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NHL 22 Closed Technical Test: Initial Thoughts

If you're looking for gameplay footage, you won't find it. But the first NHL 22 beta is out, and the opening thoughts are in.
NHL 22

The NHL 22 closed technical test began on Monday, marking the start of the game's life cycle two months prior to the official launch.

I'm currently part of the test, and, so far, I've enjoyed the experience. We aren't allowed to stream or share any content from it, but I wanted to share some initial thoughts.

The first thing you're presented with is the menu screens. They're a huge step forward from previous offerings and while we can't show you them in action here, you can see the screenshots from EA's deep dive from over the weekend. They simply look more modern with a nice color palette and are really easy to look at. While they aren't super quick, they're not the sluggish bogfests we suffered through in NHL 21 that didn't improve if you were on the next-gen consoles or not. But I'd definitely like them to be a bit quicker.

Via the menus, you're presented with NHL's World of Chel mode, the all-encompassing section for EASHL, Three's Eliminator, One's and other customizable options. EASHL is my domain, so I immediately appreciated the full customization options for player builds. There's more than we've ever had, there are enough seemingly good ones to make different builds without having a pure meta – at least, just from analyzing the options and weighing them against playing styles we've seen in EASHL. So while I haven't been able to go that far in EASHL – and with it being a technical test, don't expect many to do so – it looks really promising.

In terms of actual gameplay, the visual aspect definitely has improved. Playing on the PS5, the game definitely looks smoother, cleaner and the graphics don't look like the NHL 2k10-esque style that seemed to show through on social media during the original gameplay trailer. I didn't have an issue with NHL 21's graphics, but, visually, the move to the Frostbite engine was definitely a nice plus. Also, the augmented reality graphics don't feel intrusive and I love the implementation of it. As of now, full marks to EA.

Passing feels different. You can't just blindly throw the puck behind your back and magically get it on the stick of your teammate on the breakout. You truly need to know where your teammate is before dishing the disk out. It'll take some getting used to like we saw with NHL 13 when that game was overhauled, but it definitely feels more realistic, even if it needs to be tuned a bit.

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Out of the box, the game uses a truly aggressive vibration setting that makes it really annoying to play. I hopped into a game as a goaltender and I was feeling what seemed like the full action, but I was standing still in the crease. On EA's FAQ for the game, they said they're working on that. 

The gameplay itself is good, albeit it feels a bit slow. Maybe slider changes down the line will fix things but the game pace can feel a bit leisurely at points. Tripping also doesn't seem to be as big of a problem. I went out of my way to emulate my EASHL team's play by tripping everyone in sight and didn't get any truly poor calls that I felt mad about. 

While the goalie control scheme doesn't seem any different this time around (they haven't done a full breakdown of the position yet), the goalie AI definitely doesn't seem as stupid anymore. Their glove hands are useful for once, although they tend to slide way too much. More tuning is needed.

Gameplay crashes seemed to be an issue. It crashed four times for me and twice for one of my teammates. Annoying, but that's something that'll be fixed come full release.

We're only on Day 2 of the technical test, so there's It's too early to tell how this game is going to be because we only got just one game mode and it doesn't feature any NHL teams. 

But at its core, this is a promising start. It's far from perfect, but the foundation is there. It doesn't feel like a different experience, but an improved experience, and in a transition year to a new platform, that's a good step.

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