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FIFA 22: what we want to see from the PS5 and Series X kickabout

FIFA 22
(Image credit: EA Sports)

While it’s not been officially announced, FIFA 22’s release this year is as certain as death and taxes. The annual football fest remains an extremely lucrative endeavour for EA, particularly with its focus on Ultimate Team game modes.

FIFA 21 impressed us with its strong attacking gameplay, authentic visuals and player likenesses, as well as the sheer wealth of game modes to keep football fans of any stripe occupied for hours on end.

It was far from a perfect experience, though. The FIFA franchise has often proven itself to be a one step forward, two steps back affair. FIFA 21 was no different; while its positives shined through brightly, it still couldn’t quite shake that “yearly update” feel (especially if you bought the shocking Legacy Edition for the Switch).

It’s no surprise that FIFA 22 needs to seriously impress. We’re fully immersed in a new console generation, and EA has an opportunity to make the next FIFA game the best we’ve seen for years. Here’s what we want to see in FIFA 22 as well as a roundup of rumors thus far.

 Cut to the Chase

  •  What is it? A football simulation game with official backing from FIFA, released annually.
  •  When can I play it? Most likely mid to late September, barring any delays, such as FIFA 21’s October delay due to COVID-19.
  •  What can I play it on? FIFA 21 released on everything under the sun, so for FIFA 22 we’re expecting it to be released on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Nintendo Switch and PC. Expect a mobile port of some kind, too.

 FIFA 22 release date

Nothing is set in stone as of yet, as FIFA 22 hasn’t been officially announced. But we’re expecting the usual release window of mid to late September. Although, like last year’s entry, we suspect there could be delays due to COVID-19.

Keen players will also want to look out for the variety of special editions. FIFA 21 let fans purchase the Ultimate and/or Champions editions, unlocking three days of early access to the game.

FIFA 22 news and rumors

Online career mode?
A huge upgrade to FIFA's staple career mode could be on the cards, if the description of EA's online software engineer job listing is to be taken at face value.

Within the job description is the following line: "As an Online Software Engineer, you will help build our networked play development team - whether that be in our online career mode, ultimate team, or core online systems and protocols."

While it's unclear what this wording will ultimately lead to, it would be great to finally see a substantial shakeup of FIFA's career mode. This could be in the form of online integration into the existing career mode format, or perhaps even a separate online mode entirely.

EA Play 2021

EA has confirmed that its annual summer games showcase, EA Play, will be going ahead in 2021. Rather than its usual June position alongside E3, this time the show will take place in July, specifically on July 22. 

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Now, EA hasn’t confirmed which games it will actually talk about during the show (more details on EA Play are expected closer to the time) but that means it feels like there’s a pretty good chance FIFA 22 will make an appearance at the show. It’s generally the perfect time to release the first video footage of the game prior to its traditional September/October launch period.

Expect innovation

EA is looking ahead to a “massive year of innovation” across its entire line of sports titles (of which the FIFA franchise is a part.) 

In a May 2021 conference call (via GamesRadar), EA’s CEO Andrew Wilson made big promises for EA Sports titles and simultaneously effectively confirmed that FIFA 22 is coming, saying: “All of our new EA Sports games are designed for next-gen console platforms including FIFA, Madden, NHL and EA Sports PGA Tour. We’re very excited by the opportunity to deliver for baseball fans around the world with the addition of Super Mega Baseball from Metalhead Software and MLB Tap Sports Baseball on mobile. EA Sports is also publishing the highest-rated sports franchise in the world with F1 2021, our first title from our recently completed Codemasters acquisition.”

It’s unsurprising that EA would want to make another FIFA, given Wilson noted that EA’s “FIFA experiences continue to engage more than 100 million players worldwide. More than 20 million players played FIFA Ultimate Team in the last year, and FIFA Ultimate Team matches were up an incredible 180%.”

In terms of Ultimate Team specifically, EA COO Blake Jorgensen noted that growth on this mode was up 30% year on year and said “we’ve gotten better and better at that over the life of the product, and we’ll continue to do that and we have optimism for the coming year and many years to come.”

 What we’d like to see from FIFA 22

For the past few years, EA have often settled on a “good enough” approach to FIFA. Our FIFA 21 review is testament to that. This isn’t anomalous to annual sports titles, of course. However, fans are surely looking for something a bit more substantial for the new console generation.

 A wider scope of player likenesses in-game

In-game, FIFA players have never been created equally. While the vast majority of professional players have their names in the game, it’s only ever a smattering of world class players that get the full digitization treatment. The tech is no doubt expensive, but if EA has the consent from leagues, clubs and their players, then it’s something we’d love to see built upon in future.

However, if possible, we’d love to see a greater share of players add their likenesses to FIFA 22. Not just the very best players, or the ones who happen to be the zeitgeist. Perhaps it’s not a priority for EA (FIFA has no issues when it comes to filling EA’s coffers year after year), but a greater selection of recognisable players from more modest clubs would be a welcome addition for supporters of them.

 An improved defensive game

In FIFA 21, attacking and striking felt fantastic, offering perhaps some of the tightest gameplay we’ve ever seen in that area. Unfortunately, the game’s defensive options left a lot to be desired. The system is more than showing its age at this point, and perhaps a full defensive overhaul should be on the cards for FIFA 22.

As mentioned in our review, dispossessing attackers was much tougher than it needed to be, with groups of defenders struggling to handle a single attacking player. Consequently, the improvements to attacking greatly overshadowed the stale defending mechanics, which often led to unbalanced matches.

 A brand new engine

FIFA 17 was the first game in the series to make use of EA’s in-house Frostbite Engine. At this point, it’s getting a bit long in the tooth, and frustrations players had with the game and the engine all those years ago are still prevalent today. However, a new console generation could come with a fresh engine for EA’s sports endeavors.

According to Gfinity, EA opted to stick to the Frostbite Engine for FIFA 21, as well as other recent games such as Need for Speed Heat, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This could signal that a new engine is waiting in the wings or at the very least being prepped for the new console generation. Here’s hoping that a new engine will allow EA to improve FIFA to an unprecedented degree. 

 Ultimate Team changes

As has been the case since the mode’s introduction, Ultimate Team was the big focus of FIFA 21. The controversial, microtransaction-heavy feature draws players in with its appealing pack opening system. EA is no stranger to the loot box phenomenon, and it’s clear this won’t change in FIFA 22.

FIFA Ultimate Team has been heavily criticized by fans as being too big of a focus on EA’s part, neglecting other modes that could be revitalized such as Career mode and Pro Clubs.

Another aspect of controversy is the advantage given to players willing to open their wallets on shiny new player packs. One can find success as a non-paying player if they’re skilled enough at the game, but for the casual FIFA player, there’s a stark difference in quality between teams that are bought with real money and those that aren’t.

FIFA 21 made some positive strides when it came to Ultimate Team. Co-op functionality was added to Ultimate Team in that game. However, it was tied to the single player experience, which provided another avenue of imbalance, as solo players could very easily be matched up with more than one player acting as their opponent.

A fully dedicated co-op mode would work wonders here. FIFA 21 did not allow the use of co-op in FUT Champions, which our review stated to be a missed opportunity for the game. Let’s hope FIFA 22 adds this much requested feature.