first impressions are often misleading and FIFA 22 should be very grateful for this. An impressive intro sequence lets you create your own “avatar” for this year’s game, and includes some of Thierry Henry and David Beckham’s worst performances you’ll ever see. The actors either, it’s obvious, so thank God FIFA 22 feels amazing on the pitch so far.
Pretentious nonsense aside, though it’s too early to tell how FIFA 22 maybe in the long run a few hours on the pitch are so promising, it suffices to make me sweat after a 2-2 draw between Liverpool and West Ham. A friendly game that I (as Liverpool) immediately dominated, winning 2-0 thanks to a tap-in from Jota and a Thiago curler in the bottom corner. Complacency is easy when you dominate possession 60-40, so substitutions are made: I interrupted the flow of the team of my own accord. Oh pride …
He finished 2-2 and West Ham threw the kitchen sink over a depleted baseline, but I’m too afraid to change. Truth be told, it’s only one friendly match that I picked two Premier League teams at random, you just have to see how the game goes. Still, I’m exhausted, curled up on the sweaty couch, mulling over what just happened. Every match can’t be like this, can it?
Well no, obviously not. They’re two well-known teams that play in a certain way, but it’s better reproduced here than I’ve ever seen in a football game before. The players have personality, locomotion, and they feel like they’re on the pitch, but not sewn to the grass. The ball looks alive, and when you miss a pass it’s your fault, not the game. Whether or not this all extends to Wrexham against Bolton, I’m not sure yet.
Star players, however, feel exactly that. Salah is as unplayable as most weekends in the real world; strong and fast, no defender brave enough to go down near the penalty area. There’s a reason Chelsea’s Lukaku is on the watch list as he scored a goal against me later, Partridge-isms aside, absolutely manual. The ball is kicked long into his chest, he knocks it down, spins, tucking the defender back into his back pocket, with plenty of time to sign a few autographs for the fans, before crushing him into the net.
Then there’s Messi for PSG, who feels exactly the way he should, able to move the ball like no one else can. Verratti will leave the midfielder at the last minute in an almost Lampard-like manner: the list of players who feel “special” is only growing. For years EA has spoken of its similarities to gamers, but in opening hours with FIFA 22 it’s like it’s a gameplay demo designed to show how it works, but I’m actually playing it.
The new additions also seem more significant than usual. The change of player has been a scarecrow for me for a long time in any football game. That’s good, but it’s never quite right. Now clicking the left joystick brings up four optional players that you can choose to switch to. They each have a right joystick icon that appears above them, and up, down, left or right, will pass to the relevant player. This makes defensive play in midfield more tactical than ever, as you can press down on the opposition knowing you can move on to a nearby player with precision and ease.
On PlayStation 5, holding L1 while making a pass will make a “pass and go,” which is a hard ground pass that moves the player who passed it. It might not seem like a big deal, but it does give more manual options for those of us who like to micromanage the game and not trust the AI all the time.
But one of the most interesting aspects of FIFA 22 are updates to the player lock feature. Here you can click both sticks and lock onto a player, then by holding down R1 you can call for help, or L1 lets you trigger a run from a nearby teammate. Then flicking the right stick tells the teammate where you want them to run. When esports players get good at it, defensive changes are going to change the scene for sure.
But there is still so much to see. A brand new Volta mode (which, if the introductory streak is long, is going to be a freak festival), switches to Career mode and you can even be a player in pro clubs now. And while I’ve only touched Ultimate Team so far, the pack preview options mean I’m almost guaranteed to log in every day in case that could be the day I pack a legend (this never happened, and I played every FIFA game never made).
But the biggest thing I took away from my opening day with FIFA 22 that’s how good football feels. It’s too early to tell if he’ll hold the landing, and dozens of hours will take place over the next few days alone, but while the game’s first impression could be a bad acting footballer, football action is exceptional.
Check back on Monday, September 27 for our noted review. FIFA 22 is coming to PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S | X, and Google Stadia. We play on PlayStation 5.