NHL 22 announced for next-gen consoles with new engine and other improvements


NHL 22 will skate on Xbox Series X/S and PS5 in October, EA announced today, marking the hockey simulation’s debut on the next generation of consoles. In doing so, it will transition to the Frostbite engine, joining Madden and FIFA on EA’s proprietary engine.

The engine update is a long time coming. Where FIFA switched to Frostbite in 2016 and Madden made the move the following year, the NHL has stuck with the Ignite engine introduced at the start of the PS4 and Xbox One generation. This allowed him to avoid the myriad technical issues suffered by Madden and FIFA, but also left him visibly dated.

Speaking to IGN, NHL Producer Clement Kong said that “the time really is right” to switch to Frostbite now that the series is heading to the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S. He says the team is also aware of avoiding the pitfalls that Madden and FIFA have had to overcome.

NHL 22 Screenshot Gallery

“[Madden and FIFA] had big challenges before Frostbite,” Kwong says. “Luckily for us, even while working from home, Frostbite has been a multi-year project […] we integrated it very easily.”

He continues, “We want to prioritize not losing functionality and being able to add functionality. So we really had an eye on the lessons we learned from the transition from the previous generation and falling into this trap.”

By switching to the Frostbite engine, the NHL team is rebuilding all arenas around the new lighting engine, allowing for improved particle and visual effects on and off the ice. Character models are also being revamped, which should relieve fans weary of the caveman-like players that populate many teams.

But while there are improvements across the board to the actual visuals, don’t expect big improvements in animation or player interactions. “One thing we didn’t show was procedural awareness: so eye tracking, knowing where the puck is, facial animation… these are all new features specific to PS5 and Xbox Series X,” Kwong explains. “But in terms of overall gameplay animation, that hasn’t really changed yet. Now that we’re on the Frostbite engine, we really want to drive that immersion and leverage what we have.”

Update: An NHL representative clarified that there will be new animations introduced in NHL 22 thanks to the new X-Factor system. There will also be animation improvements across the board, though not specifically related to Frostbite engine capabilities.

NHL 22 takes a page from Madden

Gameplay changes in NHL 22 will be mainly due to X-Factors, which is the other new feature introduced for this version. Madden fans are familiar with X-Factors, as they’ve been a gameplay staple for a few years now. They represent special abilities granted to superstars like Toronto Maple Leafs captain Auston Matthews, who will also grace this year’s cover.

When Matthews meets the prerequisites to activate his “Zone” ability, he’ll have access to perks like Shock & Awe, which can give him “exceptional power and accuracy while firing a deke.” Superstar players also have access to secondary abilities that impact pick-ups and puck deflections.

X-Factors was well-received when it was introduced in Madden 20, and EA hopes some of that brilliance carries over to the NHL as well. They will go a long way in differentiating stars from scrubs – a recurring problem for the NHL over the years. Kwong says the NHL’s top 50 players will have zone capability, including goaltenders.

Outside of area abilities and the move to the Frostbite engine, NHL 22 will update the presentation, introducing AR elements meant to grab attention while keeping gameplay fluid. No three stars or players walking through the tunnel, but the NHL’s development team will consider these improvements as it “continues to develop [NHL’s] visuals year after year.”

Kwong also revealed that World of Chel – the NHL’s recreational-focused outdoor mode – is the NHL’s most-played feature, and NHL 22 would feature an “always-on locker room” to make gatherings with friends easier. Not much else has been revealed about Franchise Mode and Be a Pro except that they will include more scenarios and support for the Seattle Kraken, but more information will be shared soon.

However, NHL will not include GM Connected, the online league system that was removed with the move to PS4 and Xbox One. “We looked at this feature long and hard, knowing we had to prioritize moving to Frostbite,” Kwong says, saying the feature is “on the long-term project list” and that “we know the community is asking for it. .”

As for the previous-gen version, Kwong says there will be “full feature parity” between the last-gen and current-gen versions, with the Xbox One and PS4 versions also moving to the Frostbite engine. Similar to FIFA and Madden, NHL 22 will feature a dual-entitlement system, meaning PS4 and Xbox One owners who pre-order the more expensive “X-Factor Edition” will be able to upgrade to new consoles for free. However, only Hockey Ultimate Team progress will be transferable, as the various career modes are locked to the console you start them on.

NHL 22 will be released on October 15 on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PS4 and Xbox One.

Kat Bailey is Senior News Writer at IGN. His only wish is for the Wild to lift the Stanley Cup at some point in his life.


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