Auston Matthews revealed as cover star as NHL 22 enters next generation

Here's a sneak peek at the upcoming and much anticipated NHL 22 from EA Sports, with Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews gracing the cover once again.

Toronto Maple Leafs superstar centre Auston Matthews has been revealed as the cover athlete for EA Sports’ NHL 22.

This is the second time Matthews has been given the honour to grace the cover of the venerable video game franchise as he was also the cover star of NHL 20.

Slated for an Oct. 15 release date, NHL 22 will release on the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Here’s a little more info on the forthcoming game.

Superstar X-Factors come to CHEL

First revealed in Madden 20, Superstar X-Factors is a new mechanic coming to NHL 22 that adds specific skills and abilities that only the game’s very best players can execute.

For example, in the case of cover boy Matthews, he has an ability called “Shock and Awe” which taps into his signature, quick release wrister that he uses to find the back of the net in real life.

“This year, Superstar X-Factors bring a whole new level of elite competition and strategy to the game, and you’ll be able to unleash my ‘Shock and Awe’ ability for exciting shots at the net,” said Matthews in a statement.

Additionally, Edmonton Oilers star forward Leon Draisaitl has an ability called “Tape to Tape,” which reflects his elite passing skills and will actually modify some of his passing animations and will occasionally automatically saucer passes for players if there’s a stick in the way.

As well, Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy has an X-Factor ability called “Contortionist,” which speaks to his athletic goaltending style and, in-game, will boost his ability to make highlight-reel body-twisting saves.

These Superstar X-Factor abilities will come in two different flavours: Zone Abilities and Superstar Abilities. The difference between the two is that a Zone Ability is described as a “game-breaking enhancement” that only the best players get – such as Matthews’ “Shock and Awe” skill – while Superstar Abilities are skills that more than one player can get and, while powerful, don’t reflect a player’s signature style in real life.

Like in the Madden series, Superstar X-Factors will be interspersed throughout all modes of play in NHL 22, including in cards that players pull in Hockey Ultimate Team, the characters you can create in World of CHEL and the Be A Pro mode, as well as franchise mode, where you’ll actually be able to scout for potential X-Factors in prospects.

NHL 22 gets a Frostbite upgrade

In addition to the addition of Superstar X-Factors, the EA Sports NHL franchise is getting another major upgrade in NHL 22 with, at long last, the game being built on EA’s vaunted Frostbite engine.

Now in its third generation, put simply, Frostbite is a game engine that focuses on greater visual fidelity, with Frostbite 3 putting a particular emphasis on higher frame rates, 4K visuals and high dynamic range (HDR) lighting.

It’s a fairly big deal for NHL 22 to be on Frostbite as it reflects the first time the series has been on EA’s flagship game engine, despite the fact other franchises like FIFA, Madden and Need for Speed having been on it for years now.

“Developing NHL 22 with the Frostbite engine is letting us truly bring the series into the next generation,” said Clement Kwong, Producer at EA Vancouver in a statement. “The visual upgrade is impressive on its own, but the Frostbite engine is also giving us the power to create a lot of realism that you’ll really notice once you play.”

Some of these visual improvements that the team at EA Vancouver seem particularly proud of include “micro-details” on player uniforms to the point that you can see every stitch made on the sweater as well as the HDR lighting that more realistically plays off the ice surface and the players themselves.

Differences between versions of the game

As mentioned before, NHL 22 will be releasing for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S as well as for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Given the raw power differences between the next-gen and last-gen consoles there will, of course, be differences between the two.

The most obvious one is, obviously, the visual look between the version of the game on the next-gen devices will be enhanced. While the game is running off Frostbite in both versions of the game, things such as HDR lighting and true 4K visuals will simply come across better in machines with more powerful graphics cards in them and far more enhanced computer processing power.

If you do happen to get a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One version of the game, however, it’s important to know that you will be able to upgrade to the next generation version of it if you then happen to get a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X|S after you get the game.

This upgrade will allow you to transfer some progress over from your save file on the last-gen version of the game, but not everything – particularly in HUT – so be warned if you do decide to do this.

As well, it doesn’t look like cross-play between platforms will be supported. So if you want to play together with your buddies it’ll have to be on the couch or you’ll all have to get the same version of the game to play online.

It’s worth noting that, if you have a PS5 you can play the PS4 version of the game because of the backwards compatibility of the console, so you can, theoretically play the PS4 version of the game on your PS5 with other PS4 users, it just probably won’t look as good as the actual PS5 version of the game.

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