Sports game releases don’t get any bigger than the annual launch of the new FIFA game from EA Sports. As the most popular virtual representation of the world’s most-loved sport, FIFA brings along an enormous built-in fan base that is hungry for new content and improvements with each new game. FIFA 22 is being sold to gamers using EA’s new HyperMotion technology that is built from machine learning and 11-on-11 motion capture. The company promises that this new system will improve and evolve how FIFA plays in more meaningful ways than ever before. In practice, the changes are much more subtle than marketing would lead you to believe and, predictably, things like Career mode remain mostly untouched in favor of pushing Ultimate Team and its revenue-generating card packs.
3D scanned pitches and players
My journey with FIFA 22 began on the PS5, where the game gets a boost over its previous-gen and PC counterparts thanks to the inclusion of HyperMotion and some fancy graphical upgrades. The visual presentation is the first thing that catches your eye when firing up a match. Depending on which teams and stadiums you select, you can be treated to new 3D scans that help make the digital representation of world-class soccer look more lifelike than ever before.
When it comes to the most marketable players such as Messi, the digital representation is nothing short of impressive, especially when you fiddle around in the instant replay mode manipulating the game speed and camera to get the best look at fine details. Light reflects off of skin in a convincing fashion and the way each team’s kit animates as players twist their torsos or bend over never fails to make a good impression.
In the case of the previously mentioned Messi, you also get what I’m going to officially dub ‘next-gen hair tech’ — I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a more mesmerizing collection of virtual hair fibers. The strands glisten in the light and they move in a fashion that is just as, if not, more impressive than the HyperMotion system that drives these cyber skeletons.
Sadly, most of that detail goes right out the window when you are actually playing due to how far the camera is positioned above the pitch. At that distance, the detail put into the grass, player kits, and models is hard to parse, even on a giant 4K display. What does stand out is how players move and interact with one another during plays.
While the game is being played, spotting the differences afforded by the new HyperMotion system will require a sharp eye. Far from the transformative change marketing would have you believe, the new system is more a slight evolution from FIFA 21. As far as positives, it is nice to see AI teammates continue to move up the pitch as you push rather than the stutter steps or outright pauses you’d see in older versions. You’ll also spot smaller interactions between players jostling for position prior to a header where they push away or tangle arms. For the most part, the minute-to-minute play still resembles older entries in the series, but HyperMotion could be something nice if it has some more time to develop.
If you are heavily invested in keeping up with the EA Sports universe, it should come as no surprise to find little to no changes for things like the Career mode in FIFA 22. After inexplicably being pulled from previous versions, Create-a-Club is back in Career mode as a port from FIFA Ultimate Team, which is welcome but should never have been dropped to begin with. You still can't track stats beyond the first year and you’ll never see any manager movement between teams as the seasons go by, which is about the furthest thing from real-life professional soccer.
The giant elephant in the room remains FIFA Ultimate Team. It works just as it has since its inception with players collecting cards in the hopes of assembling their own football dream teams. This is where most of the work is put into EA Sports games each year and it shows. It still suffers from the things that reviewers and players have complained about for years. Some small changes have been made like the adjustments to favor players who don’t buy card packs and the ability to preview what is in card packs (surely included to appease European regulators that have viewed Ultimate Team as a form of gambling). As a feature that has been around for a decade, anyone reading this likely already knows where they fall on the Ultimate Team fence.
Where is the yellow card?
FIFA 22 presents potential buyers a competent game of soccer, even if it isn’t the revolution that the HyperMotion marketing desperately wants you to believe. If you are looking for a comprehensive digital representation of pro soccer that includes the most licensed teams, pitches, and players, EA Sports’ latest will do the trick. While its next-gen visuals can be hard to spot while playing, replays and cutscenes reveal some high-quality models and hair tech that really impresses (and I would know as a great hair aficionado). If you aren’t repulsed by Ultimate Team and can live with another year of neglected Career mode, FIFA 22 could be worth kicking around.
These impressions are based on the PS5 version of the game. The game key was provided by the publisher for review consideration. FIFA 22 is available now on Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PS4, PS5, PC, and Stadia.