I am a long-time FIFA Ultimate Team fan. I first indulged in the mode in FIFA 12 – yes, I had Welliton and Doumbia up front – and I have played FIFA’s most competitive and popular mode frequently ever since. Last year though, in FIFA 21, I finally cracked. Maybe it was the gameplay, or maybe I was simply feeling too drained after plowing away at FUT for more than eight years, but I did not enjoy the mode in FIFA 21. By the New Year, I had downed tools completely, only booting up the game for the occasional Pro Clubs session.
With this in mind, FIFA 22 had work to do – not only tempt me back to Ultimate Team, but to keep me invested. When it came down to reviewing FIFA 22, specifically Ultimate Team due to its competitive nature, I was very aware that I may not even feel enthused enough about it to even string some words together.
However, after living with FIFA 22 Ultimate Team for a week, I think I’m convinced enough to come out and say it – it’s drawn me back in, and I’m enjoying FUT again.
Who knows, maybe the extended break from Ultimate Team last year did me the world of good, but after just seven days, I’ve found myself properly gripped by Ultimate Team again – something I wasn’t sure would be possible after how I felt last year.
From what I’ve experienced in my first full week with FUT 22, I can certainly say that the gameplay is a big factor in this. It’s not without faults: the impact of HyperMotion seems pretty minimal and is looking like yet another fancily-named marketing gimmick, heading accuracy seems to be a bit unpredictable, and whether intended as a ‘realistic’ feature or not, I’ve found that tall players – such as my beloved Anderson Talisca – struggle to not trip over themselves when trying to dribble, regardless of how good their stats are.
More importantly though, on the positive side, there appears to be less AI hand-holding than last year, pace and physicality actually seems well-balanced, and I’ve experienced far fewer head-scratching moments compared to FIFA 21.
It feels more like FIFA 21+1 than a brand new gameplay experience.
Despite being the first FIFA properly built for new-gen consoles, it certainly doesn’t feel revolutionary – it feels more like FIFA 21+1 than a brand new gameplay experience. But it is cleaner and more enjoyable compared to its predecessor, and in a grindy mode like Ultimate Team, that’s important.
Aside from gameplay, I’m also loving the new Division Rivals system. It’s more simple, less punishing, but also doesn’t let that cheapen the feeling of climbing up the ranks. While not nearly good enough to compete in FUT Champions, I feel the changes in that department will also have a similar, positive effect on the top-tier competitive players.
There are, however, still some aspects of Ultimate Team that irk me.
While having daily previews for regular packs is good to see, the fact previews don’t extend to promos means that limited-stock pack drops still have an uneasy, cash-grabby, and almost predatory feel to them. While pay-to-win will, sadly, always be in Ultimate Team’s blood, EA is still far too aggressive in that department.
Also, the fast loading times into games on the PS5 are super, however it now means I have a split second to scout out my opposition’s team in the loading screen before a match. While not FUT-specific, there also appears to be some weird humming in the background of some crowd noise audio, which can get really annoying.
FIFA 22 could be the most enjoyable competitive FIFA game we’ve had for a few years
Aside from those issues though – some of which, such as preview packs, are so ingrained into FUT it will take a real landmark moment to change them – I’m enjoying Ultimate Team again. It’s not perfect, sure, but as someone who became disenfranchised with the mode within a couple of months in FIFA 21, I’m genuinely surprised to be sitting here writing that.
I am still wary, though. Ultimate Team burnout through lots of grinding and a heavy saturation of content could strike again, and all it takes is one of EA Sports’ infamous gameplay patches to completely flip the feel, the meta, and the enjoyment of the gameplay on its head.
However, I’m optimistic that won’t happen this time around, and that I’ll be able to still say in a few months time – when we revisit FIFA 22 for a re-review – that I’m sinking just as much time into FUT as I am now. Sure, FIFA 22 might not be the technical, ground-breaking marvel we thought it could be with all of that new power under the hood, but by not pushing too many boundaries and instead looking to tidy up the experience from FIFA 21, this could be the most enjoyable competitive FIFA game we’ve had for a few years.