What a year of football we have had! Fan-less stadiums, beloved players taken ill on the pitch and the emotional journey that was the Euros. FIFA 22 introduces HyperMotion, a gaming mechanic with a new ethos: to replicate the game we love in the most realistic way to date.
Football is coming home! OK, it didn’t come home in the way English fans thought it would, but it is coming home in some way, and it does so in a few days on the 1st of October: the day that marks the release of FIFA 22. Exciting as the new release is, I am a little crestfallen that I have to say goodbye to my Ultimate Team. So long fellas, nice knowing you. Just one of those things, trying not to think about it. As the new season approaches, Ben White is now securing the back four at Arsenal, Varane, Ronaldo and Sancho have joined Manchester United, Daka is set to join Iheanacho and Vardy as the attacking flair of Leicester, Manchester City spent over £100 million on England ace Jack Grealish, missing out on Harry Kane during the summer; it will be a very interesting season in the Premier League, we are already a few gameweeks in, Brentford gave Liverpool a seeing to, Arsenal ended their losing streak in the London Derby against spurs - FIFA 22 cannot come soon enough!
My Initial Thoughts
I will be honest with you, I was a little disappointed by FIFA 22’s reveal trailer; nothing looked obviously different in the close-up video shots of our favourite attacking players through on goal, and we should have been able to discern at least something. FIFA 21, while a great game I gave days of my life to, had room for improvement. Fans want more than a mere squad update from FIFA 22, a 15-second download could achieve that. Almost three weeks later, EA released an in-depth gameplay trailer detailing where the game would make alterations to its forerunners – this was more like it.
How is FIFA 22 any different?
So, Steve Bruce has 99 pace and most of the world's top players, like CR7, have had their ratings knocked down a point. Anthony Joshua is in the game. What else? FIFA 22 has been deservedly described as EA’s ‘biggest animation refresh in the history of the franchise’, with most of those alterations resulting from the integration of machine learning into the physics of the games engine. To input data into a machine, EA needed appropriate subjects to monitor, subjects wearing Exo-suits with myriad kinetic sensors attached to them whilst playing a match, so the developers organised a full 11 versus 11 squad comprised of professional players to do so. In the same way one can discern what a jigsaw puzzle might display the more pieces they have arranged, the more data given to an algorithm the better effective that algorithm will be. The people down at EA decided to take this rule and riff on it, giving 8.7 million data frames and 4000 new animations to feed the ML-Flow AI Engine, software designed to generate the most realistic physics possible, maintaining true-to-life player interactions. I was concerned that FIFA 22 would resemble previous titles enough so to feel like a futile buy, yet to know that the revolutionary use of machine learning will have a similarly revolutionary effect on gameplay suggests that FIFA 22 is to be a turning point in the life-cycle of our favourite football gaming franchise, a maturation if you will.
'The people down at EA decided to take this rule and riff on it, giving 8.7 million data frames and 4000 new animations to feed the ML-Flow AI Engine, software designed to generate the most realistic physics possible.'
Can ML-Flow be applied to all players on the pitch?
Problem is, what would be the point of machine learning if it applied only to players on the ball, how about the other 21 players? Could the ML-Flow engine be applied to players who we, at any given moment, don’t have control over? If we are jockeying Riyad Mahrez with Luke Shaw, how do we know what Harry Maguire and Raphael Varane are doing in the middle? This was where I felt FIFA 21 fell short, my defenders didn’t see or track the runs I saw from the view in the stands so when a pacey striker got on the end of the ball, they left John Stones, and myself, looking very stupid indeed. FIFA 22, however, integrates machine learning into the intelligence of players controlled by AI, meaning that players all over the pitch are quicker to perceive, better tailored to read the game and act accordingly. EA have gone as far as to suggest that players, notably attackers, are up to six times more active in their off-the-ball movement compared to previous games. If true, how can we even compare FIFA 22 to prior titles?
How will the introduction of machine learning affect gameplay?
More, another advantageous outcome following the mapping of real player physics is a higher responsiveness in 50/50 battles, particularly airborne ones; fiercely competitive corners can end up going either way in a joust not solely governed by strength attributes, and this time around your defender won’t uncontrollably sky a header; corners will have cleaner outcomes as more commonly seen in real matches. Yet another plus lies in the upgraded agility and control seen in attacking players, ‘taking it down like Foden’ as EA put it: a general improvement in the sway players, especially those with higher dribbling stats, have over the ball which, when partnered with the new Explosive Sprint system, can lead to a vastly diversified method of attack. I found FIFA 21 repetitive in this way, a broken record if you will, using the same short pass, through ball, 1-2 driven cross and finesse or special finish in order to go 1-0 up in the 3rd minute, but it looks as though FIFA 22 will break the mould in this regard, which is not to say that FIFA 22 will cause a dearth of goals, only that the process of creating said goals will be assorted, a step closer to indefatigable.
'Yet another plus lies in the upgraded agility and control seen in attacking players, 'taking it down like Foden’ as EA put it: a general improvement in the sway players have over the ball.'
Football spins and goal-keeper's top bins, the nuances of gameplay:
Recent FIFA titles have done a stellar job of reflecting the distinctive manner of motion some players possess, the running styles of Raheem Sterling and Erling Haaland being two salient examples. There is a particular position on the pitch that hasn’t had the same treatment though: the goalkeepers. Put Donnarumma, Lloris and Mendy next to one another and it is easy to see how differently they move, despite all three being world-class keepers. FIFA 22 gives credence to this variation in style, injecting the game with an all-new goalkeeping physics layout. I am sincerely hoping that Pickford mouths ‘no problem’ every time he is faced with a penalty, that would be neat. That said, there is another side to FIFA 22 set to make keeper’s jobs harder, perhaps the ulterior motive behind the re-vamped kinetics: convincing ball physics. A football spins, it glides through the air depending on how it rotates in revolution, how it was struck; all factors affect how a ball bounces, does it bounce and veer off unexpectedly to the side, or does it merely skim the surface as a stone does the sea? FIFA 22 aims to accurately demonstrate the answer in its gameplay, delivering a ball that is responsively versatile.
A new commentator team:
To the delight of some of the more critical fans, the commentator team has had a re-shuffle, now comprised of Derek Rae, Stewart Robson, and the first female commentator in FIFA history, Ex-Arsenal and England Right-Back, Alex Scott. Going hand-in-hand with a novel range of theatrical stadium displays, known as Dynamic Gameday Atmosphere, the range in pundits gives an auditory and visual presence that accurately captures the buzzing milieu of a football stadium. Think pre-game light shows, dramatic goal celebrations and impassioned commentators, FIFA 22 is a game that grabs the lightning of the stadium atmosphere and sticks it in a bottle, or a disc in this case. Electric Games have learned since the release of this article that the Player Career Mode specifically has been rewarded with a collection of post-game cinematics reflecting the events of the game, further serving to enhance a co-operative relationship between game and gamer, responding to our input with tailored output.
'Going hand-in-hand with a novel range of theatrical stadium displays, known as Dynamic Gameday Atmosphere, the range in pundits gives an auditory and visual presence that accurately captures the buzzing milieu of a football stadium.'
Will Career Mode or Ultimate Team experience any changes?
Alright! A few days after the gameplay reveal came the Career Mode Trailer set to clear up any confusion about what would be new. It was the Player Career Mode that seemed initially a bit dubious, yet now we know that matches will revolve around completing game-to-game challenges that, if successful, can boost our manager rating so as to keep our player on the team sheet. More, the way in which we progress our player has been given a revamp: a new development interface, the use of novel skill point trees and even temporary attribute boosts - FIFA 22 really does appear to have taken on a new lease of life. When playing in the Manager Career Mode we will be able to create a brand-new Club, a Stadium, of which fans will leave early if the team underperforms, and the clubs individual Kits and Crests. FIFA 22 aims to, in the style of the time, allow users further abilities to personalise the subtleties of their careers, a feature I am tremendously excited for. OK, we know subconsciously if we are playing at Town Park or Anfield, but often we don’t pay attention to the stadium we are nestled in, yet we can appreciate our surroundings if we are responsible for designing them. Many other smaller changes to gaming modes, like Ole Gunnar Solksjaer and Robbie Keane appearing as Heroes in Ultimate Team, are set to be announced in the near future, so keep an eye on our socials to remain in the know!
FIFA 22 looks to be a turn in the road, a shift in the tracks if you will; a game that acknowledges the virtues of the games that came before it, but ultimately looking to shake up the mix a bit. The result? A slightly slower, varied and nuanced gameplay that is set to transfix us in another year of Esports. FIFA fans have long been stating that they desire differences year on year, which is not to say gaming modes can’t return as VOLTA football did, and EA look as though they are going to reply to fan’s wishes by giving them a good deal of what they want; Hypermotion, Explosive Sprint, Team and Stadium Builders, Volta Arcade, ML-Flow enhancements,Time will tell, but in the meantime you can pre-order the FIFA 22 game here.
Written by Joel Gunner.
Images sourced from EA Official FIFA 22 Gameplay Trailer.