In the depths of the lockdown, there was no football. Time, as many of us count it, had stood still. Apathetic, I bought FIFA 20 to end the season. When I scored, and the camera shook like at Anfield, I cried with joy. It was a strange time, obviously, but it’s the power that FIFA has at its disposal. If you love football, whatever its color or flavor, FIFA 22 should be a part of your life.
FIFA 22 recreates everything special about a beloved and complex hobby, along with its greed and superficiality. Gambling succeeds and fails the same way sports do, and nothing sums it up like FIFA Ultimate Team. If you bypass the existing league structure like a desperate Spanish club president and create your own Galactic is your dream, then FUT offers you: for a price.
Create a GOAT squad by hook – a slow grind – or by crook – real world money that may or may not give you the best players – then challenge the world, making the chosen stadium more and more like thunder neon. There are big comebacks, seasons, XP, achievements, and a new Elite division for the best. All kinds of incentives are there. And it’s entertaining, but you’ll quickly notice that the progress and the actual advancement is freezing.
Also, I think it’s naÃ¯ve to think that FUT doesn’t have a cost. It’s a loot box economy, and a growing body of research indicates that there is a verifiable link between loot boxes and problem gambling. That governments are revolving around this issue is not particularly noticeable, because when it comes to video games, there is no moral panic that they will not exploit. And FUT isn’t the only loot box game in town, though it’s clearly the biggest and most profitable. It’s the reach of FIFA – with 31 million FIFA 21 players and an age group of three and over – that makes any deleterious effects significant.
You might like FUT. You might never have spent the extra money – 78% of FIFA players don’t, and 80% of FIFA players play FUT – but someone is paying your share of the 1.62 billion in EA’s 2020-2021 Ultimate Team revenue dollars, and if the research data is accurate, 5% of those who do are responsible for 50% of all FUT revenue. If any of these people pay more than they can afford, it’s too crowded for me.
Even if I had patience for the job, I cannot take advantage of a “free” service funded by a minority which may be mechanically vulnerable and which currently does not have the protections provided by legislation on the job. gambling, for example, age limits and advertising regulations in the UK. So since it works I cannot recommend FUT. Don’t play it.
The score below reflects that, but luckily FIFA 22 without FUT is expansive and largely succulent. There’s more to Volta, the tricky street football option with a bearable new story mode and hilarious, chaotic new board games on the weekends. There are Pro Clubs for co-op play with up to 11 friends. There are quick kickoff games, House Rules mode, skill games, dozens of tournaments to replicate, and internationals to play. Something, in fact, for everyone, even those for whom the packaging smacks of the now defunct European Super League. I am at forty-five hours and I have barely scratched the surface.
We don’t get the HyperMotion tech that shows up on next-gen consoles, and I would bristle in principle that it’s not also available for high-end PC systems, although I didn’t notice it in the past. start. FIFA games look and feel amazing to play – straddling the space between viewer and participant, like you’re there, but talented – even though the graphics settings are sparse and on Ultra this can sometimes look a bit fuzzy around the edges.
In this case, I was too concerned with the slower, and therefore more realistic, pace of the game to seek improved fluidity of movement. It’s like running in molasses at first, but you’ll adapt, and the Guardians are obviously better, at least until the next update and rethink. Once that wore off, it was obvious that this was, again, the same game with new shirts, with very few tangible changes. It’s bearable, as it’s still far better than Konami’s PES successor eFootball, which I found to be a choppy mess. FIFA 22’s flaws, while numerous, remain insignificant.
Then there are the two career modes that finally make love after a few years of being largely ignored. The poor cousin, Player Career Mode, receives a welcome upgrade to its systems. Take a youngster with potential and play his career – it’s still limited to men’s football – or give him your face and start it at your hometown club, using his stupendous skills to make them world champions. There’s still no story mode, like The Journey, but it’s all the better since the narrative is player-created and much of it in your own head. There are now skill points and perks, as well as a skill tree to develop your player to suit your playstyle. You earn XP by completing giant floating objectives, making the entire game a less nebulous process than it has been.
The new locker room animations should be horrible, but watching your teenager sitting quietly, cradling a man of the match trophy, acknowledging the others with a shy nod, is quite beautiful. This might not be the case after the 100th viewing, but this is where you see the stats and understand why you get ditched. You’ll have a chance to redeem yourself on the bench, as field replacements will finally come into play, along with a functioning and fair transfer system.
You can also create your own club with its own kit, stadium, chants and flags, like Pro Clubs co-op mode, but it’s a painfully walled garden limited to a few garish options but no imagination. It’s hard to get excited about this cookie-cutter approach. You can’t do Richmond FC. I tried.
Manager Career Mode has also received new bells and whistles, with mixed results. The new trading animations make me cringe a bit, but press conferences that go like a Telltale adventure work better. It’s still not Football Manager, and it shouldn’t be, but its depth is enough to be an enjoyable challenge. However, after your preparations you are still playing the game, with no option to just watch. Your skill, or lack of it, negates all the work you’ve been doing. There is top-down simulation, but it’s hard to see the models develop quickly and the simulated games are invariably lost. FIFA can play on its own, so the insistence on your participation is strange.
Whether this iteration requires your purchase is almost moot. If you’ve played FIFA recently, you’ll recognize that it’s the same game, but you’ll want those quality-of-life upgrades and little incremental updates, new kits, and squads. There is no competition if you want to maintain that illusion of reality, as eFootball has an uneven set of club licenses, promising a lot but so far delivering little. If you’re fascinated with FUT, you’ll want to have the brightest, newest things and the biggest player base. I could name a hundred ways to improve it. I’d say we deserve more, and the price is steep for what sometimes strikes me as generous DLC for a game I own, or a subscription that forces me to start over every time. But these are the ways that I rationalize myself. I am not ready for the boat to leave without me.
If you are a beginner and a football fan, I would not hesitate to recommend you to get on board. It’s soft on the easier difficulty and if you can postpone potential multiplayer maulings until you’re ready, the challenge can be met in deadly but satisfying stages. Ignore the hype and flaws and you can weave a vibrant story of success, survival, or failure because that’s what football really is. There’s nothing quite like putting one at the near post and heading towards the fans behind the goal, like that incredible 7-a-side game you’ve had once, but over and over again, brightening up decades of humiliation in the real world with a trophy, which you, by yourself, won, in front of millions.