We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
Joga Bonito – or Beau Jeu as Kylian Mbappé would say.
As regular as clockwork, EA brings us yet another instalment to the ongoing FIFA franchise that mirrors the wacky world of IRL football. Emboldened by next-gen graphics on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, FIFA 22 has new animations, more zealous crowds, and the rights to that famous Champions League theme tune, and it all feels rather exciting, so long as you’re okay having to buy the game again.
The improvements over the FIFA 21 season are visible if you squint – a tweak here, or a polish there – though you shouldn’t load up this game expecting any radical changes. All the game modes are present, from the tactic-tinkering career mode and street-style Volta, to online battles of Pro Clubs and Ultimate Team, but a distinct lack of anything we haven’t seen before.
Related: The best FIFA 22 pre-order deals on PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch and PC
But is it worth buying? We have been slamming as many goals in as possible (on our Xbox Series X) to help you decide if you should buy it.
David Beckham likes to eat his pancakes on the balcony apparently. In a new twist for this year’s footy-sim the game is introduced to you in a well-orchestrated, interactive story that has a new player (your freshly created young pro) arriving for his first taste of sporting luxury during a visit to a PSG game.
Becks is chomping down his breakfast as your character scrambles to meet his agent in the streets of Paris, already late for his first training session. The game then gives you control as you hurtle down the Parisian streets, teaching you the buttons in fun ways, sprinting alongside cafés or passing a football around waiters.
It’s a remarkably fun new way to introduce the mechanics of the game, and much better than the old system that just threw you into a generic match between two of the most popular teams of that year.
The cinematic is also a Where’s Wally of huge sporting names, with Thierry Henry and Kylian Mbappé teaching you the ropes, and then Lewis Hamilton and Anthony Joshua silently filling out a hospitality box at the Parc des Princes before your first kickoff.
The game itself feels suitably weighty, with pace getting a well-deserved nerf. No longer can you bomb up the wing, instead you must use tactics and passing to secure your victories.
The first month or so is always the most fun period of any FIFA, as the previously overpowered players like Ronaldo or Messi can’t just slice through your defences, and the improved animations enhance this feeling. Even if the player is lightning-quick, they take a realistic amount of time to get to their full speed, stretching their muscles in the sprint, just as they would in real life.
We also love the addition of the in-depth stats for each game. You’ll be able to see individual player pass-accuracy, graphics showing how and when you lost possession, and detailed visuals of your shot angles or positioning. It goes some small way to helping you improve your game overall, but it’s interesting to see exactly where you won or lost a game.
It’s in the finer details that you’ll notice next-gen improvements. We all know footballers love their hair, and the movement of each strand is individually animated so it sways and bounces in the wind. Shirts also move realistically, and will stretch and billow as players tug against each other for purchase.
This also transfers into how you play, with players mis-kicking if they’re off-balance or being challenged. Therefore, you have to be patient to make the right pass or shot –seemingly the death of the impossible 180° no-look 30-yard bangers that often plagued the online scene.
You’re rewarded for having a strong footballing mind, understanding when to be fast or slow and when to do it at the right time… excuse us, John Barnes. Players move intelligently, so you’ll find route-one tactics don’t hold the same success rate.
We much prefer this slow, methodical football that has you unlocking the defence with key passes. Make your move too quickly and the whole defensive team will shift to block your path. Fire off the shot at an odd angle? That hulking centre back will flick out a toe to block at the last second. All this is achieved with the new ‘HyperMotion’ which sounds like typical marketing nonsense, but is actually the new motion-capture tech that opens up more realistic movement.
Generally players will feel more fluid and the body reacts more naturally. For example, if you fizz a pass into your attacker, his leg will swing back slightly as he controls it. It’s minor improvements but generally helps to immerse you into the game.
That’s not to say that some typical FIFA shenanigans won’t rip you out of the realism. We conceded more than one goal that was the result of an inexplicable brain-fart from our keeper, or a defender we expected to simply intercept a wayward pass was much more concerned with searching for his friends out in the crowd.
We also feel there might be some issues with the AI during corners, as we ended up seeing way more whipped-in set pieces hit the back of the net than in previous years. But then again, every FIFA has some exploitable move that almost guarantees a goal.
The ever-popular Ultimate Team is as good as it always has been, complete with new pack-opening animations, head-scratching squad-building challenges, and shiny new cards to collect. Nothing is radically different this year, so if you loved this mode in years gone by, you’ll likely fall straight back in love with it.
Before we go any further, we shall address the ongoing lootbox saga of the Ultimate Team mode: packs that cost real money for a very slim chance at getting a good player. In two documents obtained by CBC News, EA says that “FUT is the cornerstone and we are doing everything we can to drive players there”. In some respect, we aren’t surprised that the developers are pushing you to one of their biggest revenue drivers (a reported $1.6billion in 2021). They are a business after all.
We all know the issues with presenting what essentially amounts to gambling to young gamers. Some progress has been made by EA to eliminate some of the concerns around these packs: they have to tell you the percentage chance of you receiving a certain quality player, and we now get “preview packs” which show you what will be inside the pack before you buy.
However you feel about the issue, it’s unlikely to be removed from the mode until lawmakers figure out how to legislate for digital gambling. If you’re concerned about this for yourself or your own children though, you can lock your spending limit on your Xbox or PlayStation account, limiting your credit or debit card to stop purchases.
Career mode is always an interesting conundrum, as it’s a deeply satisfying game mode to play, but hasn’t ever got significant changes through the years. The inclusion of the rights of the Champions League adds a fun new twist to your season, but it remains largely the same.
Pro Clubs, however, got some attention with the inclusion of perks and a levelling system. The more you play with friends online, the more experience you get to spend on abilities or stat improvements. This can range from faster acceleration to more powerful headers, but now you can actually specialise at a certain aspect of the game.
Collect enough abilities and you’ll become an aficionado in that type of gameplay, with enhanced stats for shooting for the strikers or a broader range of passes and flair for the playmakers.
You can also add perks that give you small stat boosts in-game. For example you can get one that increases your defensive stats in the final 15 minutes of a game, or give yourself a passing boost for the first 30 seconds after an assist. You can set up to three at any one time and it adds another layer of customisation that the Pro Clubs scene was missing.
Let’s face it, if you’re already well invested into the FIFA carousel, you’ll likely not need that much convincing to pick this one up. It’s basically everything you’ve loved for the past two decades with better graphics. Even if there’s not that much that’s actually new to get excited about, there really isn’t that much that needs fixing.
EA could spend its time building a fun RPG-esque single-player mode for casual It. They could create more fun ways to play online with your friends. But it hasn’t, and that’s ok. What we do get is the polished football simulation you’ve come to expect, and nothing more.
Crucially, this is also one of the best soundtracks of any recent FIFA, with some absolute bangers on rotation from the likes of CHVRCHES, Jungle and Sam Fender. Just sitting in the menu and having that playlist on rotation is a blessing.
FIFA 22 is available on Xbox and PlayStation consoles, as well as PC and the Nintendo Switch from October 1.