At this point, EA is like that grandmother just keeps feeding and feeding us. Instead of rock candies, they’re dishing out the good stuff and the latest Pitch Notes was no exception. EA started out with a deep dive as the main entree, transitioned to a little appetizer via Pro Clubs, and now dessert in the form of career mode. Let’s see if the FIFA 22 career mode deep dive satisfies our sweet tooth.
FIFA 22 Career Mode – What’s Here
Create Your Club
As we saw with the Pro Clubs deep dive, customization is high atop the priority list for EA this year. While it looks like the Creation Center as we previously knew it won’t be making a return, in its place will now be the ability to create your club with a plethora of options to put your own unique stamp on ownership. Starting with the name and nickname to be used by the commentary teams (shout out to EA for adding Alex Scott who was excellent for both the Champions League and Euros), FIFA 22 allows you to also pick which league you want to play in with the option of replacing an existing club (adios Arsenal).
In all seriousness, I’d envision most hardcore career mode players to select a team near the bottom of the table or league structure and work their way up to the top flight. Kudos to EA for going the PES route by letting you choose a rival, which will receive a little pre-match buildup and in-game commentary as you try and dominate your rivals.
Kit & Crest Customization
Being able to customize your kits is a big deal as most Pro Clubs players will testify. EA doesn’t mention third kits as being an option, so here’s to hoping we can all create the one kit that won’t clash with any other jerseys. If you support a real-life club, you know the excitement that comes from the upcoming year’s kit release, so it’s refreshing to see that you’ll be able to change not only kits but also crests and even your base stadium.
There are times when I think to myself, “Why are certain things available through one mode and not another?” Luckily for us, stadium customization is now one of those things that looks to be identical in both career mode and Pro Clubs. Everything from the color of the seats to the pitch pattern is customizable this year. Even the base stadiums you start out with are varied, with some traditional favorites like Crown Lane available to choose from. Options are always a good thing, and with the ability to change some of these options yearly there’s a solid starting point for those of you who like creating your own imaginary clubs.
So you’ve created your club designing everything from your kits to stadium stand colors. You’ve replaced a club and relegated it to the “Rest of the World” section while also picking your club rival. Now it’s time to fill out your squad with some players, and by the look of things, EA is giving us the option of choosing things like your starting star overall level, transfer budget, as well as being able to set your board expectations. FIFA has struggled with unrealistic board expectations in the past, which has led to getting the dreaded sacking. However, with expectations in your own hands, there’s no excuse for not living up to them.
Given that soccer is a global game, EA has hinted at a nationality-based algorithm to determine what countries your players hail from. EA has taken a lot of the outside frustrations from career mode and put them firmly under our control. Even though it doesn’t look like you’ll be able to add real players to your created squad without the use of the transfer window, there’s still some fun to be had depending on how restrictive you set your initial transfer budget to be.
When it comes to creating your club, nearly all of what you’d normally find on a wishlist is here. Harsher critics might harp on EA once again bringing back old features and touting them as new and innovative, but no matter how harsh or lenient you are, at the end of the day these features will be in FIFA 22 and we’re better off for them.
Player Career Mode
I’m a big fan of single-player career modes. Whether it be player career mode in FIFA or The Show‘s Road to the Show, I like playing these types of modes where I can play out a story arc creating my own fictional headlines along the way. Over the years, it’s been extremely stagnant, which could be a reflection or indication of the mode’s popularity, but it personally excites me to see this mode get some love.
Coming On As A Substitute
For years, the simple concept of coming on as a sub was suspiciously absent in player career mode. Not anymore. While it was fun to get thrown right into the action in previous FIFA‘s, it’s simply unrealistic for players, especially young ones, to either start or not make the bench. Ideally — and of course this is dependent upon your player’s skills and club dynamics (injuries, better players ahead of you, and so on) — being able to be an impact sub is a necessity, so it’s nice to see it finally included. This is especially true when the reverse (being able to watch match or play as the entire team when you’ve been subbed) has been available for years.
New for FIFA 22 is the manager rating. Now, it’s not new in the sense that previous FIFAs had both objectives (weekly and seasonal) and player ratings, but more so it’s new in how it’s calculated and how it impacts your playing time. As you start your career, you’ll most likely start on the bench with scaled objectives to reflect your reduced minutes. I like this addition as it’s both realistic and goal-oriented, giving you something to work for (mainly convincing the manager that you’re worthy of minutes).
Player career arcs don’t always trend up. There are more Freddy Adus than there are Phil Fodens, and EA has properly balanced this mode with penalties to playing time should you fall short of the manager’s expectations. EA seems to have done its homework as in order to convince the gaffer that you’re worthy of getting back into the side you’ll need to put in some strong training sessions. Training sessions seemed overpowered to me in the past, especially when it was blended with Dynamic Potential, but a real training session with the rest of the squad would be the next logical addition for me. Alas, we’re still waiting on a true practice mode to be introduced into career mode.
Everyone who has put on a soccer jersey has at one point in time dreamed of representing your country, so it’s promising to see the same benchmarks apply to the National Team selection.
I’ve always liked the idea of match or game objectives in player career mode. Whether it was “rushing for 100 yards” in Madden or scoring goals in FIFA, there should be short-term objectives in all sports. With that being said, let’s hope the objectives are more realistic than those pictured above because they are a bit ridiculous. Two goals from distance in a single match? That would be a good season-long objective if we’re being brutally honest. 60 percent team possession you say? Well if I’m a striker or center back why or how is it my responsibility to maintain 60 percent possession, something that’s entirely team-based?
EA does a great job of applying logic when it comes to the quality of opposition you’re facing, formation of choice by your manager, and your preferred formation within this formation, but why abandon this logic with unrealistic match objectives?
Leveling Up & XP
One of the most challenging aspects of both the traditional and player career mode centers around player growth. Too overpowered and you’ll quickly develop a team of superstars. Too weak and what’s the point in having a youth academy. Applying this both the human and AI also helps to create balance and realism as you can both be poached for your young talent or be the one doing the poaching. No FIFA in my opinion has gotten this right, as some sort of potential rating mixed in with match ratings/results need to factor here as well.
With all of these aspects in mind, EA has taken a page from Pro Clubs for FIFA 22 by instituting skill trees and perks. All of these new items are done through a new leveling-up system that mixes match results with training. XP is primarily earned from matches — which it should be — but there’s still some love for putting in work on the training pitch as you can now do three training sessions per week.
As load times evaporate on next-gen systems, skill games that were previously available while the matches loaded are now really only functional during these weekly training sessions. There’s no mention of whether or not FIFA 21‘s risk/reward system for training has carried over or was abandoned, but there looks to be a nice locker room cutscene at the end of matches where you collect all of your feedback.
Overall, the changes here are nice but I personally would enjoy if EA focused a little more on the traits side of things as opposed to increasing your individual stats. The difference between a 90 and 95 pace striker is negligible, but if the 90 striker is a “speed dribbler” and the 95 pace striker is not, I’d rather have the 90 pace striker. Again, if it’s about creating players that have different “feels” to them, the goal should be a combination of EA utilizing the full 1-100 ratings as well as more traits.
Pro Club players who also dabble in player career mode will see a familiar sight in these skill trees. If EA’s intent was to put player growth back in the hands of the player, then implementing these skill trees is a good start. I prefer skill trees over the standard progression as you’re now able to improve your weak foot and skill moves, two areas that you were previously unable to improve.
New for both player career mode and Pro Clubs, these temporary attribute bursts offer a nice risk/reward, plus increased variety to help shake things up during your travels. I won’t get into too many details as I covered them as part of the Pro Clubs breakdown.
Dressing Room Atmosphere, Transfers, And Expanded News Stories
I’ve lumped all of these together because they all share one common theme, namely all of the other “stuff” you do when you’re not actually playing matches. Gameplay will always be the most important aspect of any sports game (minus things like text-based sims and Football Manager), but it’s these environment-based areas that often separate good from great games. New cinematics are a welcome addition, but they need to actually mean something. When EA introduced these new interactive transfer cutscenes, the repetitiveness of them and lack of authenticity made them feel stale very quickly.
Of these three areas, the Expanded Stories are the best of bunch. Soccer is a sport that boasts incredible tradition, both for clubs and individuals. Since we’re tackling the individual side, it should be a big deal when you reach certain milestones. It should be a big deal when you make the team of the week, month, or season. And it should be an especially big deal when you break a record. EA finally understands this, and not only does this feed into the news reel, but they also speak to it in the pre-match build-up. It’s about immersion on and off the pitch. Perhaps it’s a few years too late, but nonetheless we’re getting it for FIFA 22 and I’m happy for it.
EA loves tifos!
Inclusion Of The Europa Conference League
Spurs fans rejoice! You can start your career mode knowing that you’re still competing in Europe next season. Wait, what’s that? Europa what? Europa Conference League? Yes! UEFA’s latest cash grab will be in FIFA 22 at some point, probably when EA gets a taste for what the presentation package will be. Over the past few years, PES has added clubs, stadiums, and even entire leagues post-release. Sometimes these things get finalized late in the development cycle and just can’t make it in the game by release date. Better late than never!
FIFA 22 Career Mode – What’s Missing
Perks & Skill Trees
Perks are new for this year but there’s been no indication that they’re inside career mode. Will each player in career mode have a skill tree? Are archetypes a part of career mode?
When are we going to get stats that carry from year to year? I want to see something along the lines of a season recap. The final table, player stats — or at the least goals, assists, and clean sheets. There’s something called a “Trophy Room” as well. I think these “trophy” things are pretty important. Wouldn’t it be to cool, I don’t know, to have some kind of record of them as you play through the years?
Fake Sponsors Again
Some older FIFAs circa 2005 or 2006 had it so that you could do sponsorship deals as you entered new years within your career mode save. I’m not sure how that would work legally now as I expect it wouldn’t go over too well if folks were broadcasting career mode matches as Real Madrid with some fake sponsor on the kit. I’ve always liked that in PES the kit makers would make either retro kits or mock-ups you could download and put into the game to keep it fresh. I can look at highlights from some of my PES Master League matches and instantly recognize what year my save was in.
By the way, what happened to the EA Catalogue? I used to like buying retro kits and boots.
Simply put, I want the ability to train traits instead of stats. I’d like to hone my traits in training and increase my stats through match ratings with the exception of physical stats. I’d love for some mini-games that focus on speed, strength, and agility without the ball.
Full Practice Mode
It would be nice to have somewhere within career mode where you can try out new formations, players, and tactics without the fear of losing a competitive match. Would it be asking too much to actually get a feel for some of the youth academy prospects, especially those who are close to the first team? The mini-games that substitute for training are actually a good way to increase your skills as a FIFA player. However, they don’t give you a feel for how the players will react during a match when there’s a lot going on around them. They also don’t give you a good feel for how they move. Hopefully one of these years EA will give it to us, but unfortunately this isn’t the year.
To be honest, if I were a traditional career mode player using a default team, I’d be a little upset. The majority of the updates are either centered around creating a club or player career mode. The changes alone that should have come from refining last year’s additions would have been welcomed — as would a few new wrinkles here and there. EA invested a lot in career mode last year, for better or for worse. Perhaps expecting EA to do so two years in a row is a bit unrealistic. However, when the majority of the updates are either ports from other modes (Pro Club perks and FUT stadium creator) or cosmetic changes, it leaves traditionalists desiring more.
Are you excited or disappointed by the Career Mode news we received for FIFA 22?