FIFA 22 fully releases on the 1st of October in Australia. And more than ever before, if you’re playing on different hardware, you’re playing a genuinely different version of FIFA.
Most of the AI and physics improvements are reserved for the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S. Technically this applies to Stadia too — but maybe don’t play a reaction-based sports game on Stadia.
So it’s a tale of two FIFAs. A good player will be a good player no matter what — but someone used to playing FIFA 22 on the PS4 who enters a tournament playing the PS5 version will find FIFA handling much differently. There’s no crossplay in FIFA 22, and for once there’s actually a good technical reason.
You’ll find all the most important changes below, starting with those that affect everyone, followed by the new-gen tech. Last-gen changes are more like the under-the-hood tweaks we’re used to from FIFA. I’ll also focus a little more on the gameplay changes I’ve noticed have a big effect.
How shielding the ball in FIFA 22 works
Ball shielding has needed some love for quite some time, so I’m glad to see this reworked. Player Personality plays more of a role here now, with Strength and Ball Control deciding how protected that ball will be. You’ll notice this as a trend in FIFA 22’s changes, as everything a player should be good at has become more exaggerated.
To shield, simply press LT to hold the defender off. This should be a bit more reliable now. Don’t forget to use it on your own side of the pitch as well, and it can also be used as a quick counter to the opponent’s tackle.
This is a big deal for those who like to play with a big front man like Ibrahimovic — after passing him the ball, he can use his size and power to hold up play while the rest of the team moves up. This physicality will also come into play while shielding air balls.
How FIFA 22’s physics is controlled
In the new generation section below we’ll touch on the new physics system, and how it calculates and animates the ball ricocheting much more thanks to full-match motion capture and machine learning. But there’s a reason why it’s not such a big deal.
While the new-gen calculations and animations are impressive, aspects of FIFA 22’s physics are controlled to nudge the pace of the game towards a more fast and fun experience. EA has been open about this in their change notes. Case in point: EA has increased the likelihood of the ball going towards your teammates after a successful tackle. This reduces the situations where the ball goes towards no one, and the game is confused as to “whose” ball it is, and players kind of jog around like they don’t want it.
FIFA 22 also reduces the amount of “tacklebacks,” which is when a tackler takes the ball from an attacker, and after the initial stumble the attacker is able to take the ball back and continue. Players with higher tackling attributes will also win the ball more, thanks to a more accurate tackle and better positioning.
You’ll also notice this “controlling the outcome” in shots on goal, and goalkeeper behaviour. There are under-the-hood nudges towards determining what should happen. So if you’re a last-gen hardware player worried about missing out on all the amazing physics improvements, keep in mind how much of this is controlled.
Containing attackers with R1/RB
One of the changes I haven’t seen talked about much is that the Teammate Contain has been massively buffed. So much so that EA has introduced a controlling factor.
Pressing R1/RB will cause a nearby player to approach the attacker with the ball, as usual — but now, their effectiveness scales with attributes like defensive awareness, defensive work rate, and remaining in-match stamina. These players will close faster and actually present a tackle threat. In my short time with it, this seems a lot more effective, and I’d guess that this defensive buff is designed to match the offensive buff to shielding the ball.
FIFA 22 also introduces a “contain stamina” attribute, meaning players can only contain for so long before dropping off and recharging. Aggressive defenders will probably never run out of contain stamina — they’ll have either tackled, or bungled, long before the meter is depleted.
FIFA 22’s explosive sprints, and attack switch-ups
Adding features like this is always a balancing act — when you give defenders more power, you have to give something to attackers. In FIFA 22, this comes in the form of momentum switch-ups, both at the micro and macro level.
Players dribbling forward (forward to the player, not forward on the pitch) can enjoy a burst of “super sprint” to surprise defenders. At the moment this is fairly limited, because accelerating at an angle will only sprint normally. So you’re forced to telegraph your intentions somewhat. It could still benefit players like Lionel Messi who don’t have the highest top speed, but excel at catching defenders off guard with acceleration.
This is also in line with what I would call “best practice” anyway, as holding the sprint button the entire match is a great way to exhaust players, tapering off past the 80th minute and increasing the chance of injuries and yellow cards. Even without the Explosive Sprints feature, it’s best to use sprints in short bursts.
Just as a two-speed switch-up in your momentum can leave defenders in the dust at the individual level, you can also switch your speed on a team-wide tactical level. FIFA 22 allows you to go in with different gameplans for build-up play and chance creation.
This mostly has to do with how direct you want to play. Do you want to walk the ball into the net like 2008-era Barcelona? Or do you want more direct play? And of course, you can choose a uniform approach to your build-up and chance creation strategies, or you can shock the defence with a different style in the final third.
FIFA 22’s shooting is easier
FIFA 22 has massively boosted players’ shooting ability in 1 on 1 situations. It’s early days, but so far it’s felt like you’re almost guaranteed to score in these provided you’re not up against an absolute top-tier keeper.
The flipside of that is shots from tight angles, or with nearby defenders, are less successful and less likely to hit their target. The percentage of times they’ll hit the target, and the goal, is less. All of this is still dependent on the player’s shooting attribute, and you can still hit a Timed Shot to make sure the shot fits nicely with their stride. The window for these timed shots has also been increased.
All told, I think more balls will be going into the net with these changes, and a dominant player will especially reap the benefits. If you can get into more goal-scoring situations, the levers of FIFA 22 have been adjusted to make you score more. Just make sure the opportunities go to players with a high shooting attribute.
Other things that are new in FIFA 22
- Icon Switching — Pressing R3 while defending will bring up several icons on-screen, each corresponding to an input you can press to easily switch to that player.
- Directional Clearances — Ball trajectories will now follow the left stick input, or as close to it as the defender’s body position will allow.
- Increased max top speed, and deceleration will be more controlled according to player attributes.
- Competitive Master Switch — Turning this on ensures multiple other “assist” settings are disabled so the skill floor is raised and you can be sure what happens on the pitch is actually what your opponent intended.
- More detailed match analysis so you can trawl through the stats and understand where you’re potentially going wrong.
Super Knock On — Double-tapping the right stick in a direction will knock the ball on longer than normal.
What’s new with FIFA 22’s next-gen version
FIFA 22 HyperMotion is what EA is calling the tech that new-gen versions of FIFA are based on. It’s basically more of everything — more AI grunt, more physics calculations, more player likenesses, and more zesty goal celebrations. Thanks to the AI, attackers can make six times as many decisions per second. Defenders also work together more as a unit.
But there are negatives as well — putting a player in the Centre Back position who isn’t a Centre Back, for example, will penalise their defensive positioning attribute. They’ll cover the zone, but not like a true centre back. Fatigue will also play a greater part in defensive positioning.
EA once used the largest motion capture facility in the northern hemisphere to record individual athletes’ moves as animations. They’d run at full speed, and turn 15 degrees. Then do it again, turning 30 degrees. Then again, at 45 degrees. And so on.
Now they’re able to put 22 athletes in suits outside and capture an entire match:
With this host of natural animations, combined with machine learning algorithms, FIFA 22 should be better at crossing the Uncanny Valley of Physics endemic to sports games. The engine already had myriad variables for things like ball spin, acceleration, etc. But now the engine will have more animations for niche situations, like the ball awkwardly coming off a calf while spinning, or two-player headers, or a ricochet off a player still rising from the ground.
Everything needs a brand name at EA, so it’s calling this ML-Flow. In their own words:
ML-Flow’s neural network algorithm is able to generate ball approach animations in real time, including stride adjustments, running cadence, pose matching, and transitions. ML-Flow is designed to help increase the fluidity and authenticity of ball approaches.
As we mentioned above though, the game is still keen on maintaining control of the outcome in some situations. So it’s not a 100% true physics simulation. That’s probably a good thing for pacing reasons, at least until we have AI that can respond to the near-infinite physics possibilities like real players would.
Additional hardware, AI, and physics capabilities does mean the game can calculate more touches on the ball, however. That’s good news for the Messis and the Modrics of the world, whose deft touches manage to weave their way through defensive lines. It’s much easier for a game like FIFA to understand traits like “strength” and “speed”, but with better traps and the ability to keep the ball close for more touches, fans of these mini maestros may want to keep an eye out for what’s newly possible in FIFA 22.
We’ll be putting up some tips on how to use the above changes to maximum effect, so stay tuned!