Picture this: you are lying in your bed, fast asleep. Your mobile phone starts going berserk, alerting you to the fact that you are running late for a trial with PSG at the Parc des Princes stadium (which is led by Monaco legend Thierry Henry, bizarrely). On your way to the stadium, you meet freestyle footballer Lisa Zimouche, who you run through the streets of Paris with, tearing through people who are trying to mind their own business as they eat lunch, whilst you knock a football about. Waiters from nearby restaurants join in, as they try to dispossess you of the ball during their shift break.
Oh – and while all of this is happening, you also cross paths with David Beckham, Lewis Hamilton, Anthony Joshua, and Eric Cantona (who is sitting, feeding pigeons). No, this isn’t a bad dream – it is the obnoxiously long introduction to FIFA 22 (and of this review itself). Once you get past this overdrawn, glorified avatar creation section, you finally get to the real game itself. Sadly, FIFA 22 doesn’t get much better from here.
EA Sports advertised the new animation capturing method called HyperMotion Technology, and was the main selling point for this year’s edition. However, the gameplay itself shows no signs of improvement in terms of animations and realistic movement from the players on the pitch. They are as erratic, floaty and skate-y as ever before. Every football match feels like 22 players competing on an Air Hockey table. Even when the players abruptly change direction, there is no weight to their legs. The ball sticks to the players’ feet like Velcro, making dribbling as easy as it has ever been. The game does begin to feel like a pinball machine at times, which removes most tactical decisions from the process.
Passing has been slowed down, however the default setting for the FIFA 22 gameplay has so many options for the CPU to assist you, that it makes the vanilla setting ridiculously easy. These options include: Auto Clearances, Auto Flair Pass, Auto Shots, Through Pass Assistance and so on, and so forth. With the nature of a FIFA game being pick-up-and-play, people will not take the time between every match to tinker with these settings to suit their own preference. The majority of players will just plough ahead with the default settings. The best way to illustrate how easy the game is against the AI is to show the score line from my very first match during the FIFA 22 intro. After 3 matches (of very dominant score lines), the game recommended I upgrade the difficulty to World Class.
Even at World Class, the AI is ridiculously dumb at the best of times. Goalkeepers are the biggest culprits of the deficient AI, making very strange attempts to save shots. On the other hand, some goalies make ridiculous, outrageous saves. Sadly, this is now part and parcel of the FIFA series. Outfield players are not innocent of poor AI either. At times they don’t switch on to imminent goal threats, especially at set-pieces. I had one instance where the AI player on the goal line could have easily cleared the ball off the line, during a corner. Instead, he saunters across his own goal and makes a half-arsed attempt in doing so. This resulted in a goal to me against the CPU.
Your typical online Seasons Mode match descends into a back-and-forth basketball match. No matter how much you try to keep possession and dominate the play, each match ends up with score lines like 5-3, 3-2, 4-2. Keeping a clean sheet online should result in a gold PSN trophy. The defending in the game is utter mayhem at times. Advantage still lies with attackers, and this must be a conscious move on EA’s part to make “entertaining” matchups. Scripting is still very prominent too, with defences becoming absolutely hopeless once their team has just scored a goal. This is an old (but true) cliché in football: the most dangerous time to concede a goal is right after you have scored. EA take this to the nth degree, which manifests itself in the match scripting.
Manager Mode is pretty much the same as the past few years FIFA titles. The main new addition to Manager Mode is the ability to create your own club. Choose from a number of templates for your team’s kit. You can also select a generic stadium, seat colour, chants and songs. You can create what kind of team to start with; a young team, an experienced side or a balance of the both. This adjusts board room expectations regarding your success. This adds a nice bit of flavour to a mode that has been dying on its arse for years now (thanks to FUT). Other than Create a Club, the Manager Mode is pretty much the same as it has been for the past 3 or 4 years now.
In terms of graphical improvements on the next-gen systems, FIFA 22 is a let-down. Textures look flat, especially on kits and pitches. Some of the generic faces are still the same strange looking versions from years past. There are even some real player faces that were made during the PS3/360 era still being used! At times, there are some strange graphical artifacts on the players faces; like hair or beards changing textures as the camera moves, or weird outlining (or glowing) around the heads.
The licensed stadiums do look good, especially under the flood lights. The lighting during night time games is impressive during the wide shots. EA have decided to go for a cinematic look to the in-match cut scenes, rather than a more realistic look. This is a bit of a strange direction to go in due to the fact that they are still trying to recreate the real-life broadcast feel of a football match.
Speaking of which, the commentary in FIFA 22 now consists of ESPN’s Derek Rae and Stewart Robson. Derek Rae is still rather annoying in his delivery, and Stewart Robson is a bit wooden, albeit this is his first outing in a video game. Gone are the days of having two different commentary teams; one for regular league matches and the other for Cup and European games. FIFA 22 now contains goal music for a select few teams, which adds that extra bit of authenticity.
The soundtrack for FIFA 22 contains a few catchy tunes, especially from Morad, CHVRCHES, Seb, and Swedish House Mafia. There are a good number of songs to alternate between which does bring a decent variety.
At this point, it should not come as a shock to anyone when they hear that FIFA 22 is just simply not worth the asking price. The HyperMotion has made almost zero difference to the feel of the game play. Previous FIFA titles (such as FIFA 09 and FIFA 13) actually feel much better to play. Dribbling and player movement feels more realistic in these titles, and they were on the PS3/360! If you want a recent, realistic football simulator, then I would recommend Pro Evo 2021 (especially on PC, with mods).
Somehow, with each passing year, FIFA titles drift more and more towards arcadey, brain-dead gameplay, and FIFA 22 is no exception to this trend. Another football game, another let-down from EA Sports. Sadly, the HyperMotion game play in FIFA 22 is more devolution, rather than revolution, and quite honestly the FIFA series is screaming out for one.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of FIFA 22 for the PS5 provided by EA Sports.