FIFA 22 boldly steps into the spotlight this year boasting a number of massive changes spurred by the power of next-generation consoles, and it even features a returning cover star.
Releasing October 1, the latest in the dominant sports video game franchise again plants Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe on the cover.
It's fitting, really, as the game continues to ascend right alongside the Frenchman:
The biggest area of improvement for the franchise this year? Easily the way those at EA Sports grabbed the power of next-generation consoles and threw it into the gameplay side of things to make action on the pitch feel even more realistic.
HyperMotion is more than just a smooth nickname for a new feature. Motion capture and droves of new animations to make things feel more life-like during games, even for players away from the action, only deepen the immersion in a way that is blatant from early gameplay videos.
EA Sports says that in addition to the above, machine learning will help produce fresh, realistic movements and actions on the pitch that weren't previously possible. A similar upgrade to A.I. to improve how computer opponents act, be it on offense or defense, mixes up the usual formula, too.
And as always, FUT (FIFA Ultimate Team) is one of the biggest areas players will flock to while enjoying these changes.
The card-collection frenzy that lets players assemble a team of current and former greats returns with many of the beloved features from past years. Arguably more important are the new wrinkles.
Take, for instance, Division Rivals, where FIFA 22 offers a fresh take on progression for those who enjoy the multiplayer side of FUT. Players start low and climb through stages, ranks and divisions. Interestingly, there are skill checkpoints that assure players stay where they belong and don't go off into a free fall. Like in other games, such as ranked modes in shooters, win streaks mean quicker climbs. Also like shooters, seasonal resets mean restarting the climb.
The aim, of course, is to pile up the rewards while continuing to flesh out a dream roster.
EA.com had this to say on the ranking system:
"Get rewarded for your performance each week and Season in FUT 22. Winning matches each week will increase your rank within a division and qualify you for better weekly rewards, while every match you play counts towards seasonal milestones—with end-of-season rewards based on the number of matches you play, regardless of wins or losses."
One of the key concerns any time a competitive ladder comes up like this in online games is the matchmaking behind the scenes. A developer deep dive addressed those concerns: "Matchmaking in Division Rivals aims to find the best possible match by looking for opponents in neighbouring Stages and Divisions while taking into account the player's physical location when determining the FIFA Game Data Center that the match will be played on."
For the best of the best, there's a new Elite Division, where the top 200 ranks show up on a global leaderboard and only matchmake with each other. That, obviously, opens up more opportunities for players outside of the top 200 to climb and more consistently intense matches for those in the top 200.
As expected, there are playoffs and championships to contend for with appropriate rewards, too. Plus, there's at least one new co-op friendly mode and a ton of the usual ways to earn rewards and keep the FUT experience going.
Also of note is deeper customization, especially when it comes to stadiums. More item types means more options, and a new VIP Area will give a player's home-field advantage a distinct feel. Also on the table is having control over sections of fans and the massive flag displays that happen behind goals.
It shouldn't be much of a surprise FUT even goes as far as giving the UI a facelift so that menus are easier to navigate. It's not just a fresh coat of paint for the sake of it, either, as some of the most popular modes are now available right on the initial home page via tabs.
If that sounds like a lot of love for FUT, that's because it is. The mode has transformed into one of the franchise's most popular features, and the laundry list of things to do makes it feel like it could be a standalone release.
With lots of attention given to a popular mode and must-know improvements to the on-pitch gameplay thanks to the uptick in console power available, FIFA 22 has a chance to leapfrog last year's release.