You’ve probably heard the phrase, “You only get one shot at a first impression.” If that’s truly the case, then our first dose of FIFA on the PlayStation 5 generation last year left a little something to be desired. Though there was nothing offensively wrong with FIFA 21, it felt like a split-generation hybrid, swiftly ported to the new platform to meet consumer demand. It never really offered up a next-gen “WOW” moment. It was just… there. Can EA manage to impress now that the PlayStation 5 is their lead development focus, or will FIFA 22 once again feel like a franchise in stasis?
FIFA 22 Review – Similar, but Different
Confession time! Before starting this review, I had legitimately forgotten that FIFA 21 had released on the PlayStation 5. After a couple hours getting that title under my fingers again, I marveled at how little it pushed the envelope, technology-wise. This console was game-changing technology, so why was I playing the same goddamn title I’d been playing for the last decade? Sadly, this remains very much the same for FIFA 22, as the development team seems fully content to tread water.
I completely understand that making a new sports title every twelve months must be a damn nightmare to pull off, yet that is no excuse for complacency. Just taking an initial glimpse at a majority of the modes offered in FIFA 22 reveals a very blatant lack of evolution. Hell, even the modes that were touched have limited variation from the previous offerings. Simply put, if you’re looking for more ways to enjoy the world’s sport, you aren’t going to find much outside of the confines of the Volta. But more on that later…
The primary focus of this year’s installment is on the intangibles that most of us might take for granted when playing a footie simulation. FIFA’s “on the pitch” mechanics have traditionally been very solid and it’s been that way for the better part of a decade. That said, last season’s pace of action was raised slightly, resulting in gameplay that felt more arcadey than in the past. Seemingly addressing this at multiple levels is the utilization of their new HyperMotion mo-cap technology, which adds several thousand new animations to the title’s already stout stable of mainstays.
FIFA 22 Review – Getting Animated
These new animations have gone a long way towards making the experience feel more authentic to the sport. Players tend to move more deliberately, while also having far richer interactions with everyone else on the pitch. Seeing how the bodyweight of a player shifts throughout the process of a slide tackle and the inevitable resulting collision between players is where it legitimately shines. Observing an opposing player saddle up against my avatar’s back while jockeying for position during a throw-in, not to mention how their character models interact, just looks more organic. It’s legitimately hard to articulate this phenomenon other than to say if you’re more than a casual consumer of the sport you’ll know the difference when you see it.
Along with the slower, more steady pacing is the re-introduction of a sprint button. Fortunately, the newer focus on the intangibles also allows for players that are slower but have attained higher dribbling and passing attributes to run literal circles around the opposition. One last enhancement is the goaltender play, which is dramatically improved over their previous netminder disasterbacle of 2020. While there are still plenty of ways to spoof out the AI, it’s nowhere near the level of incompetence exhibited previously.
Accompanying the enhanced suite of animations is the series’ consistently stellar presentation. The one exception to that rule is the child character models. They have the kinds of distorted and unsettling faces that would haunt Lucifer’s nightmares. Seriously. They are fucking unsettling as all hell and a completely unnecessary component of most pregame pageantry. Otherwise, the game itself has never looked better, making good use of the PS5’s extra processing power, while still not breaking the bank, technology-wise.
Another aspect of the experience that seems like a noteworthy step in the opposite direction is the lack of virtually any true narrative content. The last few years have leaned into a narratively rooted career mode or, in more recent installments, a forgettable storyline for the Volta mode. Scripts are pretty much nowhere to be found aside from an occasional set-piece element in career. While they were never spellbinding masterpieces to begin with the lack of anything in that vein was a bit of a disappointment, akin to them almost admitting failure and beating a hasty retreat.
FIFA 22 Review – Leading the Re-Volta
Speaking of Volta, things have somehow managed to be turned up another notch. To be clear, this is nowhere near the cartoonish levels reached in the previous FIFA Street installments, but it’s noticeably more exaggerated this time around the horn. You can now unlock and utilize new power-ups, which are decidedly of the unrealistic variety. As a stickler for the franchise’s traditional experience this was a step even further away from what I’d like to play, but to each their own. Well, at least they have a handful of new arcade games to play with friends. What’s that you say? Wait… Volta Arcade is seriously only available to play on the weekends? *SIGH*
And what would an EA Sports game be without my annual “Don’t buy card packs of cards in Ultimate Team” disclaimer? Somehow, their already interruptive methods of trying to bilk out those post-release bucks have actually managed to get even worse. It seems like it’s almost impossible to navigate the UI without having a purchase link visible at all times. Please do not encourage this continual bad behavior by spending your hard-earned duckets on additional packs. There are plenty of opportunities to earn packs through normal gameplay, but there will come a time when it becomes increasingly difficult to replenish your roster, without opening a wallet. This is a conscious design choice, and a disgustingly manipulative one to boot.
For as much as FIFA 22 has done right with enhancements to the the on-field product, they seem perfectly content to not offer up new ways to engage with the sport. While HyperMotion helps bridge the realism gap that’s been present for a bit, it isn’t quite substantial enough to warrant calling it game-changing. This may be a positive step in the right direction for the franchise, but it’s still quite a ways from genuinely raising the bar.
FIFA 22 Review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS5. For more information, please read our Review Policy.