Sports simulators have gradually amassed the anger and skepticism of their target audience. The EA Sports brand is no stranger to public scrutiny as its many franchises continue to disappoint a fan base. On top of an ever-growing list of grievances are intrusive, pay-to-win microtransactions, neglected game modes, and a lack of significant improvements that set each new entry apart from its predecessor. In more ways than one, FIFA 22 looks and feels a lot like the previous installment. “HyperMotion Gameplay Technology” supposedly generates thousands of new animations; it helps create more lifelike behavior on the pitch. Still, no amount of techno-babble and exaggerated visual effects can hide the downward trajectory of gaming’s most famous football IP.
FIFA 22 starts off strong with a playable introduction focused on fundamental mechanics and the latest features. The tutorials fit neatly into the overarching story – your created avatar is late for an important training session with legendary Thierry Henry and two-time cover athlete Kylian Mbappé. Speed through the lively cobbled alleys of Paris, guided by football freestyler and social media personality Lisa Zimouche. Though short, sprinting along restaurant strips while maintaining ball control and honing passing techniques with excited Parisians was a blast. This introductory movie reminded me of the fun Alex Hunter story from many years ago. When it ended abruptly, I couldn’t help but long for another full story.
Unfortunately, FIFA 22 is devoid of plot. Volta, my favorite mode from last year – small-scale arena football – lacks its mildly entertaining story from rags to riches. This time I had to take out AI and player-controlled teams without the motivation or structure that a central plot would provide. New “signature skills” gave me more customization options in addition to my character’s expansive skill trees. And while I enjoyed unleashing the powers of brute force (Power Strike), unparalleled speed (Pure Pace), and defensive mastery (Aggressive Tackle) to destroy my opponents, Volta felt incomplete.
Playing traditional 11v11 football helps quell some of my frustrations. FIFA 22 chooses not to reinvent the wheel because it doesn’t have to. Entering the field as a united front remains tight, dribbling is still quite challenging (and great to watch!), and the spectacle of each match is commendable. I was immediately immersed in the experience as packed stadiums came alive with synchronized chants, games packed with dazzling fireworks and award ceremonies, and detailed facial expressions that give every footballer personality. The HyperMotion gameplay technology makes players look more realistic when sliding, flashing crossovers or skewed scores, but that next-gen varnish wears off eventually; there’s nothing here that you haven’t seen.
My Career has been given some welcome features. When you put on a pair of cleats and take to the field like an emerging prodigy, you need to gain the trust and approval of the coach/organization. Goals ranging from maintaining a high performance rating to getting any number of assists gave in-game minutes more weight. In between each match, I upgraded my player with perks that increase traits to speed up the path to a starter. Whenever I got off that couch, I favored selfless play and worked hard to avoid crazy turnovers. It was the pinnacle of FIFA 22 to see my avatar’s rapport with his teammates and supervisors gradually strengthen throughout the preseason and regular season. However, playing as a club manager remains relatively unchanged. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Balancing roster fitness (endurance) and sharpness (game day performance) while actively scouting for talent and staying financially stable remains a stimulating managerial exercise. The new team/stadium creation option is a definite bonus, but it doesn’t improve gameplay or micromanagement mechanics in any way.
Of course, if you want to climb the FIFA 22 ladder, joining Ultimate Team is the fastest way to do it… if you don’t mind spending large amounts of real money. Ultimate Team’s microtransaction formula remains the same: buy packs that reward you with dull kits and stadiums instead of star athletes, enter bidding races for rare cards, and spend hundreds of hours alone or against other high-level collectors. Big spenders constantly reap the rewards, and the rest is subject to an unforgivable, overt grind. If you are a casual FIFA player, do yourself a favor and stay away from this tricky game mode.
FIFA 22 offers minor tweaks more than anything else. For every substantial update – new goalkeeper mechanics and female soccer players in Pro Clubs – EA Canada takes mind-boggling steps back. Even something as rudimentary as the main menu UI remains untouched! I loved turning pro as a bright-eyed, fuzzy-tailed rookie, but it wasn’t long before I wanted to hang that coveted jersey.