Aside from the visual upgrade, there's not much added to the overall gameplay, though there's still plenty of enjoyable on-ice action for this year's game. NHL 22 is an extraordinarily good and fun game and won't disappoint -- especially for those on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S -- but expect more of a familiar rather than fresh experience. The Frostbite Engine improves the look (and feel) of the game considerably, adding more realistic ice surfaces, more dynamic arena lighting, and better-looking players (despite some odd textures here and there). It's really a gorgeous game that's also fast and smooth to play, with responsive players that seems to have more "weight" than in years' past. Passing the puck seems more naturally, too, and the puck realistically doesn't just stick to a teammate's stick anymore (so it's a little more challenging, too). Stick physics were also improved with the new engine.
The other major addition are the Superstar X-Factors brought over from Madden NFL 22, which added some extra abilities to some of the best NHL players. On the surface this is a good idea, as there are many abilities to choose from (about 30 at launch, spread across 6 categories), but doesn't seem to impact the game much on the regular team modes. They do appear to be more significant when you've got a player in the Be a Pro story, or while using your custom player in World of CHEL. There are other little touches that are great, like extra haptic feedback, more Be a Pro storyline options than in years past, and new camera angles and more advanced broadcast presentation. The bottom line: If you own a PS4 or Xbox One and bought last year's game, don't bother to upgrade to NHL 22 unless you think you'll like the X-Factor additions. But if you haven't bought an NHL game in a few years, and especially if you own one of the newer consoles, then you'll no doubt love what EA Sports has hit the ice with in 2021.