FIFA 22 Review: "The Football Video Game Equivalent Of Man City Winning The League"
There are two types of people that read a review for the latest FIFA game: those who are wondering whether there are enough noticeable upgrades to make it worth buying over the considerably cheaper version from last year, and those who already know whether they’re going to get it or not and want a review to validate their decision. With FIFA 22, it’d be foolish to try and pretend this is anything more than a facelift. Unlike some previous years, FIFA 22 does not implement anything particularly noteworthy, but it also doesn’t fall flat on its face. Is it worth buying? Well, that depends on how much you value realism in your chosen football game.
Realism Or Arcade?
Because that’s the most notable thing about FIFA 22, it’s probably the most realistic game in the series yet. A much bigger emphasis is placed on build-up play, which means the game itself feels slightly more sluggish. The result, however, is that scoring a goal is much more rewarding, and you feel like you’ve accomplished something. Unless you and your opponent are significantly outmatched in terms of skill level, you’ll rarely see the high-scoring matches this time around, with games often only having three or four goals in them at most.
Part of this is due to goalkeepers too because they’re considerably better than we’ve seen for a while, pulling off ridiculous saves you wouldn’t expect. It’s like the reflex stat for all ‘keepers has been increased across the board. To counteract it though, handling for all keepers so far has been abysmal, fumbling shots straight at them into the paths of strikers hounding the ball down.
The improvements in realism don’t stop there; HyperMotion Technology is the big term FIFA 22 is flaunting this year. At its core, this is machine-learning technology combined with incredibly advanced motion capture and results in more impressive movement all over the pitch, along with vastly improved animations. This carries across to graphical enhancements too, but outside of celebrations and the intro cutscene that everybody skips anyway, you rarely get a close-enough view of any players to truly be blown away by it.
Show Me The Money
For the last decade, Ultimate Team has been FIFA’s flagship mode, thanks to how much money it makes EA. If anybody thought it might be different this year, you’d be kidding yourself. The card-based dream team mode is still focused wholly on persuading players to part with their cash, with no guarantees of any decent players. It’s either pay-to-win, or turn manipulating the in-game transfer market into your full-time job - no in-between if you want to get some of the best players like Messi, Ronaldo, Mbappe, or any icons.
Sure, this year does see preview packs implemented, which gives players a realistic view of what they could get in a pack by providing a faux pack to open. There’s always that nagging temptation that you could pack something much better though, despite the odds being stacked against you. Until FIFA and EA directly address the obvious gambling issue, it will continue to be a stain on the title.
Away from the loot boxes, Ultimate Team is largely the same as last year. Squad-building challenges continue to be very hit-and-miss with their rewards, the game modes like FIFA 22 Division Rivals available are largely the same, and like last year, there are myriad objectives and challenges to work towards. Progression in division rivals has been changed slightly with the introduction of an elite division for the very best players, but ultimately that won’t impact the majority of players.
Class On Grass FC
Unfortunately, we haven’t had enough time with the game prior to launch to experience everything Career Mode has to offer. While we’ve sunk enough time into the general gameplay to understand the changes from previous years, getting far enough into Career Mode isn’t something we’ve been able to do as we only received the game three days ago. On paper though, the main single-player addition comes in the form of create-a-club. A highly-requested feature, you can now start your own club from scratch and customise it however you like.
Where you start is completely up to you; stick your club in the Premier League if you want to duke it out with United and Chelsea instantly, or you can opt for League 2 to work your way up the English football pyramid. Of course, you can pick whichever country you like too, along with picking a rival to place more importance on those derby days.
While Football Manager still reigns supreme as the true footballing simulator, this create-a-club mode is the closest thing to it, as you can set budgets, and board expectations, you can make your team whichever star rating you fancy, etc. The customisation is endless, and the official Career Mode pitch notes will tell you more, along with everything else added to single-player.
Playing against the AI this year feels harder than ever. As a personal anecdote, in FIFA 21 I could reliably beat the legendary difficulty in squad battles, but this year? Even world-class difficulty will have me scraping for a draw. Their defending is on another level, even getting a shot off without it being blocked by contextual defending is a struggle. Combine this with the much-improved goalkeepers, and the result is a frustrating experience that takes some serious patience to learn how to beat.
That’s perhaps the biggest takeaway from FIFA 22 this year; on the surface, pretty much nothing has changed, but when you pick up the controller and resume where you left off from 21, you notice how different it feels. It is more than a roster update, but it’s not quite enough to warrant being a must-buy. The only problem is that for a football fix, you have no other choice this year given eFootball’s poor reception. A very middle-of-the-road experience and the football video game equivalent of Man City winning the league - exciting for those that love it, but very “meh, who cares” for those who aren’t die-hard fans.
Reviewed on PS5. Code provided by the publisher.