In-depth

NHL 22 finally moves to EA’s Frostbite engine

We'll see improvements on last- and current-gen consoles as a result.

NHL 22 will finally make the move to EA’s Frostbite engine (though we’ve known this for a couple days now…), benefitting from several technological advancements that can even be enjoyed on Xbox One and PS4.

EA Vancouver’s Clement Kwong detailed what those on last- and current-gen consoles can expect in the move from the old IGNITE engine.

NHL 22 is going to deliver hockey like you’ve never seen it before, leveraging the power of Frostbite and [current-gen] consoles to deliver an incredible visual experience,” he told Stevivor. “Unlike FIFA and Madden, we’re integrating the Frostbite engine at the same time we’re making a leap to [current-gen].

“Doing both at the same time puts us in the perfect position to make [current-gen] the premium place to play NHL, but still offer a substantial upgrade that’s immediately recognizable to [last-gen] players as well.”

New visual enhancements have been broken up into three categories by EA Vancouver: environments, players and broadcast presentation.

Here’s what to expect, depending on your console generation.

NHL 22 Frostbite engine arena improvements

On both last- and current-gen consoles, the Frostbite engine will provide more authentic arenas, complete with deferred lighting, improved VFX, post FX, particle FX, ice improvements, shadows and dynamic ambient occlusion.

“One of the biggest benefits of the Frostbite upgrade is deferred lighting to create immersive environments. In NHL 22, all arenas have been rebuilt and relit to bring the atmosphere to life,” Kwong said.

Toronto’s ScotiaBank Arena was used an example, with Kwong confirming that each light source in the arena is authentically placed, producing the same shadows and reflections you’d see in real-life.

The power of the Xbox Series and PS5 consoles also means dynamic lighting, enhanced shadows, micro details and enhanced effects for those on current-gen consoles.

“Specifically on [current-gen] we see enhanced details in environments that adds mored texture surfaces and micro shadows against each light source.”

Each arena’s ice surface looks far more realistic, with texture, depth and reflections as compared to the IGNITE engine’s slab of white.

“The ice is such a prominent and distinct part of the hockey environment that we want it to be an area of focus,” Kwong continued. “The ice from NHL 21 in uniform and lacks the layers of depth compared to… Frostbite.”

Kwong also confirmed that current-gen consoles have an even more impressive ice surface because of “the added benefit of dynamic lighting on the entire ice surface, as well as the surrounding environment.”

The enhancements are also present in World of Chel’s outdoor rinks.

NHL 22 Frostbite engine player and gear improvements

“Superstar authenticity starts with overhauled player likeness,” Kwong asserted. “Over 100 star players and generic player head models have been totally rebuilt from the ground up to reflect the current season and bring more details to your favorite players. [There is a] clear difference between NHL 21 and 22. Skin and eye shading all get upgraded, which is common across all platforms.”

Other across-the-board upgrades include uniform improvements, hair shader upgrades, eye shading and eye animations, enhanced procedural awareness, improved skin shading and cloth animation.
Those on Xbox Series and PS5 consoles will also enjoy improved facial animations, micro detail on gear, higher fidelity cloth simulation and dynamic lighting on both cloth and players.

“Specific to [current-gen], players will get enhanced details across jerseys and equipment, giving us life like texture to every fabric and stitch,” Kwong continued. “When the camera gets up close and personal… [current-gen] players will also benefit from dynamic lighting, which adds for texture and depth to all characters.”

NHL 22 Frostbite broadcast presentation improvements

Finally, Frostbite has allowed EA Vancouver to enhance the way in which games are presented to players and spectators alike.

“We have different ways to break away from traditional overlays and present information in augmented reality where the motion graphics are in space as part of the living world, or attached directly to characters,” Kwong said.

“In addition to a fresh new look and feel, we also had the goal of streamlining the experience in between whistles by displaying pertinent data and information in an unobtrusive manner,” he continued. “We’re getting our players back into the action fast.”

The new AR system will place important information in an accessible manner. Players with new X-Factor talents will have those detailed on top of the faceoff circle before a puck drop, as an example, and details of a penalty will be posted up around the penalty box as a player is skating over to do their time.

NHL 22 heads to Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, PS4 and PS5 on 15 October 2021. Its special X-Factor Edition will provide three days of early access from 12 October 2021. A technical test is expected later in August.

NHL 22

15 October 2021
PS4 PS5 Xbox One Xbox Series S & X
 

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.