Gameplay, gameplay, gameplay. While much has been said about the realistic visuals offered in EA’s first suite of sports offerings for PS5 and Xbox Series X, their long-term success has to be judged by feel rather than appearance. FIFA 21 [and pad-sporting big bro Madden 21] offered encouragement, but not to the point that PS4 and Xbox One veterans felt like they were missing out. There’s a good chance that will change with FIFA 22, thanks to a new technology called HyperMotion.
For those of a certain age, the name triggers memories of a shady late 80s version of Kylie Minogue. But the nickname means EA is really doing a whole new dance now: 11v11 motion capture, filmed on a real soccer field in Spain, rather than small showdowns in a studio in Vancouver. All 22 ‘players’ wore state-of-the-art Xsens suits, which can capture not only all the thunderous shots and quick passes, but – and this is essential – the positioning of players in relation to each other and the impossible to imitate. aerial challenges studio physics. Final result: more than 4000 new animations. Which, insists executive producer Sam Rivera, transforms both the look and feel of FIFA 22.
“It’s huge,” says Rivera. “The technology has developed so much in the last few years, so now we can go and capture a real football game. It gives us so much more intensity in the animations, and the fact that there is an entire field to move around. change everything in optics [capture] the space is generally much smaller. You play, you are not in a real football environment. We had to choose the best data [from those sessions] to put in the game. Now it’s a lot better because all of the animation is real, you get the athleticism, that top sprint speed, that physicality because there is space and direction. “
Madrid even more real
Does it work in practice? Based on two days’ hands-on experience with FIFA 22 on PS5, the answer is a cautious “yes”. The games don’t seem too different at first, but the changes become more noticeable the more you play, the more you choose the different animations and get a feel for how they contribute to the greater sense of realism. Specific examples of these include sliding to get a cross into the box before the ball goes out of play, while Rivera insists the AI now makes up to six times more decisions per second.
In a game where I play as Atletico Madrid against Liverpool, Luis Suarez takes an awkward first touch that sees the ball hanging in the air, before a more natural second touch allows him to sit down to pierce him. a pass on the face of goal for Yannick Carrasco to win. It’s little moments like this that look and feel more natural than FIFA has ever been, capturing the kind of eye-catching improvisation that professionals are capable of producing, albeit more so. subtle than you might think.
Two particular changes stand out. One is a complete transformation in the behavior of goalkeepers. That’s a big deal: There is a long tradition in both FIFA and PES to pin every goal conceded on your goalkeeper’s awkwardness, and EA is keen to leave those days behind. “We are completely rewriting the goalie system,” said Rivera. “It’s something that you will notice right away and that will stand out. It is more like football. It’s not just the animations, it’s the way they play, the speed they play, the way they play. the goalkeeper makes the transition [between frames]. It’s brand new and it’s really cool. “
On limited evidence he’s right – I note goalies make saves with their weaker hand, swinging the balls in a variety of directions rather than just passing the post each time. In the Euro 2020 final, there was a moment when Jordan Pickford let a tame shot squirm before retrieving it on the second attempt; I have seen two examples of this happening in FIFA 22, compared to zero in an entire year of playing FIFA 21. Mistakes and moments of frustration are always guaranteed, but my take is that if they happen. at least feel authentic (rather than scripted) then their inclusion is warranted. Admittedly, a legion of weekend leagues may not agree.
Need of speed
The other big adjustment is going to affect players of all skill levels and generate some social media hubbub throughout the coming season. Ready? FIFA 22 sees even more momentum added to sprint speed. But in a very special way: when running in a straight line, it is now really possible to overtake a defender and / or accelerate in space. Sure, it looks huge when you take him off the wing with Vinicius Jr, but EA will have to keep a keen eye to prevent the mechanic from OP. If there is one element of gameplay that seems guaranteed to be patched regularly, this is it.
With the feel of the series definitely changing, these extra cosmetic details take on added significance. That’s what made the MLB baseball classic The Show the sport’s leader in the PS3 and PS4 era: he first got the fundamentals right, then nailed the intangibles. EA Canada seems to be following this example. For example, I watch the preparation for a Premier League match at Upton Park. Fans chant “I Forever Blast Bubbles” as bubbles effectively blow around the stadium, before teams wear out in the now ubiquitous pre-match training clothes and line up with mascots in front of them. Post-match details are detailed as well, with a slew of long-awaited stats spanning XG, heat maps and more finally available for you to assess and analyze.
Other subtleties are also brewing. Skill moves are built into your first touch, so there’s no need to control the ball before triggering the right stick deception, and the tactical options split the pitch in half, so you can choose to play a game. possession in defense, then go more direct once the halfway line is crossed. Most of these changes will be under scrutiny in Ultimate Team, but EA is keeping a low profile on this mode for now. What we do know is that it takes a new twist on icons called FUT Heroes, celebrating the past excellence of retired players in a particular league. They include Tim Cahill (Premier League) and Mario Gomez (Bundesliga), and you can read a profile of the nine revealed so far at the link above.
Another fascinating novelty is the rewind function. It acts the same as games like Forza, where you can go back in-game time if you make a mistake. In FIFA 22, you do this by watching an instant replay, scrolling to where you want to go back, and then pressing the trackpad. It’s a small addition, but it’s a good idea for career mode players who might appreciate being able to try different things from the same starting point. And, let’s be honest, anger the players who won’t have to start a match again when they concede.
It’s a summer tradition that EA promises a big change in its long-running football effort, only for a selection of naysayers screaming ‘hoax’ on the way out. Those calls will undoubtedly come in due time, the first time a newly animated goalie lets in a shocking goal, or that sprint mechanic leaves a mediocre chewing slime. But for now, FIFA 22 finally looks like a simulation looking to make real progress. It will be released on October 1 on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, and PC. We can’t wait for the big kickoff.