This year’s FIFA game carries a slightly different edge to the last few years’ worth of releases. With the new consoles almost 12 months into their life, we should be seeing developers start to flex their collective muscles in terms of utilising the extra power at their fingertips. But FIFA has looked great for years now, so what exactly can EA do to entice people into another year of footballing fun? Happily, quite a bit, but we’re still left with that impossible question of whether it’s worth you forking out for this year’s iteration.
Amongst various improvements within the numerous game modes, the biggest thing for me this year is the changes to on-pitch action. There’s a new buzz-term coming from the FIFA bods this year, that of Hypermotion – basically using the extra grunt of the newer consoles to allow thousands of new animations, giving far more players their own style and realism which works to brilliant effect. But coupled with this is a more fighty, slower game playing out, something nudging more towards the heyday of when Pro Evo ruled with its more deliberate and realistic gameplay. But while Pro Evo has stumbled upon rocky ground, FIFA has stepped up to something far more like a real game playing out. There’s still moments of speed that feel amazing – hooking up a counter attack with a speedy winger before knocking in an early cross for your grateful striker to score is magical – but you’ll be rewarded for slowing things down and looking for the right time, that killer pass to break a defence apart. It’s very, very satisfying.
You have more control over other players as well, although the mechanics behind the new features melted my brain and still don’t sit comfortably with me… I suspect time will fix that. You can switch to another player while on the ball to get yourself into the perfect position for a pass or cross, or direct another player to make a forward run or supporting movement. In theory it’s a brilliant idea, but in practice (and definitely in the stress of a proper game) I’ve yet to really make the most of it. Elsewhere on the pitch the keepers have been given a coat of polish too, and will now react in far more different ways than before. Not every one-on-one will work out the same, not every cross will be handled perfectly, shots get parried to varying levels of success, thing feel more human than they did before, which is a very welcome tweak. They can still be pretty thick, and when you see a top end keeper get beaten by a shot hit straight at them you’ll wonder what’s going on, but on the whole it’s a great improvement.
Elsewhere the career mode now lets you create your own team, including designing your own kit, badge and stadium to your own liking. You’re given a bunch of half-wits to start you off, but the whole idea is to take your new, struggling relegation fodder and turn them into world beaters over the course of several seasons. It’ll keep you going for a while, that’s for sure. I’ve abandoned the career modes for the last few years, but it’s really hooked me back in and serves as a great change to Ultimate Team and the online seasons modes where I’ve generally lived for the past couple of years.
And that’s the pattern in a lot of areas really – similar features, but with an extra level of sparkle to make it all incrementally slightly better. Volta Football has had a few additions such as the skill meter, which slowly fills up as you do cool tricks on the ball and gives you a goal multiplier when you hit certain thresholds. There’s also additional abilities, more customisation and a range of other little extras. Meanwhile the Ultimate Team mode sticks with those not-at-all-controversial player packs, but does give the Division Rivals mode a few twists to allow for greater progression and a more rewarding experience. I still continue to play FUT without spending any real money, and maintain it’s extremely possible to do exactly that. Anyone claiming there’s no point in playing the Ultimate Team mode without putting half of your hard earned cash into your team probably hasn’t really tried to do it. It’s most definitely an option, and one to explore if you want to experience the card trading and regular rewards, but have always assumed it’s a money pit.
So we get back to that question. The same one we have every year, and mentioned in the title. Should you buy FIFA22 if you already have FIFA21? Usually, my response is along the lines of “if it’s your main go-to game then yes, however…” but this year feels different. The gameplay is better, more solid, more rewarding. The team creation mode in the career option is great, the new animations look really good and the whole package feels like it’s had a lot of time and love poured into it. It’s not a perfect package at all; there’s still a veritable gulf between each difficulty setting (although there are various sliders to tweak that), some of the character likenesses are a bit off, and the pay-to-dominate nature of Ultimate Team can be hard to stomach when you come up against a team that’s clearly had hundreds of pounds chucked at it and miss out on that final win you needed to progress…
It’s really, really good, and in my opinion enough of a step-up to warrant the update this year.
Reviewed on PS5