Saying “Another year, another FIFA title” at this point has become about as redundant as what that statement is claiming to say about the game itself. Yes, FIFA 22 is here, and while it is without a doubt more of the same in so many ways, this year’s entry certainly aims to set itself as the first true next-gen FIFA experience—yet all the while still being a slave to mechanics of old.
Before even getting yourself stuck into a game, you are lumped into an intro sequence that could rank up as the most cursed thing ever shoved into a FIFA title, as you create your player and proceed to run through the streets of Paris, all the while bumping into football legends such as David Beckham, Kylian Mbappé, and… Anthony Joshua? It is all incredibly odd, but equally serves as the first time I can remember that the series presented you with a genuinely solid tutorial, taking you through basics such as running and some advanced shooting techniques. As cursed as it all is, it managed to start things off on a good foot, showing that this entry was going to truly try and convince you that you had not just smacked seventy quid on a team sheet update.
The intro also gives you that chance to get a feel for how the latest entry feels to play, and that is something I don’t think any review can get across. The gameplay already feels different from when I first played it two weeks ago, as patches come in hot and frequently, constantly amending the way the game plays. Keepers were initially insanely overpowered and, as of writing, it is still easier to score from outside the box than it is inside, yet for the most part, the gameplay feels fluent and easy to get a grip on.
What hasn’t changed over those weeks is how the game looks. While in terms of surface-level graphical appeal, things remain the same at a quick glance, but the entire animations system has been supposedly overhauled here. The “Hypermotion” technology seeks to recreate the look and feel of the beautiful game as accurately as possible, and to me, it was noticeable straight away. The transition from a shot into goal celebration no longer feels like a weird jitter; it is now a smooth and pretty realistic movement from one into the other.
It’s not just the pitch that has seen some renovations, the menus have finally had a style overhaul, sort of. The last five FIFA titles all sort of blend into one at this point for me, but I am nearly certain that the menu layout has remained the exact same for an abhorrently long time. While 80% of the menus still remain in the same dull and lifeless format we are accustomed to, many of the menus are bursting with colour, which goes nicely with the incredibly solid soundtrack this year—which I haven’t been able to say about a FIFA title in a long time.
While Ultimate Team is desperately shoved into your face, career mode was the first stop for me, with the usual Manager/Player modes both being available once again. Both variations have received some minor tweaks, with Manager mode in particular having the lump of the additions. Rather than choosing an existing club to live out your dreams of blowing the entire bank account on Messi, you can now do the same with your own created club. From the kit and badge right up to the stadium decor, you really can make the club your own, along with deciding the difficulty parameters that you will face. Do you want to work your way up from the bottom and earn money the hard way, or pretend you’ve just been bought over and start throwing offers around like your dad after he discovered eBay? Frustratingly, the game doesn’t do a lot in terms of reflecting the existence of your club, with commentators seemingly acting as if your team has been in the world of football for a long time, rather than it being a brand new 2021 club.
Those minor realism issues are what continues to frustrate throughout both career mode options. While Manager mode once again has those awkward cutscenes as you rock up to another club suited and booted to discuss the most underwhelming offer as if you were about to sign the whole of PSG, they are still encouraging additions to the mode. Yet they are in dire need of some voice acting, or anything that could give them a bit of life for that matter—just something to help you believe that your custom character does in fact exist in the world and has influence. Fans of the mode will likely be happy with the additions, and it remains a mode that can have extensive hours sunk into; yet if the thrills of online competitive play are too enticing, it is difficult to stick with it.
A tweak found in the player career mode also finds its way into Pro Club mode through the player progression system. Your created player now has a progress bar that allows you to keep an eye on their stats more closely, also indicating how far you are from unlocking some more skill points and even some newly added perks—yes, FIFA has perks now. They remain ultimately the same things you would have found in the classic skill tree such as the classic “Second Wind” ability, yet they remain a nice addition nonetheless as you can craft your style of play more closely than ever before. It is a mode that in many ways remains the hidden gem of the series, as friends who have absolutely zero interest in football games find themselves having a blast with the mode. If you can get eleven people on a team, which again you have full creative control over this year, and take them onto an online match, it makes for some of the funniest gaming moments you can ever have (as well as the most frustrating depending on how poor you are at it). You can also have male and female players playing alongside each other in the same team this year for the first time, which is a great inclusion here.
Pro Clubs is so close to being the perfect mode here that I nearly have no issues recommending the game solely based on that alone. Yet as always, EA—as much as they try and hide it—only wants you to play one mode: Ultimate Team. It is the mode that there really is nothing new to say about it. Despite it being where most of my time outside of Pro Clubs is taken up, nothing has really changed here outside of some tweaks in how you earn rewards within some of the modes. It remains to be the same disgusting micro-transaction cash cow that it always has been, yet tragically it also happens to be the most rewarding in terms of getting that dopamine rush from a victory, which is perhaps the most frustrating thing about the mode; it could so easily be great if real life money was taken out the equation, but that is just not going to happen.
FIFA once again has got me by their greasy meaty hooks. While this, of course, remains the same core football game we have played for far too long now, this year has presented a title that I truly want to get better at. The gameplay, while familiar, has been enhanced by the new animation system, and scoring a goal has never felt better, especially against someone on Ultimate Team who has sunk their wallet into it only to be beaten by a bronze Scotland squad.
If you’re a fan, you have probably already picked it up—but if you’re someone who has missed the past few entries and wants a sports title to use on your beefy next-gen console, this is a difficult one not to recommend.