Each year sees the arrival of a new iteration of EA Sports‘ FIFA juggernaut, touting new innovations and improvements that seek to make the virtual sport of football even more pleasing to fans. While recent years have seen little headway made in an actual difference being made, FIFA 22 represents the best shot at glory for the franchise, largely due to the implementation of the much-touted Hypermotion Technology.
Before diving into all the other additions that come with FIFA 22, it is vital to note that the addition of a boatload of new animations has resulted in the game feeling closer to the real thing than ever before. Hypermotion Technology is the difference-maker in FIFA 22.
Passing, be it ground balls, through balls, or long diagonals, can actually be fun in FIFA 22, allowing ambitious players to execute cross-field passes with accuracy and speed, but more importantly, purpose. Driven balls feel great and exciting to use, and while there is always room for improvement, it has never been better.
This allows the attack to flow more freely in FIFA 22, which dovetails nicely with more ways to put the ball into the net. Players are better equipped to deal with all manner of passes, and finishing in a more typical fashion.
Many would be looking at the new Explosive Sprint feature to augment their offence, and by and large, it is indeed a powerful tool to have. It remains to be seen just how the multiplayer scene will view the addition, with it still generally balanced. Catching defenders off balance and blowing past them allows skilful and pacey players to shine, but defenders still have some room to recover with their own speed.
Of course, attacking tends to take the spotlight, but defending has also been enhanced for the new entry.
Defensive pressure actually matters, which can cause previously ironclad goals to be more difficult to pull off. Teams tend to position themselves better, with less tendency to get out of position. Tackling is more nuanced as well, with possession being kept if you are smart about going to ground.
Physical battles have a big part to play, with headers a hotly contested duel every single time. With auto-blocking of shots less prevalent, those more well-versed in the defensive arts will be happy to see your manual efforts pay off more handsomely in FIFA 22.
Yet, goalkeepers, despite the purported design overhaul, can still provide the occasional comedic moment, flapping at weak shots and conceding frustrating goals. However, on the whole, the saving of goal-bound shots and general handling has been improved, giving rise to more scenarios that one could imagine unfolding on the pitch. Being alert to loose or second balls can be the difference between a draw and a loss.
All of these improvements big and small contribute to a virtual game of football that feels more realistic and less arcadey, which might not be music to everyone’s ears. You still might have occasional goal-fests, but it is probably for the best that the tactical side of things come into play in FIFA 22.
Outside of the actual football itself, FIFA 22 also packs in multiple changes to its many modes. For starters, Career Mode will see its biggest change in a long time, with players getting the chance to create their own club or have a more involved experience as an actual player.
The former sees you taking the full reins of creating your own team, be it an upstart club or a continental powerhouse. Stadiums are yours to configure, set your own expectations, and kit out your team in the desired designs. Being able to customise your own club and make your dream come true is definitely a step in the right direction, but the whole thing is still lacking the final touch.
After the creation process, you are essentially playing out a normal Career Mode just like always. There is no custom walkout animations, no special commentary, and the action plays out the same. There is certainly more to be done to make the experience more akin to the real thing, but we will take what we can get at this point.
As for the Player Career, there are more cutscenes and animations involved this time around, but it is window dressing at best. What has changed is the new manager rating system, and the new objective-based gameplay that comes along with it. Fulfil your tasks and your potential, do well and impress the manager, and you could be on the starting lineup for the next game.
The added agency of training well and earning XP to unlock perks and new skills will definitely be a timesink, but just like creating a club, it still feels almost the same as the older games. Impressing the manager can happen too fast, and you will have very little motivation from that point on, except to win like always.
It makes sense then, that more attention has been paid to the most popular mode in the franchise, Ultimate Team. FIFA 22 has made things more user friendly, with requirements for progression altered to cater to players who are not as committed to the whole Division Rivals experience.
This also extends to the new FUT Champions Weekend League, which extends the qualifying process and changes up the mechanics too. The new point systems will bring the rewards in faster (winning gets you 4 points, a loss gains you 1 point), which will reduce the grind. The end goals of the Playoffs and the Finals will also become more attainable, albeit with fewer games.
Essentially, EA Sports has stuck with what worked for Ultimate Team and made it easier for players to jump in, with more ways to bolster your team with the likes of FUT Heroes and the Squad Building Challenges. That is a positive move, but the community sentiment will likely determine if this is the right way to go moving forward.
The same goes for Pro Clubs, which sees a mixture of improvements as well. For the first time, players will get to create female pros that can go toe to toe with male players, with more customisation options added for your kit, stadium, crowd chants, and more. The same perks system from Career mode applies here as well, and it is definitely much easier to find a game with improved matchmaking.
Last but not least, FIFA 22 has also reimagined Volta for players who prefer to get it on in the streets. In comes the all-new Skill Meter and Signature Abilities, made for those who want to get rewarded for humiliating their opponent.
Simply put, the more skilful your play is, the more the next goal will count for. It allows for risks to be taken to build a big lead or mount a comeback and rewards players with skills accordingly. And the more you put into Volta, the sooner you can unlock Signature Abilities like Power Strike or Aggressive Tackle that can be utilised to great effect.
If football is not enough for you, EA Sports has also included Volta Arcade, a weekend-only playlist that is made for multiplayer fun. Engage in a little Dodgeball or Foot Tennis, and enjoy the fun with up to four players. The list of eight games will grow in due time, so you will have more to enjoy with friends.
There is little doubt that EA Sports is staying true to their word this time around when it comes to improving the football experience in FIFA 22. The on-pitch action has certainly seen a marked enhancement, with a more authentic and rewarding experience at both ends of the pitch. The changes made to the different modes are also generally for the better.
However, just a season of football, it remains to be seen just how the community will feel about the game in the coming months. Things are certainly not perfect, but with FIFA 22, EA Sports has built a solid foundation in which a new generation of virtual football can prosper yet again.
FIFA 22 launches this 1 October on the PSN Store for $79.90.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
FIFA 22 represents the best opportunity for EA Sports to kickstart virtual football for a new generation, and it largely completes that objective with a few caveats.
Gameplay - 8.5/10
Performance - 8/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 8/10