FIFA 22 is a strong entry in the franchise, but its Career Mode might just be its best feature after years out in the cold.
It’d be fair to say that developers of sports games have a tough time of things. It’s one thing to develop and ship a game, but when your timeline is less than 12 months, certain features are bound to get more polish and attention than others.
For FIFA, that’s traditionally left Career Mode relegated to the back burner in favor of (amongst other things) Ultimate Team. Thoughts on EA’s approach to “surprise mechanics” aside, Ultimate Team has grown to offer more rewards to players that don’t want to spend cash and now offers plenty of modes.
But for those looking to reimagine our lives as a 31-year-old video game journalist into one where we’re plucked from obscurity and able to play in the Premier League, pickings have been slim.
FIFA 22 Career Mode is the best in the franchise
We’ve had false dawns before, of course. The Journey offered a trilogy of single-player stories that felt too contrived and lacked customization, but it showed EA SPORTS was interested in serving something up that wasn’t quite the menu-based, season to season slog of the standard career mode.
Unfortunately, though, that big change never came. While NBA 2K started to blaze a trail with its MyCareer, FIFA fell further and further behind – until this year. If you’re a fan of creating a new character and starting out as a rookie, then FIFA 22 might be the most essential entry in the franchise yet.
In prior years, fans could create a player, pick a club, and find themselves essentially just slogging through from match to match. Score a few goals? Here’s a finishing buff. Took a throw-in? Oh, OK, you can throw a little further now. Player development was almost entirely passive, something thankfully fixed in FIFA 22’s Career Mode.
Players earn skill points by leveling up, making FIFA 22 my new favorite RPG. Rather than assigning attacks or abilities, though, I’m buffing my player’s stamina by tangible amounts, and customizing my play style. If I want to create a distance shooter to rival Steven Gerrard, I can put my skill points into shot power, or I can create a natural finisher a la Thierry Henry by spending points on attacking positioning and finishing.
Perhaps most infamously, though, FIFA wouldn’t let created players come off of the bench. Scored 10* goals in five games? Doesn’t matter, the game could arbitrarily decide to put another player in your place and you couldn’t even join the match later. For anyone looking to live out the super-sub fantasy, it was heartbreaking.
- Read more: FIFA 22 review
In FIFA 22, though, that all changes. While you aren’t guaranteed a starting slot, strong training performances and making the most of your minutes will see players graduating from squad player to the bench, and then to the first team. Some wonky player objectives aside, it’s a great way to feel like you’re making progress.
AI managers are a little smarter, too. In my save as a CAM playing for Lille, the manager deployed me on the left to accommodate Renato Sanches, before swapping me into the central role after the Portuguese midfielder was subbed off. Gone are the days where managers will pick players in entirely obscure positions, it seems.
Speaking of managers, manager mode is much the same – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. On PS5 and Xbox Series S/X we’re at the point where we can drop into any point during a match now, and short of some bizarre transfer negotiations and values, the whole thing feels right where it needs to be.
For now, though, it’s finally time to give Career Mode a try. After years on the sidelines, it’s finally match-fit, and I can’t stop playing.