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NHL 22 features extensive settings to make it more accessible

As expectations for the new generation of consoles rise, for NHL 22 it's not just the visuals that are coming under scrutiny as a result of the switch to the Frostbite engine, but also the game features that are said to set this year's version apart from its predecessor.Upon spending significant time with NHL 22, one cannot help but feel conflicted for a game that could have done so much more but stumbles at the important moments.

In the lead up to the release of NHL 22 EA Vancouver wasn’t shy about how a move to the Frostbite engine, as well as to the PS5 and Xbox Series X, would allow for better visuals. This is mostly true, as NHL 22 can look far superior to past games on the PS4 or Xbox One. The lighting in the arenas is much better, as is the detail in player uniforms and facial expressions. This extends to the visual presentation, as NHL 22 now features stat packages presented as augmented reality graphics before some faceoffs. It’s also once again solid on sound, with Ray Ferraro and James Cybulski calling the action, and Carrlyn Bathe chipping in between whistles.

NHL 22 however goes against that narrative, as it is honestly the best the franchise has ever looked, the best it’s ever felt, and overall one of the most fun NHL games to play in the history of the franchise. The newly introduced X-Factor players mechanic is reminiscent of some of my favourite NHL games from years past, but with improved AI and player physicality, it feels like EA may have found the best balance between a fun, arcade-y game and a po-faced hockey simulator.

The new engine does offer a few tweaks to how NHL 22 plays and looks, but it's not a groundbreaking new experience. Similarly to FIFA 22, the next-gen jump is fairly underwhelming for this EA Sports series, but it hopefully lays the ground work for a more impressive future. The most immediately noticeable, and sadly only, next-gen improvement is the look of the ice. The surface looks truly great, with a ton of detail and neat reflections.

The only bright spark for X-Factors is found in the World of CHEL and the Electronic Arts Sports Hockey League (EASHL), where player freedom is more pronounced. This way, you are able to shape how you want to play with the stats and X-Factor abilities that make sense, such as the Wheels ability for a speedster or Snipe for those that can keep calm on the ice and find the target.

NHL 22 features extensive settings to make it more accessible, including color blind options, menu narration, and more. I wanted to love the color-blind settings because protanopia allows me to read menus easier, but they change the color of uniforms in addition to the HUD and menus, which I just couldn’t get used to. Still, there are real steps to make the NHL franchise more accessible and inclusive. There are several in-game notifications promoting positive play and encouraging players to make NHL a safe place for everyone who wishes to enjoy it. These notifications promoting safe and positive play pop up so often that it sticks with you, and that’s a good thing.

All things considered, and considering the state of other sports games, it’s safe to say that it’s a good time to be a gamer and a hockey fan.