Platforms: PS5/Xbox Series X/PS4/Xbox One/Nintendo Switch/PC/Stadia
Release Date: October 1, 2021
FIFA has been the biggest and best soccer sim for so long now that it could be forgiven for resting on its laurels. After all, millions will buy it just to get the most recent teams and players. So fair play to EA Sports for giving it one of the most impressive overhauls in the franchise’s history — on the pitch at least.
FIFA 22 isn’t technically the first next-gen entry in the annualized sports franchise: FIFA 21 missed the launch of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, but was released on these systems around a month later to a fairly muted reception.
But while last year’s FIFA on next-gen hardware was really more of a port with some added gloss, FIFA 22 is quite the opposite. It’s a bold step forward for the franchise that firmly moves the most popular soccer simulator on the market up a level.
From a gameplay perspective, FIFA has never played this well. So, it’s a shame that the offline modes have been neglected in favor of a clear focus on FIFA Ultimate Team, dragging the overall package down somewhat.
Nevertheless, when actually playing a match you’ll struggle to find a more realistic and enjoyable virtual take on the world’s most popular sport. Read on for our full FIFA 22 review.
FIFA 22 review: Gameplay
Prior to release, one of FIFA’s producers claimed that FIFA 22 was “the game we always wanted to develop” and that very much shows. On the pitch, FIFA 22 is quite simply the best the series has been in years.
The much-touted Hypermotion animation system, which is exclusive to the PS5 and Xbox Series X versions, is a genuine gamechanger. The system adds 4,000 new animations to the game and makes every encounter with the ball feel substantially different.
No longer is FIFA gameplay comprised of scripted animations where your players react in the same way every time. In FIFA 22, each time you make a pass, take a shot on goal or make a lunging tackle, the outcome feels original and authentic. The system even comes into play when you’re off the ball, adding depth to the gameplay across the whole pitch.
I’ve scored goals in FIFA 22 that I’ve never managed in previous games. And I’m not just talking about quality strikes from outside the box, but also scrappy goals where the ball ping-pongs around the six-yard box just like in a real-life match. The Hypermotion animation system is one of the biggest upgrades in the franchise’s entire history; going back to an older FIFA after experiencing it would be a demoralizing experience.
That’s not the only improvement to the gameplay, either, with the goalkeeping AI also having been given a much-needed overhaul. Keepers can now actually be relied upon to make saves, meaning that one-on-one situations are no longer a guarantee of a goal. That in turn makes it vital that you place your shot more carefully. It cannot be overstated how refreshing it is to be able to trust your AI-controlled keeper to make simple stops.
Ball physics have also been tweaked, which — when coupled with the Hypermotion animation system — makes for unpredictable scenarios that closely replicate the real sport. It’s still a bit too easy to carve a computer-controlled team open, but the AI’s defensive positioning has also been given a minor adjustment, and I found myself having to work harder than previously for each goal. Far from being frustrating, that just makes scoring all the more satisfying.
Admittedly, some of FIFA’s old failings are still present. For instance, players with pace are still too valuable; those with an overall rating in the low 70s but high pace stats will single-handedly win you matches. Plus, the set-piece systems have been left untouched, which is a shame because penalties in particular need a complete overhaul.
FIFA 22 review: FIFA Ultimate Team
FIFA Ultimate Team, or FUT, is consistently the most popular mode in the game and it’s easy to see why. The thrill of building your own squad, packing it with top players and competing against the best online is extremely alluring.
As per usual, it’s in FUT that you’ll find the most significant off-the-pitch additions to the game, with The Division Rivals and FUT Champions modes both receiving significant overhauls.
Division Rivals has scrapped qualification matches and progression is now structured around a ladder: You move up if you win a match, down if you lose. It’s an easy-to-grasp system and it effectively rewards you for playing well. There are checkpoints, too, which prevent you from tumbling too far down if you hit a poor run of form.
FUT Champions, meanwhile, has been reworked to be more accessible. No longer does it require you to play tens of matches over a single weekend, instead letting you compete for qualification during the week whenever it suits you and earn your place in the Champions Playoff and Champions Final via a points-based system. This revamped progression system works well, although it does still require a lot of play in a relatively short space of time.
There’s also an entirely new feature, in the form of FIFA 22’s Hero cards. These celebrate some of the sport’s most memorable players and moments, but although they’re useful, obtaining one requires either significant luck or a big outlay.
Speaking of money, that remains the biggest problem with FUT. FIFA’s biggest mode may be slicker than ever, but players who are willing to invest additional money still have a sizeable advantage over those who refuse to spend extra. The mode is unquestionably pay-to-win and that imbalance hasn’t been addressed here.
FIFA 22 review: Career mode, Volta and Pro Clubs
EA Sports promised to improve upon the often-neglected career mode in FIFA 22, but unfortunately the changes here are mostly minor.
The fact that you can now create your own club, for instance, sounds like a big deal — but in practice, it amounts to very little. You’ll spend about 30 minutes picking your club name, choosing a crest from a pre-designed selection, choosing your kit colors etc, but after you’ve created your new club all that’s left to do is play through the standard career mode. Sure, it’s fun to create AFC Richmond from Ted Lasso, but playing as a created club doesn’t fundamentally change career mode in any form.
At least player career mode has been given some extra polish in FIFA 22. You can now come off the bench during a match, which is a welcome addition, but it should have been added a decade ago. The new animated sequences in-between matches also add some novelty factor, but it’s hardly a game-changer.
FIFA’s take on street football, Volta, is back in FIFA 22, but it’s definitely an afterthought. There’s no proper story mode this time, just quick play and online play; you can’t even set up a custom Volta tournament. Still, there is a new arcade mode that pits you against three other players online in a series of mini-games such as football tennis. This mode is seriously fun, but doesn’t have much depth.
Unfortunately for the small, but very dedicated, group of Pro Clubs players, FIFA 22 adds almost nothing to that mode. There are new customization options, but otherwise, it’s business as usual.
FIFA 22 review: Visuals and sound
FIFA 22 is a great-looking game. Players are well animated, the top stars look impressively life-like and the big leagues and tournaments all boast bespoke presentation packages.
The matchday experience in FIFA 22 is also second to none. Big games are given the appropriate gravitas, with a range of pre-match cutscenes adding to the build up. This commitment to authenticity is part of the reason FIFA has dominated the soccer-sim market for the past decade, and FIFA 22 is no slouch in this area.
New commentators have been added in the form of Stewart Robson and Alex Scott, the first female voice in FIFA history, no less. The duo bring some freshness to the commentary team, although there are still plenty of moments where what they’re saying doesn’t really sync up with the action on the pitch.
Soundtrack-wise, FIFA 22 contains a pleasing mix of songs from up-and-coming artists plus mainstream tracks from the likes of Sam Fender and CHVRCHES. The ability to set any song from the soundtrack as the music that plays when your team scores a goal is a nice touch, too.
The PS5 and Xbox Series X versions of FIFA 22 presents a very slick package, that looks just as good as it plays. Although, that may not be true on all platforms. Xbox Series S players are reporting that the game suffers from extreme blurriness and performance issues. On last-gen consoles, the visuals appear to be in line with FIFA 21.
FIFA 22 review: Verdict
FIFA 22 is a gigantic leap forward for the franchise. The new Hypermotion animation system isn’t just marketing speak, it’s a genius game-changer which helps matches play out closer to the real sport than ever.
It’s a shame that the leap forward in gameplay hasn’t been coupled with more substantial improvements to career mode, or a redesigned FUT less keen to encourage additional spending. But on the pitch at least, FIFA has never been better.
Players on older systems won’t reap the full benefits of FIFA 22’s wealth of gameplay improvements, but if you own a PS5 or Xbox Series X and fancy a virtual kickaround then it’s an essential purchase.