The start of the new generation championship, last October, was just an appetizer. As we told you in our FIFA 21 Next Gen review, Electronic Arts had only laid the foundations of what would later be the real line-up to be presented on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X fields. FIFA 22 represents the dream team of the American company, the team ready to mark a real step forward for the football series, thanks to the hardware power guaranteed by the Sony and Microsoft consoles. It is actually still early to unbalance how much EA has hit the target, but our brief test with a very limited demo of FIFA 22 he showed us a game that was safer than his own technical abilities, still – at least apparently – well linked to the playful philosophy of the brand but not for this reason renouncing. Before we got off on the virtual turf, we also had a chance to chat on the sidelines with Sam Rivera, who told us from his point of view the improvements offered by this new chapter.
Hypermotion is noticeable
The founding pillar of FIFA 22 is called Hypermotion, the fiercely next gen technology that allowed the development team to recalibrate part of the gameplay foundation: its new generation origin prevents it from being “scaled” on the previous Sony and Microsoft branded platforms, and therefore the PS4 and Xbox One versions of FIFA 22 will not present the playful changes that we will list in the course of the article.
Rivera points out that EA has been working on Hypermotion “for about 3 years. We had reached the limit of the power of the previous consoles, while with the advent of the next gen we have been able to take advantage of this new technology to offer a completely new level of realism”.
Hypermotion is the result of the combination of two features that Rivera proudly flaunts: on the one hand we find theadvanced 11vs11 match capture, on the other hand, the implementation of the machine learning. The first proposes a rather advanced system of capturing the movements of the players, the result of the use of Xsens suits, which – by recording the action of individual players directly on the pitch and not in a studio – allow the reproduction of new and more precise movements, as well as optimally interconnected.
“We fully recorded the 90 minutes of the players on the pitch” – Rivera specifies to our microphones, a sign of how much EA has worked to give greater importance to the realism of the staging. Machine Learning, for its part, provides a superior identification to the whole, allowing artificial intelligence to learn new patterns and adapt to the player’s style. On paper, they are all decidedly intriguing features but, to the test of facts, what is their impact pad on the hand? The demo we tried was still in Beta version, in a rather unripe phase, yet we must admit that the step forward, in terms of fluidity and behavioral verisimilitude, seemed tangible to us. The new animations are frankly noticeable, link the maneuvers with more accuracy, and the movements of the athletes give the whole a glance that is certainly more satisfying.
There are far fewer interruptions in the shots of the race, and the same can be said for the tackles and scrums in the area. These refinements are not only visual, but are also reflected in the control of the team: the precision of the inputs, in this sense, has not suffered any setbacks or delays, although the animations now appear more extensive and well connected in relation to the past. Sam Rivera tells us: “Responsiveness is a fundamental element to make the game fun. In the past chapters we used shorter animations, since it was not possible to extend the movements of the players as we wanted. Now the transitions are longer, without affecting the rapidity of the inputs. Our aim is to achieve the correct balance between responsiveness and visual realism “.
This balance is certainly more present compared to past episodes: the management of the sphere and the progression of offensive maneuvers thus acquire a new depth and a sense of superior verisimilitude. In the test build the teams to play with were all high profile, from Real Madrid to Liverpool, passing through Chelsea, Inter Milan, PSG, Manchester City, Tottenham, Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid, not to mention Soccer Aid, a squad of super champions of the past (with Pele, Maradona and Ronaldinho) practically unstoppable.
It follows that the spectacle of the game and the reproduction of the athletes, all very famous, were set on very high levels; therefore we would like to observe the qualities of the Hypermotion even on less famous teams. The same curiosity applies to the renewed tactical artificial intelligence added in FIFA 22: According to the team’s words, CPU-led footballers make six times more decisions per second than in the past. When it comes to formations characterized by their strong personality, the recognizability of movements, actions, overlaps and defensive maneuvers is quite evident.
Rivera explains, however, that “the quality of the AI and the positioning of the athletes on the field does not depend on the degree of challenge selected. The approach to the game and the difficulty depends on how the user is able to read the action. opponent, making adequate use of the available strategies “. And speaking of tactics, new offensive ideas have been added, strongly requested by the community, which give the opportunity to use a style based on long balls, balance, ball possession and other actions. We will obviously need more games and more combinations of teams to test the effectiveness of such refinements, but for the moment the AI has seemed a bit fluctuating, especially as regards the behavior of the goalkeepers. Electronic Arts claims to have rewritten most of the rules that manage the actions of the extreme defender, from the most accentuated reliability to the use of more elaborate animations.
If on the one hand the goalkeepers proved to be very strong in one-on-one and in their reflexes from a distance, on the other hand they sometimes made some outings “to catch butterflies” which left the mirror of the team too exposed for the attackers. door. However, we are talking about a preliminary build, and many of these inaccuracies can be filed down in due course. As well as the animations, the contrasts and the temperament of the team, even the physics of the ball has undergone improvements, in the friction of the contact, in the rotation and in the speed: the parabolic trajectories are now more realistic, while some concession to exaggeration is still present in the broadsides from beyond the air of rigor.
On the other hand, no substantial change regarding set pieces: “The changes are mostly visual” – Rivera tells us – “the game mechanics have remained unchanged, but the details connected to Hypermotion, such as the new set of animations, have changed. the behaviors of the players on the pitch and, in general, the feeling of immersion that you can experience “. If overall then FIFA 22 has known concrete adjustments designed to increase the simulation aspect, the playful identity of the brand has not known major changes: at least from the demo, in fact, the speed of the game was however quite accelerated. Of course, the layering of the animations and the renewed physics of the ball wisely help to attenuate the frenzy of the maneuvers, but overall the gap from the previous chapter, in terms of pure rhythm, is not so marked.
On the other hand, as Rivera points out: “The speed of the game is not directly related to Hypermotion. We are aware that, for obvious reasons, football in FIFA is faster than it actually happens. Our aim is to shape to a more responsive and explosive game, to maintain a good balance between authenticity and fun as much as possible “.
A feature that helps to slightly vary the speed of restarts is called “explosive sprint”: while in FIFA 21 the acceleration of the players during the race was more linear, now the momentum of teammates, for example in counter-attacks, becomes progressive, and follows the action more credibly. On the virtual playing field, these small precautions can partly make the difference: they do not revolutionize the playful framework but still manage to perfect it.
Soccer next gen
As for the technical component, FIFA 22 restarts from the achievements in FIFA 21 Next Gen and refines them. The glance is impactful, the performance of some players really excellent, but the test build, as already reiterated, was quite immature, and the edges to be filed were certainly not lacking, from the animations to the textures of the skin and to hair yield. The leap forward compared to the previous edition did not seem striking to us at a close look during the replays, but we are confident that in the final version there is a more sensitive improvement, if only for the expressiveness of some athletes, still a little plastered. .
We know that Electronic Arts has once again placed great emphasis on creating a more immersive atmosphere, with unprecedented pre-game cinematics, more spectacular celebrations and a series of side elements that increase involvement: all summed up in the defined feature. Player Humanization, which includes new animations during the quieter moments of the game, more elaborate behaviors and realistic reactions to the stresses and progress of the match. If at times the single detail can go unnoticed, the sum of the parts actually makes the overall impact more likely. Now we are waiting for the final version or a more advanced demo to judge with greater knowledge of the facts all the work done by the team to create a more televised atmosphere than ever.