Across both Xbox One and Xbox Series X, I spent over 55 days playing FIFA 21. I can confidently say that I wasted my time playing the game. I never really had fun playing but kept at it for its sneaky gamification elements, specifically with FIFA Ultimate Team. Even though I never spent a penny more than what I did to get the Ultimate Edition, I still felt ripped off. After spending time with FIFA 22, across both generations, it plays better than last year but it still doesn’t feel like it’s worth the money, time, or effort I’ll probably still end up putting in.

A player completely un-marked approaching the goal in FIFA 22

A tale of two FIFAs

There are some really noticeable differences between the FIFA 22 you’ll play on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versus the one you’ll play on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S. The older generation version looks and feels a lot like last year’s game. Keepers have improved and there are some new animations but the problems from last year’s game still exist. If you didn’t enjoy the gameplay in 21, you’ll still feel sour on this version.

The biggest problem I noticed was that everything ran slower. Menu navigation felt slow, thanks in large part to the fact that there is so much content to sift through. Ultimate Team has three tabs worth of content to go through and the slower power of the Xbox One is showing its age.

It’s also fairly slower on the pitch, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The gameplay feels less arcade-focused than last year. It’s not all about just relying on the fastest players and winning matches that way. Meanwhile, FIFA 22 for the new generation consoles performs much better. The slow menus are gone and you’re into a game in a lot less time. Gameplay-wise, you can start to see meaningful improvements, thanks in large part to EA’s HyperMotion Technology.

FIFA 22 gameplay showing how the defensive is spread out covering more of the pitch

HyperMotion Tech is legitimate but still needs work

When I was playing FIFA 22 on Xbox One, I still had problems with the lack of proper man-marking, AI inconsistencies with positioning and decision-making. I can’t tell you how many times I got angry when an attacking player would just stop running or a defending player left their assignment for no good reason.

But on Xbox Series X|S, HyperMotion Technology’s claim that teams now play as they would in the real world is believable. It’s not perfect and the AI still needs work on dealing with quick counterattacks. But on defense, marking and positioning are greatly improved.

I was noticing that the backline was playing smarter. When a striker was running in the middle of the pitch, the defense would try to close the gap and force a wider play. Meanwhile, if the play was incorporating a more wide play, wide midfielders would do a better job of assisting the defense and attempt to force the opposition into tighter angles where mistakes could happen.

Kante scoring a near-post goal in FIFA 22

Consistently inconsistent

One of the things that angered me the most about FIFA 21 was the inconsistencies. I could dominate a match on a higher difficulty then struggle on a lower one. Then you have low-rated keepers making fantastic saves and even lower-rated defenders scoring highlight-reel goals. The passing continues to annoy me. It always feels that when a pass misses, it’s because the game wants me to miss it, not that I actually did something wrong. Those are just a few of the frustrations that lead people within the community to claim that scripting exists.

Keepers have definitely improved in both good and bad ways. In FIFA 21, Keepers felt dumb and it didn’t really matter if you had a high-rated keeper, they wouldn’t be able to stop shots you’d legitimately think they should. In FIFA 22, keepers react quicker and appear more agile, often leading them to parry the ball instead of giving up a “saveable” goal. 

Sure, they stop the first shot, but so many times it just ended up leading to easier second-chance opportunities or pushing the ball out for a corner. It was quite rare to see the keeper catch, smother, or push the ball into a safe spot where a defender could get to it first and clear it away. Another thing I noticed is that keepers still give up far too many goals in the near post. The smallest space available is almost always the most dangerous.

The post game stats in a match of FIFA 22

So Much Data

Past FIFA games have had player data available but it wasn’t incredibly deep or easily accessible. In FIFA 22, we have more detailed information available as well as new statistical categories. The best part, it’s all immediately available after the final whistle.

One of the more notable inclusions is Expected Goals (XG), a stat that looks at the likelihood that you would have scored based on where and when the shot was taken. While it doesn’t necessarily mean if you have a high XG that you’re going to score, I can see people using it as an excuse that the game is purposely causing them to lose.

All this access to more detailed data is clearly meant to help people learn from their mistakes. I appreciate it, but I’m also worried most of it will only be used to prove people’s frustrations with the game. Although not too many are posting their stats on social, if people start losing matches they dominated, they will.

Showing off the right-analog stick player select options

Give me Something New

Outside of giving players more access to data, the changes/improvements for the game are on the pitch. Another addition worth noting is a new way to choose players on defense. When you click the right-analog stick, icons appear on four players, giving you the option to pick the next controlled. In slower-paced situations, this is a nice inclusion. But, if you need to make a change quickly, it might take some time to learn how to master this method.

With regards to modes, FIFA 22 offers the same ones as last year. There are no new modes to Ultimate Team, instead, making changes to how people play and are rewarded in Rivals and FUT Champions. The UEFA Champions League is here but is still missing key elements to make the mode 100% accurate. The site of this season’s Final in St. Petersburg, Russia isn’t in the game and it doesn’t have all the clubs that qualified. I’m not a fan of Volta, but the fact that it’s still here must mean there are people who enjoy it.

Because of the expected October 2022 release of FIFA 23 and its close proximity to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, we must expect that next year’s game will have a proper World Cup Mode. They removed a lot of national teams from FIFA 22, so hopefully, they’re coming back with a bigger license next year. I used to love the Captain Your Country modes from the World Cup and Euro games and they really do need to make a return and include a meaningful story with it.

Messi celebrating a goal in FIFA 22

Will I learn from past mistakes? Probably not

Even when I’m not happy with FIFA, I just have a hard time not playing it. I have such a deep connection with the series. I’ve worked on the franchise while at Electronic Arts. It helped forge great friendships in High School, University, and beyond. I wasted far too much of my life playing FIFA 21 and I suspect I’ll still end up spending too much time with FIFA 22 over the next 10-12 months.