In the second of a four-part series of videos offering a deep-dive look into NHL 22 — the first being a long look at World of CHEL — we get an absolutely massive twenty-seven-minute gameplay breakdown. It's about the equivalent of sitting down and getting to see a game played straight through. This of course includes running commentary over top of the game, offering insight into the process of changing the game along the way. While it may have been, er, questionable to open the video with footage of Jack Eichel playing for the Buffalo Sabres, the glimpse behind the curtain afforded by the commentary is interesting.
The first chunk of the video deals with the changes made to passing and receptions. During the technical test for this year's title, a widespread critique was aimed at pass reception, and the commentary discusses how difficult it is to balance the emphasis on team play — especially online — versus the realism of how difficult it can be to pick up the puck. Additionally, it's mentioned that "disruptions are turned back on for online modes", allowing natural reflexive pass interceptions to happen, something that was notably, sometimes distractingly, absent from NHL 21.
Perhaps even more interesting is just the gameplay itself. For the most part, it looks like the same NHL games you've played each year. The presentation package is easily recognisable as what we've had for a few years now, but some of the animations do stand out as brand new. Particularly board play looked much improved from years past. Rather than a couple of limp fish pressed up against the boards, players move much more realistically while trying to slip a pin.
The next chunk of the video addresses player speed, specifically how players that should be slower can catch up to speedier skaters. It's addressed both mechanically and how to balance the realities of hockey with it. Every once in a while, in real hockey, a slower player can in fact close the gap even if it shouldn't be expected. The biggest culprit of players catching up on breakaways is down to acceleration, though. Acceleration is increased for online modes to keep gameplay more balanced, but it sounds like the verdict on that remaining the case is unclear. While it won't be changing anytime soon, the possibility is out there. For NHL 22, the agility of players will have a larger role as a means of hopefully improving things on that front.
The third section focuses on the switch of the engine, as NHL is at long last joining EA's other sports titles in utilising the Frostbite engine. It sounds like the largest factor here will be quality of life things. Uncanny aspects that might not make plausible sense, but do make gameplay sense. The biggest example is stick physics — the topic of the fourth section — and how to ensure that sticks react appropriately not just from a game standpoint, but looking at them as well. Maybe not the most impressive use of the new generation of hardware, but hey, anything that improves the quality of the experience is welcome, right?
So what do you think? Did you watch the video? Excited about any of the changes being implemented this year? Cherry-pick the comments section and let us know.