Last year's FIFA 21 was the series' first outing on the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, and while it proved a sizeable jump up from the Xbox One version in the visual department, there weren't too many comparisons to make from a gameplay perspective. FIFA 22, however, is marketing its next-gen version around something called Hypermotion Technology, and the result is a markedly improved experience on the pitch.
In a nutshell, the best thing we can say about this year's FIFA is that it plays a very good game of football. Not just good, but more authentic as well. It's less about constant end-to-end goal fests and spamming ridiculous skill moves, and more about possession-based build-ups and actually having to think more strategically about how to break your opponent down, rather than just exploiting a batch of unrealistic mechanics.
There's no one singular element you can point out as having been enhanced by Hypermotion Technology (described as "groundbreaking new gameplay tech"), but ultimately everything just feels smoother, more polished and more balanced. Players react more appropriately to certain situations and stick more rigidly to their defensive instructions, and it feels like you have greater freedom this year to play football your way — whether that's dashing through the middle of the pitch on the counter-attack like in previous years, or slowly passing your way around the opposition before unleashing a barrage of crosses from the wing. Various strategies can prove effective in FIFA 22.
Goalkeepers, too, have received a lot of attention. They're a little bizarre now, acting like supermen and women when you get up close, heroically diving to prevent almost certain goals, while sometimes also failing to react appropriately and strangely watching the ball go past them when they should be diving to make a save. They're not perfect, but they're a definite improvement over what FIFA 21 had to offer in this department.
FIFA 22 does still have an attacking focus above all else, perhaps still proving too exaggerated in dishing out consistently high scorelines than we'd like, but EA has undoubtedly balanced things more appropriately this year. The only question now is whether the slower pace and greater focus on possession will be undone with patches in the months to come.
Away from the pitch, there's no major new mode to get excited about in FIFA 22, but everything has received a welcome touch-up. The downside is that certain features aren't as good as they sound on paper, so it's best to keep expectations relatively low. Create-A-Club in Career Mode, for example, sounds like the perfect addition, but in practice it offers a fairly limited set of options that really don't provide much in the way of customisation, especially when compared to certain other major sports games. It's fine, but it could have been much more.
There are some pretty nice quality-of-life changes elsewhere though, with Player Career Mode getting the likes of all-new Match Objectives along with an overhauled Player Growth system and special cinematic cutscenes. Pro Clubs adds various improvements including the ability to squad-up with friends in drop-in matches and play as a female for the first time, and the street-based Volta (which admittedly, we find hard to get excited about) changes things up by putting a greater emphasis on squad play whilst also providing some fun new mini-games.
And then there's Ultimate Team, which some would describe as the giant elephant in the room. Make no mistake, the mode remains largely grind-to-win or pay-to-win in FIFA 22, although the new Division Rivals system, which never forces relegation from a division, feels a lot less pressurised than it has in the past. Then again, getting access to the top rewards in FUT Champions has been made harder than ever, so lesser-skilled players will need to rely on a lot more luck (or real money) to collect the best players in the game.
In terms of presentation, the game looks the part on Xbox Series X and benefits from good performance and great loading times. The environments, stadiums and pitches in particular are very easy on the eye, and while the player models still aren't as good as in, say, PES 2021, they certainly shape up better than ever for the FIFA series. Just keep in mind that the Xbox Series S version has received some reports of surprisingly poor quality visuals, which EA has confirmed is an issue it's working to fix as a "priority".
We're pleasantly surprised by FIFA 22 on Xbox Series X. The franchise had a good first outing on next-gen consoles last year, but the gameplay has really been taken up a notch this time around, seemingly proving that "Hypermotion Technology" isn't just another throwaway buzzword. It's not perfect, and there are certain areas off the pitch that we wish could have received even more attention, but this is the best FIFA has been in quite a few years, and we just hope it isn't ruined by unnecessary gameplay patches down the line.