Fifa 22 begins with David Beckham drinking coffee and eating a croissant on a Parisian balcony. The stylish opening sequence brings you through the streets of Paris with Lisa Freestyle, where French legends Eric Cantona, Thierry Henry and cover star Kylian Mbappé all make an appearance, while later even Anthony Joshua and Lewis Hamilton show up in your introduction sequence.
The polish and celebrity power of Fifa, now a cultural institution within the sporting world on its 28th instalment, is immediately evident, but too often before we’ve seen Fifa be a game of style over substance. For many years it was the highest-selling football game over its rival Pro Evolution Soccer based off marketing and licences, rather than particularly innovative gameplay.
After a few relatively lacklustre outings, the Fifa 22 release was a key moment for the series as its first full foray into next-gen football simulation on the PS5, after a taster with an enhanced version of Fifa 21 last year on next-gen consoles. How can football games take advantage of the power of the PS5?
It has become almost fashionable to complain about EA Sports and Fifa on social media but step away from all the noise for a minute and Fifa 22 is a very good video game. The buzz word for this year is “HyperMotion”, which produces up to 4,000 new animations and captures a more fluid and realistic match, from movement, reactions to control of the ball. It plays well and the games are engrossing, and unlike some recent Fifas, when you lose you don’t feel like throwing the controller away.
Finding space is the key to succeeding in this year's Fifa and like real life, it allows skilful dribblers such as Jack Grealish and Neymar to flourish in the half-spaces. This is needed because strong defenders win most one-on-one battles, while defensive AI moves better as a unit in defence and attack, making for a lot of tighter games. Improved through balls, with overlaps particularly effective, have become one of the main ways to unlock a defence as midfield battles are often gritty affairs.
Fifa 22 sounds great, with authentic chanting from You’ll Never Walk Alone at Anfield to chanting for David de Gea ringing out around Old Trafford every time he makes a great save.
And de Gea, like all the top goalkeepers in Fifa 22, makes a lot of saves in every game. Picking up from one of the biggest issues in last year’s edition, goalkeeper animations have been completely rewritten, with the new goalkeeper system rewarding smarter positioning and better stops, while the personality of the keepers stands out more than ever. They are perhaps a little overpowered, from one extreme to the other, but it’s a welcome change from your goalkeeper costing you in every match.
The stats system has been given nice enhancements such as heatmaps and xG (which really lets you know if your keeper has had a great match) and the overall presentation of the menus is slick and easy to navigate.
This is important given the plethora of game modes in Fifa 22, that have all seen quality-of-life enhancements. One of my favourites, Pro Clubs, sees the addition of female virtual pros, with added customisations and perks that makes for greater variation in the games. Volta Football moves closer to the old Fifa Street games with a new Skill Metre and Signature Abilities encouraging you to show off your moves in street football. Volta Arcade introduces fun party-style games like Foot Tennis, although I wished they were also available to play offline.
In Career Mode, create a club is a great new feature, allowing you to create a new club of randomly generated players to take them to glory in a league of your choice. The level of detail is impressive, although the inability to edit the names of the players was a little disappointing. Career Mode builds on the improvements of Fifa 21 and a once-neglected mode is in far better shape than it was four or five versions ago.
In Ultimate Team, micro transactions and loot boxes loom large at every corner and leave a bit of a sour taste for a game that is played so much by children. The team building is as shiny and addictive as ever. Division Rivals has been refined, while new stadium customisation options allow you to show off your team of stars.
The game isn’t without the odd hiccup that a patch would iron out, although the developers should resist changing the gameplay too much after patches as was the tendency of previous years. Fifa 22 on next-gen does not blow me away compared to PS4, but the differences are subtle and fun, and all in all it adds up to the best Fifa game in years.