21 Sep 2021 12:52 PM +00:00

FIFA 22 First Impressions: Gameplay hits new heights but SWEATY goals are back

With still 10 days to go until the full launch of FIFA 22, we didn't expect to get access to the game so early - but our friends at EA have kitted us out with an early build of this year's game.

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We've played through the game's story-like intro to give you a peak under the hood of FIFA 22.

One night in Paris

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Games in the FIFA franchise usually kick off with a default match between two of the endorsed clubs in the game, and although that does come at the end of the intro - this time, it's all based on the creation of your Avatar, who we think is a street (or Volta) player.

He (or she) has overslept and is running through the hotel, barely noticing David Beckham is also a resident, before meeting up with Lisa Freestyle on the streets of Paris.

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STAR STUDDED - Beckham, Henry, Cantona & Mbappe all feature in the FIFA 22 intro

Here you will be run through the controls, which are simple enough for FIFA veterans - and although there is still a slight novelty factor running, dribbling and passing your way through the streets (even with a cameo of Eric Cantona) - most will just want to get playing, and get a feel for the game.

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This starts when your avatar arrives at PSG training (after a brief exchange with FIFA story mode veteran Beatriz Villanova), although it isn't clear why you have been summoned.

Then to spice things up, Thierry Henry is taking training, with Kylian Mbappe taking centre stage in what we believe to be his acting debut...

Kicking it with the best

This is when we get our first experience of FIFA 22's gameplay, with the arrival of last year's "player lock" feature, which has been enhanced for defending, comes to the fore.

For those that don't know, in attack you can now control players runs, by clicking R3/R stick, and then literally controlling their run.

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BEST IN CLASS - He may not have the highest rating, but Mbappe's pace makes him the best around

It will take some time to get the hang of, but this will do some serious damage in Ultimate Team (or against your mates) if used correctly.

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There is a similar, but a bit more clunky version in defence, in which you can click R3 and then have a clearer idea of who to change player to based on the icon above their head, and flicking the R stick accordingly.

Again, it does feel a bit unnatural, but it has arrived to remove the "randomness" of changing player in defence - and another element to increase the skill gap for the best players.

Under the lights

After this training session, your Avatar goes to pick up a fresh suit (lol) and some tickets for tonight's Champions League semi-final - PSG vs Chelsea.

You are then teleported into the match (after non-speaking cameos from Anthony Joshua, Lewis Hamilton & DJ Snake), and are taking control of the home side - only now is the game your oyster.

Deciding your difficulty is key here - given it was a new FIFA, we decided to protect ourselves and go with Professional difficulty, which may have prevented us from a proper representation of the game.

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STRENGTH IN DEPTH - You get to feel the full power of PSG's ridiculous line-up

With Messi, Neymar and Mbappe in attack, Chelsea's defence had no chance - and when Mbappe bagged a tap-in virtually from the kick-off we thought that perhaps this year's game might be too easy.

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This may be true in a sense, but only because the game is more realistic than it ever has been before.

Wingers Neymar and Messi were pulling into spaces as they would do in real life, we were able to play swift one-twos with the midfield - and were actually breaking down the defence "organically" - like you would try to do in real life - rather than riding the game's meta.

Shooting has improved and should allow you to strike the ball harder, player's offer themselves for passes and move into space - we scored a beauty with Neymar as he pulled away from the box into space, so he had room to strike from distance, with the ball dipping over the goalkeeper and into the side netting.

Dripping with sweat

As much as we scored a couple of great goals, there were two or three that were just straight tap-ins, which could be a worrying side for Ultimate Team players.

Yes, PSG have three very attacking forwards in "MNM" - but it was quite alarming how easy it was to get down into the box and then just square the ball

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AND ANOTHER ONE - Tap-ins could be back on the FIFA menu, especially with these stars

The new more broadcast style television angle allows you to see gaps that you may not have done in previous years, making the opposition defenders (and remember Chelsea play a back five so there's less space) look like statues when you cut them open.

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This could be down the difficulty, but if players manipulate their tactics on FUT, we could be in for a disastrous start to Season 1.

A great addition seems to be player's coming off the bench having more of an impact, with Chelsea's Hakim Ziyech beating three players the first time he got the ball - suggesting stamina may play more of a part this year.

Anything else?

PS5 players will want to know what role Haptic Feedback plays, with vibrations coming with every challenge, strike and header, but a nice touch was a roar when scoring a goal, although the vibrations from the ref's whistle might be slight overkill.

Stewart Robson is the new man partnering Derek Rae in the commentary box, and although it is nice to hear a new voice, the former Arsenal man doesn't quite have the nack of some of his predecessors, with his remarks sounding like they've been read off a script rather than a "never seen before" football match.

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DYNAMIC - Mbappe appears with a goal celebration as he arrives on the FIFA menu

There was meant to be a greater sense of player identities this year, and that was felt with PSG's front three when they had the ball - and perhaps this needs to be extended into defence, with one of Messi's first actions seeing him track-back and outmuscle Christian Pulisic on the wing.

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All-in-all FIFA 22 looks to offer a very positive experience and will be a hit with long-time players.

That said, the skill gap gets bigger and bigger every year, and you do wonder whether first-time players will bother to pay £70 asking price on PS5, especially when its main rival eFootball is completely free this year.

Our recommendation, you can play the FIFA 22 10-hour trial for just 79p / 99c via EA Play. Play through that and make up your own mind.