The football seasons have started around Europe and with that comes, as usual, a new version of FIFA. And this year it is really a new version where football on the field feels completely different compared to last year. Unfortunately, the game is still dragged down with its small problems, but on the whole it is more realistic than perhaps ever. FIFA 21 was almost as far from real football as you could get. It’s all about speed, overstepping and dribbling. Sometimes it felt closer to the FIFA Street series than real football.
This year, EA Sports has chosen to go in almost the completely different direction. On the pitch, everything is much slower than last year and everything is no longer just about speed. We no longer need to use the fastest center-backs, or full-backs as center-backs, to have a chance to catch up in the game. In defense, it is now at least as important to have good, physical defenders. At the same time, EA has chosen to increase the speed properties on especially the midfielders and lower them on attacking players. Pepe, the 36-year-old midfielder, now has 80 in speed, for example. This is an increase of +14 from last year.
I have seen many complaints online that the game is now “far too slow”, but I appreciate the change and that it is now required that I play football as a team sport and not just fall and run. With this, of course, come other things that can be exploited. Finish finish a bit outside the penalty area now has a fairly high chance of finishing. In my first match online, I conceded three goals, all in this way. I have also seen people report that it is much easier to score on corners. I myself have not experienced this, mostly because I am cash on corners. However, the most effective tactic for scoring goals is still to hit a deep lead ball between the backs of a free-kicking striker.
And while I appreciate that it has become more realistic, there are things that make me terribly annoyed. It happens far too often that players just ignore the ball because I do not control that player at the moment. The ball may be one meter in front of the feet but since I do not control the player he will ignore taking the ball. Players can also make stupid runs, such as running away from the ball on a return. It can sometimes be difficult to unlock a defense, especially when playing against computer-controlled teams. Sometimes it looks like a handball defense where four, five defenders stand in a row at the kick-in line without moving. I have not played much longer this year, but I have already done away with dozens of “But take the ball then!”. Many new animations have also been added and as a goalkeeper I am very happy that the goalkeepers now behave more like they do in reality. For example, it could be to receive a ball that cannot be held so that it bounces in the ground and up into the arms again. They are also not as keen on kicking the ball out of the stands as soon as you push them. Instead, they look for free defenders or send up a long ball. Unfortunately, all this is mixed with brutally bad efforts where they almost seem to be afraid of the ball. As you can see, there is a lot of ups and downs in quality.
Off the field then? Well, there we find the game modes we are used to. Ultimate Team is of course available as the big draw. It is quite similar to the version from last year where it is built with seasons. During the seasons, you earn points through various challenges that make you level up and at each level you unlock something new. The big change this year comes with the location’s competitive weekend tournament that many recognize as the Weekend League (officially called the FUT Champions). It has now become more difficult to qualify, but once you are in, the prices are better than before. Last year, you only had to play Rivals over and over again until you got enough points for the weekend competition. This year, however, there is a qualifier between Rivals and FUT Champions. After you have accumulated enough points, you will need to play in a qualifier. This qualifier is nine matches long and you need to win five of the matches. In addition, you only have a certain number of attempts and if you fail in these, there will be no weekend competition. There are many who have strong opinions about this game mode, but if you like to spend your time here, there will be lots of things to do.
Volta is back this year again, but is now entirely focused on online gaming. No story mode, no playing against the computer around the world to unlock new players and face other computer-controlled teams. Now there is full focus on online. You create your own character and can then unlock new clothes and things to look as cool, or silly, as you want. Then you take your old man or grandmother and play against others in street football. There are plans that are without lines and instead have walls and then there are plans that are more futsal-like. You can play matches against computer-controlled teams, but these still end up in an online ranking similar to that of Squad Battles in Ultimate Team mode. New here are instead some fun mini-games. Here you compete with your character against three other players in football tennis, sniping and more. After three rounds, a winner is chosen based on how well you have done in the branches. It’s not a fun addition, but something that will not last you more than a maximum of an hour.
Career mode is also back and as usual you can choose to play as either a manager or a player. There are no huge differences from last year, but this year you can create your own club and place in, for example, the Premier League. You get to choose your club name, club brand and match kit from some created designs. You can then design your arena in several different ways. This could be having black lines and blue-yellow nets for red chairs in the stands. If you choose to pursue a player career, you will need to impress your coach by completing various assignments during the matches. We can be to get a certain player rating or to shoot a couple of shots on goal. The gameplay mode has not been revolutionary, but there is still enough here to keep you entertained.
Something that will not entertain this year is the narrative mode. It shines with its absence. I do not really understand this decision, to remove the narrative mode. Especially when other sports games are investing heavily in this. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a perfect way to spend a few hours if you do not want to play online. I really hope it comes back next year and that it’s about real football again. I do not want to see the story in Volta.
FIFA 22 thus offers something completely new on the field this year. It’s more like real football than before, but of course it’s not entirely without problems. It’s still a good football game and if you got tired of the previous years’ “run fast and dribble” it might be time to come back now.