marks in the ice to the damaged glass that separates you from the crowd.

Players have come to expect next level graphics from sports gaming, but it can't be overstated how much the developers working on this title delivered there and had to get a mention in our NHL 22 Review.

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Be A Pro strikes the right balance between story and gameplay

There are many ways to play in NHL 22, and there's no doubt most players will find their way to Be A Pro to try out the single player career mode.

Story has a tenuous relationship with sports gaming, as it's very easy to provide too much or too little of it and make the experience something most players don't want.

NHL 22 enforcer
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BE FEARED: Become the body check no one wants to receive

Be A Pro has managed to strike that balance this year with a significant addition of new conversations and storylines while still leaning heavily on your own gameplay.

There are tons of unique aspects to Be A Pro, but you're gonna need to prove yourself on the ice when it's all said and done.

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Coach Feedback is so good that every game needs it

One particular feature that shines in Be A Pro and throughout NHL 22 is Coach Feedback, and it's a godsend for new players.

Even if you're experienced, the suggested focus from Coach Feedback should always give you a good idea of something to improve on.

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Accessed via the pause menu, you can check Coach's Feedback during a game to see where you're struggling and where to go next.

While some games have similar features, NBA 2K22 being one, the accessibility and ease of NHL 22's along with including the control icon with the suggested focus makes a massive difference.

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Franchise Mode delivers on team creation as Roster Sharing approaches

One big feature we know is coming for NHL 22 down the line is Roster Sharing, which will allow players to share detailed rosters in-game with others in the gaming community.

While that's expected to arrive with an update in December, Franchise Mode is already getting a lot of things right out of the gate when it comes to team creation.

NHL 22 mascot creator
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MONSTER MASH UP: Get the right combo before playing with colors

With the Seattle Kraken joining the league, NHL 22 has a Franchise Mode option to either start as the Kraken and do an Expansion Draft or to become a new 33rd Expansion Team and create your own.

Team creation is packed with unique details like making your own mascot, a custom goal horn, detailed uniform options, and much more.

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World of Chel and HUT 22 struggle to deliver on the same level

While much of NHL 22 is carrying the series forward and feels like a strong improvement, it's the game's primary online modes that feel like the weakest links.

World of Chel operates as an online career mode, allowing gamers to upgrade their custom player and compete in a variety of online game modes.

As of now, World of Chel seems to be prone to long wait times, disconnects, crashes, glitches, all of which will hopefully be resolved in future updates, but Chel feels lackluster even when it's running as intended.

Despite several customization options for your character, it seems like there's little incentive to spend time in World of Chel when Be A Pro feels like a significantly superior career experience.

NHL 22 Review
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GRIND TIME: Players who don't want to spend extra money will have lots of work to do

Meanwhile, HUT 22's flaws are more with the nature of EA Sports and Ultimate Team than they are with any design mistakes or bugs.

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Hockey Ultimate Team in NHL 22 still feels intrinsically linked to persuading fans to spend extra money to acquire new packs, though the game modes within it do still deliver.

Overall gameplay in both online modes is decent when they cooperate, but in the end they feel firmly in the shadow while the rest of NHL 22 excels.

The Verdict

Despite some flaws and lack of growth in its online game modes, NHL 22 delivers a new standard of hockey gaming that makes this installment stand out from the rest.

The improved narrative and long-term challenge of Be A Pro should provide hours of icy fun for both hardcore fans and those who haven't tried the series in recent years.

Franchise Mode already feels like one of the stronger offerings in sports gaming, even with Roster Sharing still a few months away in a post-launch update.

Whether you plan to spend your time grinding in Be A Pro or just want to play some good hockey, the future of hockey gaming is here in NHL 22.

RealSport Rating: 4/5

This review was completed using the Xbox Series X|S version of NHL 22.