True to its annual appointment EA presented us a few days ago with the new version of the FIFA series. And while no one expects its Vancouver studio to reinvent the wheel, it's a fact that loyal followers of the series will rush in search of that element that will make each release the ultimate football simulator of all time. Is that the case now? And what happens when realism tips the scales to the opposite side of the entertainment spectrum? Do we sometimes, instead of profound tactics, simply crave lots of spectacular goals? Where lies FIFA 22?
These and many more are the questions that plague both the creators and the audience of these games. Over the years, and it's almost thirty years, the series has seen many changes, some to one side, others to the other and quite a few that many of us are trying to forget. This year's "variegated" change is called HyperMotion. A new technology that is supposed to be purely visual. It is a body motion capturing technology that records every movement of real players on the field, in order to display them as realistically as possible on our screens. Visually, the differences I noticed in relation to previous years, from my sporadic involvement with the series, were not so significant. But what changed and significantly improved the overall experience was our complete riddance of situations where players were moving supernaturally e.g. rubber bodies that stretched and hit the ball, something that especially for the goalkeepers caused behavioral issues on the field, with similar results. Hence the reference to the field.
Generally this year I would say that everything looks much more normal. Apart from the movements of the players, the favor of the machine towards picking up the ball, dribbling and scoring has also stopped. The ball became "heavier", the pace dropped and the whole picture is more like that of a real stadium. Of course, this does not seem to affect the stars of the game like Mbappe, who seem really unstoppable. But for football fans who like to start from the lower leagues, such problems are non-existent, since there tactics surpasses everything. Relatively small flaws in the flow of the match and how it can affect a result are the whistles of the referees. These do not always seem to follow the same logic which results in occasionally disruption of the flow of the match, culminating in the offsides in which as the ball leaves the passer the game is interrupted even if the attacker never even intends to get near the ball.
This year's available modes remain the same as the previous version, with minimal changes. So we have the classic fixtures and the various championships. The Career Mode with the branch in the manager style and our personal struggle as a player. Last but not least, the now famous Volta which continues the tradition of the beloved FIFA Street. But what EA loves especially is the Ultimate Team which has turned it into a literal gold mine. From my involvement with it, the only thing I felt was that I wasted my time, since every time I played against someone with a paid XI, I witnessed my players not being to follow the pace of the opponent. However, if someone decides to deal with it seriously in the long run and after enough farming, they will definitely end up with a strong enough squad. In any case, it can not compete in tactical games with AI or against our real friends.
Both from my involvement with the career part as a player and from the classic fixtures, the feeling that I got from this year's AI is that it has improved dramatically compared to what we were used to so far. In the first part, our teammates act strategically, e.g. the passes they give, which even if they are interrupted by a defender, have some kind of logic behind them. Also if we want to play as a Xavi type organizer they will try to open on their own more regularly and not in bulk as usual. In general, what remains is that they will follow the rhythm that we impose. In the second part, although we are potentially controling our entire team, one can easily realize that the other players are acting smarter than ever, to the point where you will see them putting their bodies against the defenders to make room for the rest of them. For the manager part, the only mention it deserves is that it continues to be the most unnecessary of the entire title. Especially since there is Football Manager, I wonder if there is even one who will buy FIFA just to play this mode.
Another blemish is that of the graphics. Lest I sound like an old fart, the graphics are gorgeous, though perhaps no more uniform than last year. The problem in this particular case is the contrast one can notice between the models of the famous players and those of the lesser known players. On the one hand we have borderline realistic models with excellent animations and on the other hand we have dime-a-dozen players, who in some cases looked like they were from another game. Similarly the same is true of the coaches who have some strange models with their heads looking completely out of place compared to their bodies. Aside from these details though, the visuals are impressive and the detail with which the pitches are rendered can really put you in the mood of an Anfield derby and feel some of the magic of You'll Never Walk Alone
In general, I always considered football PC games as a game for two, either locally or online. This is because the fun index went up sharply when you were dealing with a friend and on the contrary it dropped dramatically after constantly dealing with teams controlled by the computer. In this year's edition however, and to my great surprise, all this has changed. Now I am much more happy to play against AI in order to bring glory to my beloved Crawley FC or to chase a place in the national team of Greece. This is because while in the online part there is a permanent flood system, in the single player a football fan can really enjoy regular football. Even career mode has its grace, even if one is not so much a fan of dealing with entire leagues. So despite any setbacks, FIFA 22 manages to win on points that have to do with whether something repetitive like a football game can be fun after a few hours. But where he scores and in fact impressively is in his ability to achieve it through us quite a realistic approach.