Platform(s): Xbox Series (version played), PS5, Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch
Genre: Annual football game from EA
As someone who’s played a heckaton of football games, the most infuriating part of these games, at least in my books, is the defending. Very rarely do the big two of football sims; FIFA and PES got it right. Missed a tackle? Good luck. Mis-timed a tackle? You better pray to the football gods it isn’t going to be a straight red.
Fine: we get it. It’s all about the excitement and fun of scoring wonders from thirty yards out, or having your twinky-toed strikers and wingers skip, juke and run circles around hapless defenders before tucking in a goal. But this diminishes the roles of defenders in the overall equation. And that isn’t football.
Thankfully though, defending is much more meaningful and enjoyable in FIFA 22 which results in an overall improvement to its predecessor. But is it worth it?
Ball In Their Court
This year’s edition, FIFA 22, is a reflection of the real-life status of the sport it embodies. Gone are the days where the star of a team are players in offensive positions. This year, everyone are given equal room to shine and stamp their mark in a game. Whether it’s Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk or an obscure center defender from a mid-tier club in the Belgian League, defenders have received somewhat of a buff on the field.
But this doesn’t mean that the likes of Lionel Messi, Mo Salah and Kylian Mbappe are severely nerfed. In fact, if used right, awards them with the invincibility their real-life counterparts enjoy on the field. Like Leo, you should anticipate the defenders’ next moves. Like Kylian, you use your physical prowess to out-muscle the opposition defenders. And like Mo, always cut in from the right to allow the space for your trusty left foot to do the talking.
Each year, EA Sports blurts out a specific marketing term that encapsulates the new feature of their yearly release. This year is no different. They call it ‘Hypermotion Technology’. What it means is that players on the field now move and react more realistic than ever. But there’s one caveat. To experience this, you have to play the game on next-gen (ie: current) consoles.
Without going into the technicalities of it, seems as if the folks at EA Sport have decided to abandon the more arcade-y approach the FIFA series has been synonymous with in the past for a slower pace which is almost identical to its fierce rival, Konami’s very own PES – or soon to be known as eFootball. Gone are the days when you’ll see constant flicks and trick attempts by players. It is still doable no doubt but the fact that the physicality factor now plays an even bigger role means that skill spamming has been nerfed.
The result? A FIFA game that’s closest to it has been to reality.
The Most Dangerous Game?
The game is much more tactical and methodical now. Of course, you can still try pinball-ing your passes around a defense line but more often than not, will lose possession faster than Harry Kane submitting a transfer request in January. FIFA 22 deliberately rewards patience and field IQ; the ability to anticipate your own players’ runs down the wing or through the channels.
A new collision engine also ensures the game feels and appear much more organic. I did notice some clipping and players’ bodies melding into one another but these are far in between. Ball contact now feels much more solid as well, with a quick juke of the left thumbstick resulting in specific ball controls, depending on the player’s skill level, speed when controlling the ball and the direction they are facing.
To counter dribblers and slick ball control, the collision engine in FIFA 22 adds more variables on the outcome of an attempted take-on. The offensive player may appear to have the advantage, but depending on the defending player’s attributes, may either outrun, body check to slow the attacker or even fully block the advance.
They’ve also tweaked the A.I for the goalkeepers who appears to be making more correct on-field decisions- whether to challenge for a cross or rushing down an incoming striker. In the past, shots either whizz past a goalkeeper into the net or fly straight into the stands if it comes into contact with the keeper. In FIFA 22, expect to see balls trickle past a weak save or even deflect into the net despite the keeper’s best attempt at saving it.
In short, FIFA 22 offers more solid and believable ball control. But there’s one thing that’s inherently FIFA which is still here. Players move on the field as if they are running on ice. Except for this year’s iteration, they’ve brought some skates with them, but the ice still remains.
The outcome? A tighter footballing experience with distinct FIFA-ness in its DNA.
If you are looking at new additions in terms of game modes, you will be sorely disappointed as FIFA 22 is basically a rehash of a tried and tested formula. All the staple modes are here. From the standard 11v11 in Quick Play, Volta, the season-long Career Mode where you get to choose to play as the manager or a player and the ever-popular Ultimate Team mode. We wish we had more to say here but the fact is this; Depending on which mode you play, save for the new ‘feel’ of the game on the pitch the overall experience sticks very close to last year’s offerings and aren’t something to shout about.
FIFA 22 is a break from tradition in several ways for EA Sports as it leans heavily on the more realistic approach. Whether this move will satisfy their core audience or cause a backlash remains to be seen. But the fact remains that EA Sports are running out of ideas in delivering an annual title that is worth spending on.
With Konami releasing eFootball for free, we find it hard to recommend spending your hard-earned cash on a game that is very much like its predecessor and is closely resembling its more attractive competitor.