FIFA 22 is here for a new season, and while there are some inspiring changes, the same old own-goals keep coming back. It’s almost disappointing to approach such a genuinely entertaining game with the cynical view that the developer wants more from its players than expected. I’ve played FIFA titles for all my adult life and a good time before that, so it’s not exactly like I’m a hard sell, but I still have to convince myself year on year that the price-point is worth it. The inclusions obviously help, but the insistence on making me open my wallet makes it difficult to both enjoy and fully appreciate FIFA’s most popular game mode, Ultimate Team.
Fortunately, Career Mode has finally seen some meaningful change in both Manager, and Player careers. This rejigging is the first step FIFA has taken to revamp a predominantly single-player game mode since the unilaterally mild reaction to FIFA’s The Journey story mode from years gone by. Admittedly, it’s a just reward for those players who have sat through years of upgrades to FUT alongside graphic, visual and other gameplay upgrades. Still, it does lack the creative spark that the game seems to tease in its cameo laden introductory sequence.
Above all, I can’t say that FIFA 22 isn’t good fun. This soccer simulator walks all over its competitors and is as addictive an experience as you’ll get in sports gaming. However, this addictive gameplay makes the issue of in-game currency even more problematic when it comes to the overall enjoyment and perception of the game.
The gameplay and visuals are as good as ever
There is no denying that FIFA 22 is the best-looking and most playable soccer sim on the market. Ball physics are improved and are the most enjoyable of any FIFA game to date. Skill moves feel that little bit silkier, and combined with the Timed Shot function, sending one into the top right corner has just never looked so good. It can feel a bit daunting when you come head-to-head with an online player who has mastered these elements, but it only proves the depth of ability possible in the game.
This years version of FIFA continues the theme of steady but impressive visual improvements. There is nowhere this is more obvious than the game’s introductory sequence. The part-cinematic part-tutorial experience features convincing appearances from David Beckham, Eric Cantona, Lisa Zimouche and for some reason non-footballers Anthony Joshua and Lewis Hamilton. Still, both the cutscene and the in-game graphics in the first thirty minutes do an excellent job of showcasing the graphic enhancements, so it’s worth the cringeworthy fanboying of the player character and Mbappe over a hardly humble Thierry Henry.
Goalkeepers have seen a complete code re-write and their reflexes are keener than ever before. That isn’t to say they aren’t less realistic, and with a low-rated goalie, you’ll still let the occasional horrendous blunder through, but all-in-all the improvement is sure to please fans who have been calling out for the change. Dialled up realism also comes in the Explosive Sprint function that you can use to fire past the last defender and go one-on-one with the keeper, a situation all too familiar from actual games. Unfortunately, this does mean that you’re going to see more players than ever fly past your final line of defences in online mode, but it works both ways.
After playing about twenty hours of the game, we still haven’t seen any classic FIFA glitches. This record is impressive for a game infamous for both its hilarious and occasionally frustrating graphic bugs. However, it is worth noting that these appeared mid-season in FIFA 21, so we’re by no means out of the woods yet, and some gamers have reported incidents of disappearing players and confused commentators.
New features for Volta and Career Mode
A long-awaited feature has arrived in Career Mode for FIFA 22 as you can finally create your own club to manage and rise through the ranks. You can pick your own kit, crest, stadium. You can even choose the board expectations in your first season, a surprising feature that offers players the chance to get creative with their scenario building. This game mode adds a level of depth I have been waiting for for years in FIFA Career mode, and in a package of good and bad development decisions is one of the most prominent positives.
Player Careers have also seen an enhancement and make a case for the most immersive game mode spot in this year’s FIFA. Player growth is refined, and there are remoulded skill trees that offer more intricate control over your player’s development. You can also come on as a game-saving-sub, which made the game that little more realistic in the footballer narrative that often plays out with younger players establishing themselves in teams. Obviously, you’ll probably never find yourself coming on for Liverpool in the sixtieth minute, so this game mode definitely takes the cake for most scintillating football fantasy.
Volta might not be everyone’s cup of street-football tea, but it has seen some genuine improvement with the addition of Arcade mode and Volta Seasons. The interesting thing about the inclusion of Volta Seasons is that it shows you can have an in-game EA online meta with a transaction free seasonal rewards system. It just must be on a less popular game mode. Volta Seasons is engaging enough but will still probably only see game time from those who are fatigued from FUT or still fruitlessly yearning for the days of FIFA Street.
Yet again, if you want to get ahead in FUT this year, you’ll either be pouring in endless hours or parting with your money. While there has been no increase in pack price and the 24-hour pack preview feature returns from FIFA 21, it feels like more needs to be done.
It’s difficult to not get into a ‘please, won’t somebody think of the children?’ mindset when it comes to microtransactions in FIFA, but it really affects the balance of the game. If you don’t have all the hours in the world to complete objectives on FUT, or you don’t have the money to finance weekly restructures of your first team, then you’re at an instant disadvantage in any of the Ultimate Team game modes.
Much like the complicated relationship between the real-life transfer market and the pitch, it’s hard to see why FIFA 22 would remove its lucrative in-game economy. We’re in a digital environment where streamers can command thousands of viewers to their platforms for pack openings, which only boosts hype from supporters and concern from detractors. Despite the apparent imbalance in their inclusion, microtransactions probably won’t leave FIFA unless or until there is industry-wide change.
Pro Clubs is still fun, and Seasons is still repetitive
Pro Clubs has seen some rebuilding this year, making it less imperative to find ten willing teammates constantly. There’s also more upgrades and skill progression for your Virtual Pro, and the in-game perks system offers footballing super-powers for your game character. The cosmetic changes to career mode are carried over here also, and the customisation available for your club is genuinely impressive compared to previous EA Sports efforts.
Seasons is a fun experience online, either solo or co-op with friends, but like last year you’re going to be seeing quite a bit of Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe in this game mode. If you can make it past the endless matchmaking results of either PSG, the French National squad, or one of the other few overused teams, there is something to be said for what is the closest to classic online FIFA, but it takes some patience.
FIFA 22 proves that EA’s soccer simulator is still the most playable of the genre in the market, but it also demonstrates that they know it. Yet again, the blatant disregard for industry-wide skepticism over microtransactions reigns this year in FIFA. Though there are long-awaited improvements to Career Mode and sharp graphical enhancements, it is hard to see past the decision to continue rinsing the most dedicated players of their cash.
- Score: 3.5 / 5
- Available On: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, Google Stadia
- Published By: Electronic Arts
- Developed By: EA Sports
- Genre: sports
- US Release Date: October 1, 2021
- Reviewed On: PlayStation 5
- Quote: "FIFA 22 is here for a new season, and while there are some inspiring changes, the same old own-goals keep coming back."