Developer: EA Vancouver
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre(s): Sports, Simulation
Platform: Xbox One (Also available on Xbox Series X|S, Playstation 4 and PlayStation 5)
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 15/10/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
I have long been a fan of sports games. Those who have read any of my other reviews will have no doubt come across a plethora of such reviews here on the site.
So, when the chance came for me to review NHL 22 I jumped. I am a big ice hockey fan and have been ever since I went to see a Manitoba Moose AHL game around about twenty years ago.
I have previously reviewed NHL 20 for the site. So, rather than go through the different game modes and largely explain the same thing as I did for those two reviews, I have decided to go a little differently this time.
If It Isn’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
As has been the case with EA games across a range of sports in recent years, there are very few changes to the actual offerings in the game.
NHL 22 comes with all the expected modes, from Exhibitions to Seasons, Franchise, Be a Pro, CHEL, and HUT (Hockey Ultimate Team).
I love the Be a Pro mode, and I enjoy playing HUT and trying to hit the different challenges that come along. But that hasn’t changed too much from the previous offerings. So, for this review, I want to talk about how I played NHL 22.
Release the Kraken
The current NHL season saw the debut of a new franchise. The Seattle Kraken are the first team since Las Vegas Golden Knights to join the NHL ranks.
So, armed with my Kraken jersey, I sat down and decided to dedicate my time with the game to playing Franchise mode. Leading the Kraken through the debut season.
Given that I also played the other game modes, I decided to make my Kraken journey a sim adventure.
The Expansion Draft Was Quite a Challenge
It sounds easy, going through the existing clubs and picking one player from each team. However, it was a lot harder than it looked and I spent a lot of time building a team based around a combination of youth and experience.
I toyed with the idea of recreating the existing Kraken roster, however, decided against it really just for issues of time.
I did pick up Ryan Donato and a few other players who are indeed Kraken stars this season. However, my biggest expense was signing legendary player Alex Ovechkin. Despite being in his twilight years, nobody can compare to Ovechkin. I hoped this superstardom would translate from real life and into the game.
The Early Going was Rough
We made it through pre-season with a positive record, and I headed into opening day with some quiet optimism. This was soon stifled by a couple of big defeats in my opening handful of games. This included being 0-5 down at the end of the first period against Pittsburg.
I resisted the urge to move out of sim mode. I was going to stick to the process. No matter what.
I was pleased I did because after losing 4 out of my first 5 games, the team began to gel. Ovechkin got his first goals with a hattrick against Montreal, and from there we went on a twelve-game undefeated steak with Ovechkin decimating the opposition picking up over a point a game.
Defeats Came but the Playoffs Beckoned
There were ups and downs throughout the season. Including the loss of several key players through injury. However, they were all relatively minor, and I had my team back together again in a few short matches.
I made myself a promise when I set out on my Kraken journey, that I would not do the childish, rage quit or the old ‘oh I forgot to save’ reset trick.
I won’t lie, it was a challenge, as my mid-season winless streak hit five. However, I stuck it out and by the end of the season, we were the division champions and the playoffs beckoned.
Stanley Cup Glory Was Ours
I swept the first round of the playoffs but was pushed to the final game in the second round. Then it was time to duke it out for the grandest prize of them all. The Stanley Cup. In the final, I was up against the Tampa Bay Lightning, which I felt was fitting for a fantasy sports world.
In reality, the Lightning is vying to make it three Stanley Cups in a row, while the Kraken is simply trying to make it three wins in a row for the season.
The quest for the cup was hard-fought, and it was touch and go for a while, but we win in game six, with the evergreen Ovechkin scoring two and getting two assists in a 5-3 victory.
My journey was over. The quest is complete. I had guided the Seattle Kraken to Stanley Cup glory in their debut season. I felt a little sad when it was over. Yes, I can continue, but there is still a lot more game there for me to conquer. I am sure I will return to my Kraken team again, but with the season over, and the review written, I can’t help but feel that their story has run its course.
Simulations Revealed a Game I Never Knew Was There
To segue just a second. I love Football Manager. I have played it ever since the CM97/98 version of the game. I love the way it works and now, in 2022, I love the detail and the craft that has gone into the game.
While playing a sim-only franchise mode does not come close to the detail of Championship Manager, it certainly gave me the feels of the old-school CM games.
It was a style of play I had not thought of before, but there is something addictive about tinkering with the roster and adjusting your lines. Talking to your players and focusing on a strategy above spamming body check and slapshot.
Not that that isn’t fun. I mean I also played my fair few hours of the other game modes. In fact, I may have missed a few days at work because I was too busy trying to finish the weekly challenges that had been set.
Slow and Steady Progress Wins the Race
When it comes to sports games, EA is always going to be one of the world leaders. They know what they do. They know what they offer, and they stand by it.
Rarely do they make wholesale changes that alter the game beyond mere tweaks and minor enhancements. There is nothing wrong with that because, well, if it isn’t broke, etc.
NHL 22 is not a perfect game. I experienced some frame rate drops from time to time, and even living in Europe, online play was more often than not a bit of a shambles. Not to mention, my always mentioned grip about the unavoidable repetition of commentary.
NHL 22 may not be perfect, but it is an improvement on its predecessors, and I am prepared to go out on a limb and say NHL 23 will be a small improvement on this offering. More minor adjustments and advancements in graphics and controls. You know what? I am perfectly fine with that.
I am already standing in the ‘theoretical’ queue waiting to get my hands on the next edition. Rock on October (or thereabouts).
Final Thoughts on NHL 22
I am not going to lie. I jumped with joy when I was told we had a code for the game. I went into it excited and I am writing this review still with a big grin on my face when I think about it.
My playing time has slipped in recent months, simply because I don’t have space for the Xbox One right now, and so most of my gaming is limited to my Switch and my laptop. So I am sitting here hoping that NHL 23 will come with a PC version the same as FIFA and the NFL games. Until then, I will dust off the console every now and then just to make sure I can get my hockey fix. I’ve still got a Be a Pro season to finish after all.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can get your copy of NHL 22 from the Xbox store today.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.