If ever there was a time to utilise a bit of tactical self isolating, then the official launch of FIFA 22 would surely be it. Lock yourself away with plenty of snacks and two buckets (IYKYK) and take a deep dive into all the game has to offer. That’s what we did anyway…

We’re back at that time of year where husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends should all prepare to say goodbye to their respective others for the next month or so. Animals would call it hibernation, but us evolved human types call it the launch of FIFA 22, and it means around half the population will shut down as they try and build their Ultimate Team or guide a lowly division three side to the heights of Champions League glory, along with the numerous other in-game options on offer. So, where to start?

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Straight from the off you can pretty much pick up and continue from where you left off from FIFA 21, as has become somewhat customary over the years. There’s no major changes to the in-game mechanics, so you’ll find a fairly seamless transition to match play. Even your Ultimate Team name will carry over from the last iteration, making you wonder why you parted with £55-£70 (depending on your console). But once you start to get immersed, you soon remember why, and realise, as always, that it’s money well spent. Seriously, in a year's time, divide the cost of the game by the hours you spent playing it and you’ll realise it’s been well worth it.

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Let’s delve into the game mechanics a little bit more before we expand into the different game modes. As we said, you can pick up the controller and jump straight back into a FIFA 22 match, and you’ll do just fine. But given a few games and you’ll start to notice subtle differences from its predecessor. These come in the form of the upgraded ball physics and player positioning, combining to make for a much more authentic experience. Add the next-gen HyperMotion technology, which implements 11v11 motion capture for the first time and you get a new level of real movement data and animations to help the game look, behave, and feel realistic.

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And then there’s the goalkeepers. At times in FIFA 21 it almost felt too easy to score, and some of the world’s best stoppers were made to look like chumps. Well that’s been altered here, with complete rewrite to how goalkeepers operate, with smarter positioning, better stops, and even individual keepers’ styles on display. It’s another nice touch, and that on top of more intelligent defensive lines means it’s a bit more tricky to find the back of the net. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? We’ll leave you to decide. But when you do manage to score, it’s all the more satisfying, thanks to little tweaks from EA Sports to the net physics to make the net bulge more realistically. 

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Moving on to other game modes then and FIFA 22 introduces the all-new Skill Meter and Signature Abilities to Volta to mix up play and let you influence the game. Volta Arcade offers up a new way of playing, including Dodgeball, Foot Tennis, Team Keepaway, Disco Lava, and more. Eight games are available at launch with more to follow. On the court, new scoring mechanics reward you for playing with flair in order to multiply the number of goals you score. Lots of meaningless fun to be had here.

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Career mode has been given a revamp but is as in-depth as ever. It still feels like it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be though; part football manager, part player/team journey… a lot of promise and certainly hours to be spent guiding a smaller team all the way to glory.

For us and many others, Ultimate Team has been the great addition to the FIFA series, and it continues to be the shining – and addictive – light here. Easier ways to compete make it all the more important to build a strong squad, and that buzz of opening a new player pack is still there. In truth, Ultimate Team has featured the fewest changes overall, but if it ain’t broke and all that…

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All in all, FIFA 22 offers improvements over FIFA 21. Sure there are criticisms (never thought we’d miss Lee Dixon on commentary so much), but on the whole it feels like there’s enough alterations for the better here to keep the franchise feeling fresh. Ratings still need a bit of attention though – Steve Bruce, 99 pace?

FIFA 22 is available for preorder on all platforms now.