'NHL 22' finally moves the series to EA's Frostbite engine

The latest edition of the hockey sim arrives on October 15th with graphics and gameplay upgrades.

EA Vancouver

EA Sports' NHL series is finally making the switch to Frostbite, several years after FIFA and Madden NFL moved to the engine. As such, NHL 22 marks the "biggest leap forward" for the franchise in terms of gameplay and graphics, according to EA.

Developer EA Vancouver has seemingly made every stitch of player uniforms visible via high-res graphics. Player models have been overhauled as well. EA says Frostbite enables enhanced spatial awareness, with players having upgraded eye animations and the ability to track and react to what's going on around them. The publisher is promising "new physically accurate stick interactions" as well.

A system called Superstar X-Factors brings unique moves to some of the more high-profile hockey pros with abilities based on their real-world traits. For instance, cover star and Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews' Shock and Awe move allows you to let fly with "exciting shots," while Andrei Vasilevskiy’s Contortionist ability plays into the Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender's body-twisting flair to let him pull off impressive saves. Superstar X-Factors will feature in the Franchise Mode, as well as the Be A Pro, Hockey Ultimate Team and World of Chel modes.

NHL 22 is the first game in the series to have dedicated PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S versions. It's also coming to PS4 and Xbox One, but the standard edition doesn't include a free upgrade to the PS5/Series X/S versions through EA's Dual Entitlement system.

For that, you'll need to opt for the X-Factor edition, which includes extra Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT) packs and other bonuses, as well as three days of early access. If you buy the NHL 22 X-Factor edition for PS5 or Xbox Series X/S, you'll also have access to the respective previous-gen versions. However, the only game progress you can move from previous-gen consoles to PS5 or Xbox Series X/S is your HUT team, and it's a one-time content migration.

The FIFA and Madden NFL games moved to Frostbite in 2016 and 2017 respectively, so NHL is lagging behind a bit. That said, Frostbite was primarily designed for Battlefield and other first-person shooters. Some EA studios, such as BioWare, have found the engine difficult to work with and had to build some of the tools they needed from scratch. That might go some way toward explaining why it took so long to move the NHL franchise over to Frostbite.

NHL 22 will be released on October 15th.