FIFA 22 Review: More Arcade Than Ever

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FIFA 22 — out now globally — is EA’s first football sim title to cross console generations at launch in eight years. FIFA 21 which got a mid-season next-gen upgrade, but FIFA 22 has been designed for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series S/X from scratch. It’s got a bunch of new gameplay features, dubbed under the collective “Hypermotion Technology”. I didn’t get to try any of them though, because they are not available on PC or PlayStation 4, or the Xbox One version that I played. FIFA 22 is leaving PC users behind for no reason, harkening back to the FIFA 09 years when PC was also given short shrift. But it’s worth noting that this is how FIFA 22 will be played by the majority, with PS5 and Series S/X far from being mass market yet due to global chip shortage and supply chain constraints.

It’s also why there’s no cross-gen support, because FIFA 22 is two different games across the console eras. Annoyingly, EA Sports has yet again ignored cross-play, which now further stands out in the wake of its rival eFootball — previously Pro Evolution Soccer — going free-to-play with full cross-play. The only good news is that thanks to Sony and Microsoft’s backward compatibility efforts, PS5 and Xbox Series S/X owners can play with their friends by installing the PS4 and Xbox One version of FIFA 22, respectively.

Performance, on the Xbox One X, was a mixed bag for me. While it was smooth-sailing for the most part, I faced random stuttering issues and massive frame rate drops. It happened rarely, but FIFA 22 became unplayable when it did happen. The in-game menus are perennially sluggish. Given this was on an Xbox One X, I can’t imagine what it will be like to play FIFA 22 on the OG PS4 and Xbox One.

From FIFA 22 to Guardians of the Galaxy, Games to Play in October

FIFA 22 gameplay

While most of the headline features are missing, there are still a lot of tiny gameplay changes all across the pitch on the older consoles in FIFA 22. But overall, these seem to have pushed FIFA into more arcade territory than ever before. This is especially true of shots at goal. First touch weak foot goals from outside the box. Left back finishing from zero angle, with two players around him and the keeper in front of him. Centre back scoring volleys a real-life defender could only dream of. Most AI goals tend to be arcade-ish, which means you’re going to face a barrage of impossible goals online once players figure out how to best play with the tools FIFA 22 gives them. The ball cuts through the air like a knife when shooting, there doesn’t appear to be any swerve or air drag on it.

On one level, this is weird because goalkeepers are supposed to be better on FIFA 22. EA Sports has gone in for a “rewrite” it says, with over 600 animations devoted to how keepers move, dive, parry the ball, and tip it over goal. Goalkeepers are really good, I must admit, saving even one-on-ones that I would have buried in past FIFA games. They feel almost like superheroes at times. As if their hands are made out of iron. But at the same time, they are also useless given how the AI tends to score. I also witnessed a hilarious goalkeeping bug that you can watch below.

The arcade nature of shots becomes even more puzzling when you discover the ball behaves in a more realistic fashion than ever virtually everywhere else. The way it moves, the way players take it in their strides and transfer it to others, feels improved on FIFA 22. Driven crosses (R1/RB + square/X) aren’t as arcade-ish and don’t feel as overpowered as they used to be previously.

EA Sports is also widening the skill gap with passing. In any competitive mode, for through passes, you will need to be more precise with your direction and left stick, the further your target is and the degree of difficulty of the pass itself. This especially affects driven through passes. While I could pull them off with ease earlier, they don’t attach to the target with as much ease anymore on FIFA 22. It’s still annoying though how FIFA is unable to pick the right player when you’ve an offside and onside player to choose from in about the same direction.

EA Sports is also trying to widen the skill gap in defence. The teammate contain mechanic (R1/RB) that has been neutered over the years is further pegged down. It now comes with an additional stamina element — drawn from a mix of defensive awareness, defensive work rate, and player stamina. This is displayed as a countdown in the icon above the teammate. How well teammate contain works too is dependent on player personality, so a defensive midfielder like N’Golo Kanté of Chelsea and France will naturally do much better than, say Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United and Portugal. What it means practically is that you will find yourself manually switching, jockeying, and tackling a lot more.

It doesn’t help that switching players is still somehow a nightmare on FIFA 22. For what it’s worth, EA Sports is giving players new ways to switch between players. From various ways of using the right stick and additional auto-switching methods, it’s more variety on paper at least.

When you do manage to switch the correct defender, you will find that FIFA 22 allows players to be very aggressive. You can push, pull, and tug at shirts a lot more than I feel ought to be allowed. You’re allowed to annoy opponents a lot essentially. As long as you stick to stand tackle (circle/B) anyway. Fouls don’t happen even when they should be happening. At the same time, the AI has a habit of just brushing off your tackles and carrying on.

Speaking of the FIFA 22 AI, the rubber banding seems worse than ever. The AI becomes superhero-ish towards the end of every match, more so on higher difficulties naturally. This is especially annoying in Ultimate Team, where playing Squad Battles is reminiscent of late-season Career Mode at times.

All You Need to Know About FIFA 22

FIFA 22 AI is inhumanely good towards the end
Photo Credit: EA

FIFA 22 Career Mode

You might be more excited for the return of Create Your Club, but the bigger changes are actually in the Player Career department. Finally, after a decade of PES having the feature, FIFA 22 will allow your player to come on as a substitute. Unlike Konami’s game, you don’t have to watch the match (in real-time or sped up), it’s all quick-simmed till you come on. FIFA 22 also brings all-new match objectives — which I’m sorry to reveal, are still very unreal. No manager in the world asks their players to score two goals from outside the box in one match

The biggest addition though, is how player growth is handled in FIFA 22’s Player Career. As you train, play matches, and complete match objectives, you will earn XP. This XP helps you level up, which in turn grants you skill points that you can use to improve your player in a variety of ways. The skill tree has been revamped and expanded. You now have full control over where your player stats grow. The biggest growth comes from “Archetype” nodes that are found at the end of a skill tree branch.

Additionally, Player Career in FIFA 22 brings “Perks”. There’s about 30 of them, and they all essentially act as stat boosts. Think of them as mini-superpowers. You can improve your long-distance or first-touch shooting. You can boost all your shooting attributes for a limited time, after scoring or conceding a goal. You can become a better passer or tackler of the ball. You can even boost defensive or attacking attributes of the entire team for a time. But you can only equip three Perks at a time. You start off with one slot and unlock more as you level up.

As for Manager Career, Create Your Club is the sole highlight. Though it is very extensive. You can design your kit, crest, and stadium with a lot of room of customisation. Along the way, you also have to choose your league, what team to replace, and a rival team of your choice. I wish FIFA 22 went further, allowing me to wipe all the leagues that would take away the knowledge of knowing which players are good and will be. A clean slate essentially. You do get that with your club here, with the option to (endlessly) generate a 23-player squad. You can decide how good they are (from half star to five stars) and how old they are. You also get to pick a transfer budget (from 1 million to 1 billion). And set board expectations, be it a football giant, small club, youth focused, or laden with debt.

For the first time, you can also jump into the Indian Super League, with the ISL making its debut in a FIFA game.

Despite feeling like an also-ran, EA Sports seemingly remains committed to the street football mode Volta. Though it is scaling back its budgetary commitments. Gone is FIFA 21’s heavily-pared down (and hilarious) story mode that featured the likes of Kaká and Thierry Henry. In fact, celebrities and star players are gone entirely from Volta — the same big names that were touted so much in Volta’s first couple of iterations. This is happening because FIFA 22 is ditching the whole recruiting business in fact. (This also means that chemistry is not a thing anymore.) EA Sports says it wants to focus on the individual, not the team, and playing with your friends, not virtual avatars.

fifa 22 volta fifa 22

Volta Squads in FIFA 22
Photo Credit: EA

But with recruiting not being an option, you’re essentially stuck with low 70-rated AI players, who even miss open goal sitters. With Volta Battles — the Volta equivalent of Ultimate Team’s Squad Battles — the lone solo play option in Volta, the only alternative is 5v5 player-vs-player Volta Squads.

In terms of gameplay, Volta is getting more arcade just like the rest of FIFA 22. Though to be fair, here at least that’s the proposed aim. EA Sports is talking about a bigger emphasis on flair, which manifests itself as the new Skill Meter. You can fill it up by making fancy passes, wall passes, winning back possession, and beating opponents with nutmegs or skill moves. As it fills up, your next goal could count as two, three or four. Theoretically, you can be down by three goals in the last seconds of a match, and still win if you fill the Skill Meter all the way up and score a goal. This rarely impacted my offline games though. More so since games are short and goals come quickly.

The other big introduction to Volta gameplay is Signature Abilities aka superpowers. You can pick from one of three on offer: Power Strike (50 percent shot power boost), Pure Pace (speed and accleration boosts), and Aggressive Tackle (powerful shoulder barges and slide tackles). Your stats can temporarily extend past 99 thanks to Signature Abilities on FIFA 22. They all start off with cooldown, unlock as you play, and return to cooldown after a period of use. I found them to be extremely dumb. With Aggressive Tackle, I could essentially bundle into anyone from any angle and they would just plop to the ground. This isn’t stylish football, it’s a joke.

I would have understood if Signature Abilities were found in FIFA 22’s new party game mode Volta Arcade — this includes the likes of Foot Tennis, Dodgeball, Disco Lava, Quick Strike, Wall Ball Elimination, Team Keepaway, Target Gallery, and Corner Scramble — but their presence across Volta is stupid.

FIFA 22 Ultimate Team

That leaves FIFA‘s most popular game mode: Ultimate Team, or FUT. EA Sports is changing how FUT’s most popular mode Division Rivals operates. Borrowing from virtually every live-service game out there, FUT Division Rivals will now consist of “seasons”. At the start of each season, your progression will be reset to a level befitting your progress in the previous season. This is again, standard. With FIFA 22, EA is also reducing the weekly match requirements for Division Rivals, hoping to make it more accessible just as it did last year with the match caps on Squad Battles. I still believe that both Division Rivals and Squad Battles are too demanding — and the rewards they give not sufficient enough to keep you going.

This is naturally made worse by the fact that FIFA 22 continues its egregious pay-to-win behaviour. FIFA Points aren’t going away, despite the ban in Belgium and an incoming government overview in the UK. You can still spend real money to buy FIFA Points that can in turn be used to unlock player packs of varying qualities. EA tried to appease regulators midway through FIFA 21 by introducing pack previews, a feature that returns on FIFA 22. But the previous limitations still stand. You can only preview one pack every 24 hours. It’s unforgivable that EA refuses to change, more so given how it allegedly pushes everyone towards Ultimate Team.

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From here, it all seems very realistic
Photo Credit: EA

But even if EA does get its head out of the pile of gold, it’s got troubles on the pitch too. FIFA doesn’t feel like football anymore to me. To be fair, it never really was — thanks to pitch size, pace dominance, and all that — but now it just seems to be going away from the sport it claims to represent each year. Maybe a new challenger can shake things up. We badly need it.

Pros:

  • Improved goalkeepers
  • Better ball physics
  • More realistic crosses and passes
  • Create a Club returns

Cons:

  • Arcade shots
  • Defensive aggression overreach
  • AI rubber-banding
  • FUT pay-to-win behaviour ignored
  • Volta is over-the-top
  • No story mode at all
  • Still no cross-play
  • Sluggish menus

Rating (out of 10): 6

FIFA 22 released October 1 on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Stadia, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X. It costs Rs. 2,999 on Steam and Origin for PC, Rs. 3,999 on PS4 and Xbox One, and Rs. 4,499 on PS5 and Series S/X.

EA Play members get 10 percent off the sticker price. You can also get it on PC with the EA Play Pro subscription that costs Rs. 999 a month or Rs. 6,499 a year.

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