Once in a generation, EA Sports goes to town on it’s popular FIFA series. You know: it really puts the work in, tries to change things up and puts out a game that, in the moment, feels unbeatable. It will include moments that feel like they are taken directly from a Sky Sports broadcast, but also evoke memories of a kickabout down the park with mates. FIFA 22 is that game.
Last year there was a glimpse of what the new generation of consoles could achieve, but with FIFA 22 the visuals are glorious. I’m rarely one to be wowed by how a game looks, unless it’s down to a specific art style. Initially, FIFA 22 is impressive, but not mind-blowing. Then Manchester United’s Edinson Cavani scored a goal against me in an online match.
It was fairly early on in my time with FIFA 22 so I wasn’t skipping replays yet: I wanted to see how things looked and ran. It was during the replay of Cavani tucking one into the top corner (the bastard) that I realised his hair was moving differently to any other player I’d seen so far. I had previously been too focused on how annoying it was that my FUT opponent had the entire Manchester United starting eleven, but also Virgil van Dijk and Romelu Lukaku. It’s good to know that FIFA can still impress visually, and also that it can still make you want to throw a controller at the wall due to the online play.
Because ultimately, as good as any game looks, if it doesn’t play well, that’s money poorly spent. Thankfully FIFA 22 feels exceptional to control, with more accessibility layered on top than ever before, and more customisation and player choice, too. It’s not just about the modes, which have all been tweaked to varying degrees (all improvements, I might add), it’s about football as a wider sport.
Without getting too carried away – as there’s always work to be done – it’s tremendous to see representation in a football game like FIFA 22. It’s not just that EA Sports has recognised Alex Scott as one of the pundits in the business, regardless of gender, and given her a commentary role, but now young girls the world over will be able to create their likenesses in Pro Clubs and play online with the boys: exactly as it should be. Football is for everyone, anyone, always.
On that note, Ultimate Team is still a bone of contention, and whether or not EA is doing enough will always be a question. In the store, you can still buy packs without previewing them. There are two packs now: gold, and gold preview pack. The preview pack shows you what’s inside, and refreshes every 24 hours. Interestingly, the button to “buy” a pack has shifted, meaning those familiar with the series will have to readjust their muscle memory to buy a pack. It’s a tiny thing, but suggests EA knows exactly how controversial the whole “loot box” situation is, and is either changing out of choice or necessity.
Every year EA trots out a new buzzword for its game, and this year it’s “Hypermotion Technology”. This addition is only for the current-gen versions on Xbox Series S|X and PlayStation 5, but it essentially means additional animations that amount to the largest refresh in the series history. It’s marketing, and means nothing to the people who play the game, but it is true that I have noticed far less odd collisions, and dare I say it, rarely have I had to tackle five times to win the damn ball.
It all adds up to a more realistic looking game of football. Players feel like they should in your head, goalkeepers seem better (and at higher difficulties they’re almost too good), and the off-the-ball controls that were added last year have been refined to offer those with good defensive acumen the chance to play a vital role. Player switching has had attention, and again offers more tactical options. You can still play FIFA 22 how you have played FIFA for years if you want to, but there’s more under the hood than ever, and better players will make smart use of the tools at their disposal.
Every style of football feels viable. I’ve always been a “defend well, counter fast, pass well” style player, and that particular style feels incredible. You can get an early goal and your opposition will push hard for the equaliser, leaving space behind for your faster players to break the lines. It’s fluid and exciting in action. Pace is (and probably always will be) a major factor in the game, but defending feels more of an art than ever. If you hold the sprint button non-stop, you’re going to get punished: you need to pick your moment to make the tackle, and make it well.
Which brings me on to the haptic feedback and rumble that the PlayStation 5 version offers. Like FIFA 21’s new console upgrade, you will feel the sprint button fight back against a tired player. But here, there is rumble feedback based on the crowd noise and even the referee’s whistle.
If there is a major negative this year, it’s Career Mode. It’s not that it’s bad or anything, just that it continues to be the most under-developed part of the experience. Changing up some of the menus and altering tiny bits and pieces don’t amount to offering an experience that’s much different to last year. The gameplay still shines, and it still has phenomenal presentation, but it badly needs some fresh ideas, and not just more cut-scenes of dead-eyed managers and agents meeting over player sales. Even adding VAR would provide a little more drama for those playing year after year of Career Mode.
The new console grunt has been used to render the likes of David Beckham and Thierry Henry in cut-scenes, but they don’t look great, and the voice acting is poor.
A FIFA game rarely shows the cracks until you’ve dropped hundreds of hours into it, as EA continues to update and alter the minutiae of the game. But FIFA 22 feels brilliant out of the box. For the first time I don’t want to get lost in Career Mode (though I know I will), or FUT, or Pro Clubs: I want to get lost in them all. It’s a comfort to know that the first fully new-generation game from EA Sports is such a triumph, and I look forward to getting roundly trounced online in the near future.
FIFA 22 is packed with all the usual modes you’d expect from the yearly iteration, but this time there have been significant improvements to the on-field action. A more inclusive game than ever, making use of the grunt of the latest console hardware, it’s a joy to experience whether you’re a fan of the biggest club, or just enjoy spending the evenings with mates chatting and playing.
- Exceptional football
- More inclusive/accessible than ever
- Gorgeous visuals & great audio
- Career mode needs an overhaul
- Occasional collision bugs