FIFA 22 review – EA SPORTS learns gameplay is king
FIFA 22 is the first in the series to launch day one Xbox Series X|S and PlayStation 5, so the pressure is on for EA SPORTS to deliver. Its developers have touted it as the game they’ve always wanted to make with Hypermotion Technology, but is it one that players will enjoy?
Ultimate Team has seen its ICON roster expanded as normal, but this time with an extension of FUT Heroes. It features a brand-new method for FUT Champions Weekend League qualification and different ranked rewards for those who make it to the big leagues.
Career Mode has been given a significant overhaul, with an option called Create-A-Club, allowing players to build themselves a football club from the ground-up – something we’ve wanted for years. Responding to feedback from FIFA 21, EA has added a boatload of animations and storylines to Player Career as well, which could make for a more immersive experience.
The last few months have been promising. You can feel the excitement building on social media, as people sniff around for every leak, detail, and change they can find for their favorite modes. There’s a great deal of optimism, too, as we come to the beginning of a new cycle for virtual football.
Even still, there is a consensus among those fans that gameplay makes or breaks things this year. Like a club bringing in a new manager, EA has said all the right things, but will it deliver results?
FIFA 22 key details
- Review copy: FIFA 22 Ultimate Edition
- Price: $99.99
- Release date: October 1 (Standard Edition), September 27 (Ultimate Edition)
- Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PS5, PC, Nintendo Switch
FIFA 22 trailer
FIFA 22 gameplay review
The autopsy has been completed for FIFA 21, and the gameplay was the cause of death. Awful auto-blocks, dreadful passing, and a tackling system whereby you very rarely win the ball in most cases was a recipe for disaster. The end of a cycle usually comes with ill-feeling about the current title and optimism for the next, granted, but this was the worst endgame I’ve ever seen in terms of community responses.
With FIFA 22, EA SPORTS was compelled to redefine a lot of those features – and they have. If you’re a player who prefers realistic gameplay over an arcade-style free-for-all of goals, Hypermotion Technology delivers on that wish. When you hear over 4,000 new animations are being introduced you may reply: “We’ve heard this all before”, but the difference is night and day.
Passing was abysmal in FIFA 21. Nevertheless, that has been rectified with a real focus on ground passes, lob passes, lob through balls, and semi-assisted through passes along with a new animation refresh. It’s not absolutely perfect by any means, but the ability to use Y/Triangle in general play is back. You don’t have to worry as much about directions being way off, or the game not correctly registering the power of your attempt. Passing is certainly much more accurate now, which is a huge plus and an instant benefit of Hypermotion Tech. This also complements crossing.
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Defending appears to have more layers to it, but it’s made simpler overall. The new shoulder challenges (press O/B when contesting a header) are very effective and are even useful as a big striker trying to make it stick. Manual blocking is a major bonus, with automated blocks experiencing a huge nerf this year – a change everyone will welcome. Defenders are also generally stronger in 1v1 duels, with a buff to the jockeying feature allowing them to keep up with tricksters more effectively. For more defensive-minded players like myself, it’s a big win.
Now, onto attacking. The plethora of fresh animations means you can score goals you never have in a FIFA game, and the conversions feel less repetitive because of how varied the types of finishes are. EA has reduced the conversion rate of shots taken with defenders putting pressure on the ball, which is good. Shooting is more consistent in 1v1 situations, with short-range across goal finishes and long-range finesse shots appearing to be very strong in early testing.
On the flip side, goalkeepers are a bit frantic with their save styles – unorthodox is probably the word. In some cases, you will see goalkeepers get a glove on a shot only for it to fly in any way, but that’s balanced out with a mix of hard and soft connections with the ball. In FIFA 21, some saves would send the ball flying towards the corner flag like a baseball, whereas we now have gentler handling which sees ‘keepers tuck shots around the post, or parry them in different directions. Again, it’s not perfect, but a step in the right direction.
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If you’re one for graphics, animations, and for enjoying the production value of the game, there are some things to point out. The new commentary additions of Alex Scott and Stewart Robson are refreshing, providing good insight during games. Replays are faster in general, taking up really good angles, while match statistics and analysis is as detailed as it’s ever been, with a new heatmap and conversion figures available during and after matches. Though, for the big moments – the last-minute winners, or screamers from places you don’t have a right to score from – the commentary is sometimes a bit underwhelming. Walkout animations are a little robotic, though it is nice to see the inclusion of children as matchday mascots as a new addition this year.
Ultimate Team is the game’s most popular mode and it has been improved this year in big ways.
The Team of the Week promo wasn’t too exciting in FIFA 21, and the dev team has responded with a new featured bonus for some players each week – meaning they can be upgraded higher than usual. That should give us all something to look out for, on top of the TOTW news itself.
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The introduction of more ICONs like Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, along with a string of other iconic players in the form of FUT Heroes, gives players more special edition cards to collect. The latter will be upgraded over time, too.
- Read More: FIFA 22 early access & FUT Web App guide
It’s way too early to judge the revamped FUT Champions Weekend League model, with a longer qualifying process and different rewards this year. In theory, though, the new points system (4 points for a win, 1 point for a loss) and ranks will ensure more people get better rewards, which is a victory for those of us grinding it out every weekend. On top of that, EA has listened to the community and dropped the FUT Champs games count down to 20. These are all positive tweaks, on paper.
By completing SBCs, playing your Squad Battles matches (unchanged, by the way), competing in Division Rivals, and the new FUT Champs competition… there’s a lot to keep club owners entertained.
Career Mode has two standout features this year for players to try out – a refined Player Career, and Create-A-Club.
Player Career has been given a boost with The Journey-style animations and cutscenes, adding layers to the experience of controlling your career game by game. Manager rating is also a new element, showing how impressive or disappointing your performances have been from the gaffer’s perspective. For a relatively untouched mode in recent times, it’s all positive.
As a massive fan of the series’ Manager Mode, Create-A-Club was very highly anticipated. This is a chance to step out of your comfort zone and do something different, by creating an all-new club in your vision and take over as manager. Stadium upgrades, custom board expectations, and increased customization of kits or stadiums are the stuff we’ve wanted for years.
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However, it’s very much just customization at this stage. It is essentially a hybrid between Pro Clubs and Ultimate Team’s stadium feature, without any narrative or storyline which is a real shame. After spending the best part of 40 minutes creating the club (called Red Bull Wakefield), my manager, the ground, editing how I want the fans to sing, and everything else – then came the normal pre-season routine.
With each signing you make, you realize the cutscenes are much smoother and swifter. All of these improvements to my squad and training for our first League 2 clash was building, to welcome the new fans to their new team. That’s all brilliant.
Based on the complexities of the Anfield walkout animations or Champions League Final buildup, you would expect the same level of narrative or cutscenes to make this a special moment. But it wasn’t. A very bog-standard welcome from the commentary team appears and then you’re plunged into the action. This will likely be somewhat underwhelming for Career Mode players, and I’d actually argue a more authentic experience comes with managing a real team. Perhaps with it being a new feature, that will come in time.
FIFA 22 review score: 8.5/10
EA SPORTS has undoubtedly listened to the community in developing FIFA 22, as seen in the gameplay rework and addition of several single-player features. The developers are often accused of prioritizing Ultimate Team over Career as it’s the big money-maker, and to some extent, those claims have been justified in recent years. The major setback is that there is no cross-play for those on the same type of console, but different generations. It’s 2021 – those barriers should still not be up.
However, with this entry, they have worked to change that perception and focus on the areas fans care about. Whether these popular adjustments will stand the test of time remains to be seen, but my general feeling is that – while not perfect – the series is heading in the right direction once again.
FIFA 22 offers the franchise an exciting start to life on Xbox Series X|S and PS5, with drastically improved gameplay. Complementary features aside in Career, Pro Clubs, and Ultimate Team, that was the dealbreaker and with Hypermotion Technology, EA Sports has delivered.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X