FIFA 22 review: A major goal

The iconic franchise returns to the pitch in a big way.

Fifa 22
(Image: © EA Sports)

For years, one of the running criticisms of the FIFA franchise — or any sports game, for that matter — is that it can often feel like nothing changes on a year-to-year basis. Especially for a game that aims to emulate a sport like soccer. When it comes specifically to FIFA, a large criticism of the series has been in its overreliance on modes like FUT, which seem simply intent to grab money from fans.

Thankfully, with the recently released FIFA 22, things seem to be taking a turn for the better. Not only did EA Sports release a polished and updated game this year, but the features that are included add some big changes to pre-existing modes that are sure to leave fans happy to take the pitch.

FIFA 22: What you'll love

Fifa 22

Source: EA Sports (Image credit: Source: EA Sports)
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TitleFIFA 22
DeveloperEA Vancouver, EA Romania
PublisherEA Sports
Xbox versionXbox Series X
Game size37 GB
Play time20+ hours
PlayersSingleplayer, local/online multiplayer
Launch price$70

The sports game genre is one that is constantly criticized for its lack of originality, and one that often sees the most players wondering why things never seem to change. Perhaps no sports game is as criticized as the FIFA series, however, as one of the common gripes with the soccer series is that with every yearly entry, everything feels essentially the exact same. Thankfully for those interested in FIFA 22, developers EA Vancouver and EA Romania have heard the complaints, and delivered what might be the most updated and different entry in the long-running series in some time.

Just like any sports game, one of the first things you'll notice when jumping into FIFA 22 — especially on a current-gen system like the Xbox Series X — is how fantastic the game looks. Everything from the grass of the pitch, the lights beaming down onto the players, and the sheer scope of how big some stadiums feel is excellent, and this year is no different. Presentation is also spot on, with player entrances feeling like they've been taken straight out of an actual match, and certain animations added to make specific players (generally superstars who are most well known) feel even more like their life-like counterpart.

FIFA 22's presentation and visual dedication to the sport remains unmatched in any other soccer game.

The commitment to realism has also extended well beyond simple updates to the graphics or benefits from a more powerful console. FIFA 22 also features big changes to the way the game plays thanks to its new HyperMotion Technology. This tech is found in the PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and Stadia versions of the game, and, according to EA Sports, combines full-team motion capture with "advanced machine learning" to produce brand-new animations for the game.

Essentially, everything in the game has been refreshed with this technology, resulting in 4,000 new animations, a number that EA Sports claims is the biggest refresh for any FIFA game ever. This includes everything from in-game set pieces, shooting, skill moves, passes, to more mundane things, like how players celebrate or get up from falling to the ground. The result is a huge change to the way playing the game feels.

While past FIFA titles have usually played pretty well, there has often been a sensation that you're playing more of an arcade title than something that's trying to realistically simulate the true soccer experience. Now, though, things feel much more responsive, and with the added animations, even look better, which draws you into the game in a way that past entries were unable to accomplish.

Other big changes to gameplay have also been implemented, with an added emphasis on how players are able to break away from each other or catch up to them. To make this possible, FIFA 22 includes an "Explosive Sprint" mechanic, making it easier for players with the ball (and a high enough speed rating) to get away from defenders and out into the open field. Likewise, defenders are now able to catch up to players in a way they couldn't before, making matches feel a lot tighter and more tense than in the past.

Other improvements to gameplay are less grand, but still make for a better gaming experience. Goalkeepers are some of the most important positions in both real-life soccer and in FIFA, and they've seen a bit of an upgrade here. Better stops and smarter AI positioning makes it so that you can't score so easily on opponents anymore, which should lead to less lopsided scores that don't accurately reflect how the real sport is. Improved ball physics and general tweaks to the way AI players will move and react have also been added, resulting in an overall way better playing experience that left me wanting to keep playing rather than being done after the latest 7-0 victory.

Big changes to key game modes

Fifa 22

Source: EA Sports (Image credit: Source: EA Sports)

While gameplay changes are appreciated — and in many cases were extremely necessary — FIFA 22 really shines thanks to its tweaks to some key game modes. Career Mode, for example, now allows players to create their own team, complete with the ability to create your own logo and even tweak how the field you'll play on will look.

Huge changes to Career Mode finally arrive, and make the mode instantly better than it has ever been.

After that, you can drop them into the league of your choice, and proceed as if you were the owner of the club from there en route to taking your team to a league title. These things aren't exactly brand-new concepts to the world of sports games, but it's something fans of the FIFA series have been hoping to see added for some time now, so it's good to see it finally get included.

Elsewhere, Career Mode has seen some major changes to the way a player career plays out to make the game feel like less of a grind and more of a fun journey to experience. In past FIFA titles, creating a player and dropping them onto a really good team essentially meant that you would never play, and thus had no real incentive to go back to the mode. In FIFA 22, you're now able to come into the game as a substitute, giving you the chance to not only play, but level up your player and make them even better.

New tweaks to the way players can level up their characters and earn their objectives are also in the game, with Match Objectives now more realistic and less focused on scoring heavy amounts of goals when you may not even be a starting player. Likewise, earning experience points to level up your character is also a much better experience, with the inclusion of a proper skill tree in the game that helps you visualize and choose exactly what you want to improve about your player. Once again, things like this aren't exactly new ideas by any measure, but finally seeing them implemented in FIFA 22 makes you realize just how rough the past years actually were.

Volta Football, a game mode that gives you a more arcade and "street soccer" experience, also makes a return and with some big changes. While it was a fresh way to play when it was introduced in FIFA 20, no real changes had been made since then, and the mode felt more like a throwaway than anything else. Thankfully, that's changed with FIFA 22, with the brand-new mode.

This new mode offers a weekend-only playlist of special, 4-player party games. Things like Dodgerball, Foot Tennis, Disco Lava, and Team Keepaway are some of the early games available, with EA planning on introducing more in the future. While it may not seem like much, it's good to see Volta lean more into the silly aspects of its mode, and give everyone the chance to play games that are more about having fun with some friends and not a longform soccer match. Other small changes to the mode, including a Skill Meter and Signature Abilities, make the mode feel much more lively than it did in the past as well.

FIFA 22: What's not so great

Fifa 22

Source: EA Sports (Image credit: Source: EA Sports)

FIFA Ultimate Team, the card collecting, team-building mode in the FIFA series, is easily the most popular aspect of the game year in and year out. Sadly, though, a lot of the bigger criticisms facing the online mode remain the same, and is something that is bound to continue drawing anger from fans and players alike.

FIFA Ultimate Team continues to seemingly encourage players to spend as much money as possible.

Similar to every other sports game that features a mode similar to FIFA Ultimate Team, the largest complaint is that it often feels more like a way for companies to continue bringing in boatloads of money from players through microtransactions. For years, FIFA Ultimate Team — or FUT, as its mostly known — has been the biggest culprit of this, with good teams seemingly impossible to build if you weren't paying at least some amount of real-life money.

To its credit, the folks at EA Sports have introduced a handful of changes into the game mode that, in theory, make it easier to play FUT as a free-to-play player. Division Rivals has been tweaked to make things more user friendly, including new ways to earn rewards, checkpoints that make penalties for losing progress less harsh, and more. FUT Champions has also been overhauled, with the aim meant to make it a bit easier to compete against players of your same skill level before moving on to the playoffs and finals to earn some big prizes.

Unfortunately, these changes, while very much welcomed, don't really change the mode enough to make players ever feel not encouraged to continue spending money to have the best team. EA Sports has tried to make things feel more fair, with players still able to preview packs in the in-game FUT store before buying them, but even that feels like it could be improved to allow for more than just one pack at a time to be previewed. At the end of the day, modes like FIFA Ultimate Team will always have the same key problems, which are unlikely to ever change thanks to the sheer amount of money they make.

FIFA 22: Should you play it?

Fifa 22

Source: EA Sports (Image credit: Source: EA Sports)

As far as soccer games go, it's pretty hard for fans of the sport to find any competition that comes anywhere close to what the FIFA series can offer. With that being said, FIFA 22 has managed to change a ton of things that were long overdue, and in the process has become the new gold standard for soccer games moving forward. Big changes to the way the actual game plays, combined with the standard annual graphical upgrades, make for one of the best soccer experiences you can ask for from a video game.

Alongside the changes to gameplay, FIFA 22 has also finally addressed some glaring issues present in many of its game modes. These tweaks alone make FIFA 22 a must-play for fans of the sport, but perhaps most importantly, make for a much better game for those who might be finally looking to come back to the series after years away, or those who may be picking it up for the first time.

FIFA 22 retails for $70 ($60 on last-gen consoles) and is available on PC, Xbox Series X and S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.

Anthony J Nash

Anthony Nash has been writing about games and the gaming industry for nearly a decade. When he’s not writing about games, he’s usually playing them. You can find him on Twitter talking about games or sports at @_anthonynash.