A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
As with previous games in this popular hockey video game series, NHL 22 aims to replicate the National Hockey League (NHL) experience. Players can hit the ice as their favorite team and players. While the game is positive because it showcases team sports, this is a contact sport that allows for fistfights during the game (just like in the real NHL league).
Positive Role Models
Similar to other team-based sports games, you don't play as one particular character in NHL 22 (except for the story-based Be a Pro mode), so there isn't one protagonist that serves as a role model. That said, the game's players look like their real-life counterparts, so if they're a positive role model in real life then it can be argued the same goes for the game – but the opposite is true, as well, of course. Most pro hockey players appear to be positive role models.
The game is as diverse as the real NHL, since all the players and teams are represented. While there are more players of color than in previous years, the National Hockey League is disproportionately white. NHL is also a mens-only league. You can create a character from scratch, though, in one of the modes in this game.
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Ease of Play
NHL 22 is easy to pick up and play, thanks to smooth controls. There's an on-ice trainer who teaches you moves and explains why they're important, which should be helpful for novice players.
Violence & Scariness
As with other hockey games that mimic the real sport, NHL 22 is fast and physical. It's a contact sport, so players wear protective gear, but it's possible to bodycheck opponents, sandwich them against the boards and even engage in a fistfight. When this happens, the camera focuses on the two players and it becomes a brawling minigame of sorts. There's no blood or gore.
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Products & Purchases
There's a lot of branding, just like the real sport (in person or televised), with logos on the players, on the boards (lining the arena), on the Jumbotron screen, and more. A few examples include hockey brands (like Bauer and CCM), Honda, Sketchers, Gatorade, EA Sports, Tim Hortons, and others. The game also supports optional pay elements, like the card collecting in Hockey Ultimate Team (HUT) mode.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that NHL 22 is a pro hockey simulation modeled after the real NHL available for Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5. This is the latest installment in the long-running NHL hockey franchise. While violence isn't the point of the game, players can bodycheck rival skaters, and engage in fistfights. Parents should also know there's a lot of visual branding in the game (with dozens of known companies) and there's an option to spend real money for points, which can be used for various in-game items (such as building your own dream team). Otherwise, there's no inappropriate content included in play.
Is It Any Good?
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.