It’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote about my concerns about NHL 22 but EA SPORTS ‘finally’ gave us a first look at the game. The game is coming to both gen consoles, finally using the Frostbite engine, and it’s all coming on October 15. But after that, you have to look around and try to piece information together to understand what else to expect.

Frostbite across all generations

The first piece of news is that the series is finally using the Frostbite engine. Outside of EA SPORTS UFC, now every other EA SPORTS title has or is using the Frostbite Engine. On top of that, all versions of the game are using Frostbite. While that’s great from a development standpoint, it likely means they built the game first for Xbox One and PlayStation 4, then improved the visuals on the newer consoles.

Other than the newer console strengths and other key features, we don’t really have any confirmation on what else is different between the two console generations. The producers are saying it should be feature parity but I suspect there will be more support on the Series X|S and PlayStation 5 than on the older consoles.

The other unfortunate part of this is that there is no-cross generation play. It was a long shot for the series to go cross-platform but not allowing cross-generation is going to hurt online play and Hockey Ultimate Team. EA’s NHL series has a cult following but doesn’t have the community to support four platforms. As more people move from last-gen to current-gen, that won’t matter as much but we’re still in a transition period. I don’t understand the reasoning behind this but suspect it’s something they may have to address post-launch.

Malking trying to protect the puck, a screenshot from NHL 22

X-Factor could change the game, in both good or bad ways

Of the gameplay features we did learn about, the big one is Superstar X-Factor. This is a player-specific perk given to certain athletes. While we don’t know the full depth of categories, these can give players extra speed, more accurate shooting, or better defense when certain in-game objectives happen.

This feature has been in Madden for years. While it doesn’t drastically change the game, I’m curious how much it will. From an article on Polygon, it seems that about 150 players will have these abilities and that these are only playable in exhibition games, Be a Pro and Franchise. I suspect EA will begin to show more information on specific player’s X-Factor abilities closer to launch.

“Dual Entitlement” is a joke

For the first year on Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5, EA’s FIFA and Madden offered free upgrades regardless of the version you bought on Xbox One or PS4. For NHL 22’s first year on new consoles, you only get the upgrade if you go for the X-Factor Edition on the new consoles. For Canadians, the X-Factor Edition is $129.99; this is while the standard edition is $79.99 (edit: technically the last-gen versions are $80, the X|S and PS5 versions are $90). For 40/50 dollars to get some extra HUT content and the pleasure of two versions of the game doesn’t seem like a good value. 

the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, taken from NHL 22

What’s weird is that on Xbox, EA Play members don’t get a discount for the X-Factor Edition. I hope that’s just a mistake, but they really need to offer discounts to the dedicated fanbase. (edit: They have fixed this, so the X-FActor edition now gets the EA Play Discount – additionally if you can get an extra discount if you buy it via NHL 21)

Another thing to note, based on the information on their FAQ, it sounds like the Series X|S and PS5 versions won’t be ready day-and-date. I only think this because the ability to move your content from last-gen to current-gen won’t be available before December 2021. It’s weird that the game would launch in October but you’ll have to wait 45 days if you want to move content over. Either certain modes won’t be available at launch or there are some development problems that EA isn’t addressing now.

The lack of information in one spot is frustrating

I completely understand the marketing cycle, but reading the EA_NHL Reddit threads today has so many people speculating and trying to piece information about NHL 22 that is probably going to lead to a lot of confusion. The official site is very limited details. The official site has some information on Superstar X-Factor abilities, the Polygon article I referred to earlier gives us a bit more. I’ve never liked the idea of spreading information across platforms and this is a mistake most video game publishers make far too often.

None of the articles talk about any of the other modes, except that World of Chel, Be a Pro, and HUT are coming back. We know that there is some new audio commentary recorded and the broadcast presentations will get a facelift, to what extent is still in the air. It’s clear that more details will come out in the coming two months. We also still don’t know when the Technical Test will happen.

An NHL 22 screenshot of Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins

I want to know more

I didn’t play too much NHL 21, but I really want NHL 22 to bring me back. I’m not happy with the lack of cross-gen play but I can look past it if the gameplay makes up for it. I’m really looking forward to seeing and reading more about the game and hopefully, the Technical Test happens very soon.