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EA Sports have been bringing hockey to your console for years

Gigantic games developer EA Sports have been churning out NHL games annually since 1991. That’s right, they’ve been releasing ice hockey games yearly for twenty years,and it can’t be easy coming up with exciting new features, and tinkering with the game enough to satisfy customers on a year by year basis.

Yet at the same time, EA will be acutely aware that ice hockey fans who play video games, will more often than not, shell out for the new game, just so they can have the latest uniforms, and the most up-to-date rosters and squads. This leaves them able to rest on their laurels, and can sometimes lead to an underwhelming product.

The latest entry in the franchise is NHL 22, which was released on October 15th, and is available for both the PS4 and the PS5, and also both the Xbox One, and the Xbox Series X/S. It is the first time in the franchise’s history that an entry has been designed specifically with the ninth generation of consoles in mind. It is also the first to use Frostbite engine, which on the surface is a massive stride forward for the series, with EA promising better graphics, coupled with smoother and more realistic gameplay.

Yet, lovers of sports games know by now, that EA are fantastic at making their latest releases sound groundbreaking, but how good is it actually to play? Is NHL 22 a slick experience that leaves you feeling like Wayne Gretzky in his prime, or is it a dud that will just leave you cold and bitter? The short answer is, a bit of both. The longer answer is, there’s a lot that this game gets right, but unfortunately, there’s a lot that it gets wrong too.

The biggest success is the inclusion of X-Factor skill moves. These have been around for a short while in other EA Sports franchises, most notably the series Madden NFL, and have now been converted to the ice. They allow a select few star players to have special skill moves, hence the X-Factor name, that gifts them certain advantages. So, depending on who the player is, and their real-life abilities, it could be anything from a speed boost, to gaining more accurate shooting after a deke, to being able to pass the puck inch perfectly, or even just gaining more shot power whilst skating fast.

The moves themselves slot solidly into the already amazing analogue control that the series offers. By using the right analogue stick you are capable of some really tight puck control that will allow you to deke past defenders, and the special moves just, seamlessly, add to the plethora of offensive options. You might be thinking that this all sounds a bit arcadey, and might move the game even further away from the simulation-based realism the franchise has been famed for. After all, in a sports game where it’s already easy to bypass the entire defense, adding more power to offensive players might tip the balance even further.

EA Sports have tried to counter this by only having fifty players in the game be capable of X-Factor moves, so it’s not like you’ll be able to do crazy skills with every player. However, as there are certain teams that do have numerous of these high-asset players, there are a small number of teams that become almost god-like in invincibility.

To be fair to the developers, it does reflect real life, in that the best teams are much harder to beat, but when you’re playing online and come up against the fifth person in a row using the Colorado Avalanche and their immense four X-Factor players, it can get a bit tedious. There’s a reason that the Avalanche are easily the favourites for the Stanley Cup, and are priced at 5/1 to capture it at the best betting sites.

If you enjoy having a flutter on the hockey, or any other sports, then will be of great interest to you. Their website is loaded with all the top trusted bookmakers that their team of experts recommend. There’s also in-play betting options and partial cash-backs on offer, so if proceedings on the ice start to go against your predictions, you can still hopefully come away with something.

The bottom line on NHL 22 is, it’s an OK game, but no need to rush out and get it, unless you absolutely can’t comprehend having to use last year’s kits when you play your virtual hockey.