The new year is the new FIFA. Once again, I watch the commercials with moderate interest and wonder if I’ll notice any difference at all from the previous installment. Will something fundamentally new emerge that can be shoved in the faces of the haters and naysayers? Hope dies last…
As a rule of thumb, the shift in console generations has a big impact on the quality of sports simulators. Developers can start to harness the far greater power of new hardware and fundamentally change the fundamentals of their game – after all, consoles have always been and will always be the main platform for such releases. But in 2021 the miracle did not happen – the most popular Futsim is still cautious and in no hurry to change. But this is understandable – so far the majority of players remain on PS4 due to the delayed delivery.
In fact, the main changes happened a year ago when FIFA 21 received a free update on the PS5 and Xbox Series X. It significantly improved the visuals, added new features and increased the resolution. If you haven’t played that version, the new one will surprise you.
“FIFA is disliked by those who don’t watch football and those who think it’s silly to spend the same thing on one series, although they do lose a lot more on mobile releases. It’s understandable, though: there’s so much money circulating around real and virtual football that only the wealthiest can succeed.
Let’s start with the positive. The main thing is the gameplay, and it has only gotten better. This is something that is adjusted every year and I always see two reactions to any modification. Some yell that the developers have killed everything they love about this footy, while others applaud the changes. This year I include myself among the latter: it’s nice that FIFA has entered the new generation without falling flat on its face, because the gameplay here is simply wonderful. Slower, more thoughtful, with an emphasis on accurate passes rather than player skills, it feels much more realistic than before. It seems to have been tweaked specifically for the story mode, which may have remained unchanged, but is still downright transformational.
FIFA has always boasted authenticity, and in that respect the new installment is the best ever. The Champions League anthem booms out over real stadiums and the players’ faces are instantly recognisable. Only Serie A fans, badly affected by Konami’s attempts to take away licences, will complain. In particular, the game features fake Juventus, Atlanta, Roma and Lazio.
FIFA 22 Update
Most noticeable of all are the players’ hair flapping in the wind – perhaps even Lara Croft would envy Edinson Cavani’s mop of hair. Beautiful! Even more interesting is the HyperMotion technology, a major innovation available only to players on next-gen consoles (PC, as always, got the old engine).
The career mode is the element I pay attention to first and foremost. I know people who buy FIFA just for it, as well as those who have never turned it on. Realistically, the game has two different audiences, demanding that the developers pay attention to them. In this confrontation for attention, Ultimate Team fans win, bringing in all the revenue. And the rest of us have to play the same thing year after year.
An interesting match
My favourite inclusion of recent years – match simulation – is still here. An uninteresting match can either be fast-forwarded to the end, or you can watch the ball being chased in fast-paced mode. If necessary, you can cut into the action at any moment. It’s a great way to save time and avoid boredom.
In FIFA 22 the situation is much the same: it’s the same career mode as before. Same interface, same mechanics. It’s getting better year on year – that’s undeniable – but the process is very slow. In fact, the main new feature now is the ability to create your own club.
Interesting and great, no doubt, but I’d like a lot more. But I don’t particularly want to swear either, because the gameplay has become much better, which means that it has become more interesting to play. The previous game was a blockbuster, where every action could lead to a goal, and the new version is more like classic PES with leisurely gameplay. I reject that criticism of inefficiency, though: I still remember the nerves and emotions after I was nearly knocked out of the FA Cup by Sheffield United. The match ended 5-4 – perhaps nothing like that has ever happened to me in FIFA 21!
Did I want more? Absolutely. Am I dissatisfied? No. It’s a drag to play – and that’s the main thing. But in 2022, the old excuses won’t work – the number of PS5 users could exceed 20 million and there’s nowhere to go without reform.
Optimisation is top-notch: all DualSense features are supported, including adaptive cursors. Even the 3D audio has found use for a better atmosphere. It’s a small thing, but it’s what makes me look at the PS5 version rather than the Series X.
Ultimate Team remains the main and most hated mode, which nevertheless makes EA the most money. There are class wars and games of “whose purse is bigger” year after year, and not surprisingly the mode is right there. Where would you go without it? As usual, when I start playing, everything’s great – everyone’s new, all the teams are naked, and the bounty hunters haven’t had a chance to create their galacticos yet. That’s about to change, no matter how much EA tries to level the playing field. And I can see it trying to make the mode more democratic, but as long as lootboxes decide everything in the game, things won’t change for the better. That’s why Ultimate Team is and remains an example of the worst that the modern video game industry has to offer.
FIFA 22 is a good game. For fans of classic modes, it’s the only one at all, given the untimely demise of its only rival. The gameplay here is the best in recent years, and the picture itself is pleasing to the eye. But Ultimate Team remains a rubbish pit, and the full-fledged “nekst-gen” has yet to arrive.