It’s that time of the year again; a new entry in the uber-popular FIFA series has arrived from EA Sports, this year bringing FIFA 22 to store shelves. While fans of the series have, in recent years, come to expect that new entries in the franchise won’t be breaking the mould when it comes to new features and changes, FIFA 22 actually sits among the most different releases when compared to its predecessor.

The greatest, most impactful change in the series in quite a number of years, is the addition of HyperMotion to FIFA 22 on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S. This new feature finally brings real motion captured animations to the game, replacing the oftentimes janky animation system which has remained largely unchanged over the past generation of the FIFA releases.

EA Sports captured real-world movements of professional footballers for the HyperMotion system to create thousands of realistic animations in FIFA 22. It is quite difficult to convey just how much of an improvement to the fluidity and feel of the game that this new system offers. The practical elimination of janky, unnatural animations and behaviour from players which regulars of the series will be all too familiar with, makes the game feel more polished and realistic than ever before.

Visually, the game has also taken a noticeable leap from FIFA 21’s next-generation release. Many of the visual subsystems have been given an enormous overhaul, with sweat, hair, skin and clothing all looking closer again to hyper realistic. Unfortunately, this visual upgrade comes at an extra cost for the next-generation version, which I am not a fan of as a sales model. Despite this, the FIFA 22 ultimately feels like a different game on PlayStation 4 versus PlayStation 5, so if you have a next-gen console, there is truly only one choice on which version to buy.

Outside of visual improvements, the core gameplay has also undergone a transformative change in FIFA 22, which is likely to split opinion among the fan base. FIFA 22 has slowed down the pace of the game enormously. The ball feels heavier and moves around the pitch more slowly. Players feel less like hyper-flexible rag dolls and more like the muscular masses they are. As a result, pace his finally become less crucial in FIFA 22 and passing accuracy and skill is more important than ever before. I had become so used to the pace-oriented focus of the game in recent years that I found myself terrible at FIFA 22 in my initial hours playing. It took a considerable adjustment period before the new style of play finally clicked with me and I can honestly say, the game is all the better for it.

While those changes are a major differentiator, FIFA 22 unfortunately doesn’t overhaul a great deal when it comes to its game modes. Ultimate Team, the most popular mode and EA’s greatest microtransaction cash-cow, remains practically unchanged from FIFA 21. Volta, the popular street football mode introduced in recent years, also makes a return in FIFA 22. The mode introduces a few new features, however, none of these are major and so the mode feels largely the same as it did in FIFA 21.

Some new gameplay features have been added, however, I personally found them very difficult to use in-match, and so they went largely ignored. New mechanics allow you to direct players to make runs in specific directions, switch control away from the player in control of the ball and a feature called ‘knock-ons’, which I’m unsure the difference of versus the existing flick system, which has been possible for many entries by using the right analogue stick. Ultimately, I found all of these features to be insignificant relative to the change in experience provided by HyperMotion and the game pace slowdown.

The biggest mode change comes within Career Mode, where you’re now able to create your own team, with a custom stadium, custom kits and a custom crest. This addition is a long-requested feature which adds a great new novelty to Career Mode; my own personal favourite mode in the game. The team which you generate will slot into an existing league, taking the place of any team of your choosing in that league. The downside, of course, is that such a fake team will initially be filled with fake generated players, though you can swap those out with the real life players of your choosing by entering the transfer market, just as with any other Career Mode team.

Overall then, FIFA 22 feels like a relativised game, from a gameplay perspective, when playing on next-gen consoles. The slower paced gameplay brings skill back to the forefront of what is important in FIFA 22, yet the largely unchanged game modes means that the game lacks the killer punch which new modes deal to the annual entries, such as The Journey, Volta Football and Volta Story in recent years. If you’re a fan of the series, you will of course be buying FIFA 22 and if you’re looking for a change in the gameplay feeling, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!