Every time a new console generation starts, the hope is that with new power there will be some game-changing aspects to our favorite games. EA Sports is aiming to do just that on next-gen consoles this year with FIFA 22‘s new HyperMotion feature. The reveal trailer dropped on July 11, and while not fully detailed, it gave a good idea as to what direction FIFA 22 would be heading. I had the chance to attend the FIFA 22 Virtual First Look event, and at first glance I can say that it appears that players on PS5 and Xbox Series X are in for a real treat this year. I also had some hands-on time with the FIFA 22 early beta. Let’s break down the information from the Virtual First Look in regards to gameplay and how it played on the pitch with our first FIFA 22 hands-on preview.
FIFA 22 Preview
HyperMotion Gameplay Technology (Next-Gen Tech)
Before I start off explaining the two parts that make up the new HyperMotion tech that EA Sports has implemented in FIFA 22, I’m going to have to be the bad guy and ruin the excitement for current-gen fans and owners that haven’t yet had any luck in acquiring a PS5 or Xbox Series X. You don’t get to experience this new tech, nor will you get to experience the advancements and changes that it should definitely bring to next-gen consoles. It’s just that simple (and unfortunate).
Sam Rivera, line producer of gameplay, explained that HyperMotion has been in the works for the last three years. The timeframe alone shows that current-gen systems reached their ceiling in terms of capability, thus the lack of new features available for FIFA 22‘s PS4 and Xbox One counterparts. For the rest of this piece, I’ll be solely speaking about the next-gen version(s) of FIFA 22, specifically my time with the beta on PS5. One thing to keep in mind is that I played a beta version that will most definitely be much different when the final version comes out on release day.
With the implementation of HyperMotion, there are two main technologies powering the new direction FIFA 22 is heading.
Advanced 11v11 Match Capture
Motion capture sessions where players wear those funny looking suits and are instructed to do different things to capture animations are a thing of the past. New Xsens suits have now changed things and allow the FIFA dev team to get motion capture data from 22 players on the pitch all at once. Having the ability to capture this large volume of high quality real human movement data will change the game (according to EA), and powers how both individual players and teams play and move on the pitch in FIFA 22.
How It Played
I think that of all the changes made for FIFA 22 next gen, the 11v11 Match Capture is arguably the most important thing that the dev team has done for the FIFA franchise since the move to the PS4 and Xbox One consoles. This tech falls under the HyperMotion umbrella and lends to this bigger tech advancement, but being able to capture and implement the movement of a squad as a whole on the pitch, as well as the individual player movements in the squad, should be the difference maker in how FIFA 22 feels this year.
One of the biggest complaints I’ve had with the franchise for some years now is the capability of the midfield, specifically defensive midfielders, to track back and help out on the ball defensively. Up to this point, players have to manually switch to midfielders and force them back in to the play defensively so that your centerbacks or wingbacks doesn’t play themselves out of position. Thanks to 11v11 Match Capture and what that lends to in the HyperMotion tech, this nuance wasn’t as much of a chore in the FIFA 22 beta. I found that my team would hold its shape quite well, moving together as a unit as we went up and down the pitch.
Now, it’s not to say FIFA devs should need a whole new tech to fix this glaring issue, but the point is that clearly — whether due to this tech or not — that area is being focused on and the developers are trying to improve it.
That being said, things haven’t been completely solved. I found that once my team would be in the defensive third of the pitch, my back four would be lined up and positioned appropriately, but my midfielders that played in the middle of the pitch played in a zone and almost looked lost at times, especially when an attacker with the ball was near them. I felt that there should have been more of an effort by my defensive midfielders to make a play on the ball so that I didn’t have to move my wing or backs out of position to shut down a play. This could lend more to AI discrepancies, but with the vast improvement in movement that your squad has on the pitch, I feel like there would have been capturing of defensive movement that could have been better implemented.
The other concept at play here is probably the one that KG (and many others) talk about a lot where this might be a development decision based around the two camps of FIFA. There is one camp where people think the AI should not be able to do amazing things for you so you have to user control instead to get the ball back. And then there is the other camp who just wants the AI players to play to their ratings so you don’t have to micromanage and switch to various players on defense. It does seem like the “user control” camp continues to win out here more than the other side based on this one specific midfielders aspect that leads to many debates.
Tying into HyperMotion tech, the FIFA dev team’s new cutting-edge proprietary machine learning algorithm means that in tandem with the Advanced 11v11 Match Capture, over 8.7 million frames of advanced capture is learned and then writes new animations in real time to create a more organic football experience across a variety of interactions on the pitch. I’ll speak more to this when I touch on ML-Flow.
With the implementation of Advanced 11v11 Match Capture and Machine Learning that makes up the new HyperMotion Gameplay Technology, you can expect to see a more realistic, responsive and fluid gameplay experience in every match across all modes of FIFA 22 on next-generation consoles. With the addition of this new technology, there is a branching out effect that touches on several other areas within FIFA 22 next gen:
Full Team Authentic Motion
Thanks again to the Xsens suits used by the FIFA 22 dev team and the data that was captured within the 11v11 Match Capture sessions, every touch of the ball, tackle, sprint, and duel resulted in the biggest animation refresh ever for the FIFA franchise. Over 4,000 new animations were added to the game, tripling the amount of animations found in FIFA 21. This massive improvement in animations will see a rise in the footballing intensity, responsiveness, and physicality of every player in the game, unlocking the most true-to-life movement in the history of FIFA.
How It Played
Okay, so that’s a lot of buzzwords and whatnot from EA that you can take for what it’s worth. Regardless, without a shadow of a doubt, I picked up on the animation refresh right from the first pass in my first game with the demo. I saw so many new animations that I almost feel like the dev team scrapped the animations we’ve been used to and started fresh with the new technology implemented this year. That’s probably a stretch, but it was refreshing to play a game of FIFA that mostly just felt smooth and different. It looked more like what I’m used to seeing in a real matchday game on a Saturday morning.
AI really ties into everything that the team has done to improve the game this year, and I’ll speak to that shortly, but the animation refresh was well overdue and is welcoming to see. From the way players control the ball now to the proper steps that you’ll see players take before finessing or driving a shot at goal, I could only help but appreciate how the game played and felt in these regards.
Covered above with Machine Learning, ML-Flow takes the machine learning algorithm, the 8.7 million frames gathered from Advanced 11v11 Match Capture, and writes new animations in real-time. This is a feature not yet seen in sports video games, and it will deliver greater fluidity and visual realism than ever before. The algorithm and real-time animation rewrite will enable players to better adjust their stride and running cadence when approaching the ball to when attempting to control it or strike it more smoothly.
How It Played
Again, this tech feature delivered in the demo at a level I’ve yet to see in a FIFA game before. Being a beta, and the first time that these new technologies would really be used outside of a programming and testing environment, I was impressed at how players moved with and without the ball. When running onto passes or situations where ball control would be key off the first touch, you could actually see that players were making efforts to ensure that their body movement, positioning, and timing were contextually correct based on the situation at hand.
When shooting, even when I didn’t score but hit or missed the goal, I felt satisfied that I was seeing and getting the right animation based on the context of the situation I was in while taking the shot.
Thanks to the power of the new generation of consoles, Tactical A.I. has created deeper intelligence across all players on the pitch. Each individual footballer now has the ability to better understand their teammates’ and opponents’ formations and movements to create a new, never-seen level of tactical realism. In attack players are now capable of making up to six times more decisions per second, which results in better awareness of their surroundings, smarter runs in build-up play, and more speed when reacting to loose balls. A rewrite to defensive AI means teams now operate more as a unit, keeping their shape to move across the pitch and cover vacant space.
How It Played
In my opinion, the most important part to gameplay, followed closely by animations, is the AI. I spoke above about defensive AI and the midfield, an issue that has plagued FIFA for several years now. With teams moving together across and around the pitch while retaining shape, there’s almost a need to move the ball around and be both smart and patient in your build-up to create scoring chances.
You’ll definitely still find chances to hoof the ball up the pitch on an aerial on a counterattack (and boy oh boy do the animations for both the passer and the trajectory and spin of the ball itself look absolutely beautiful), but on higher difficulties, the AI offers a great challenge. The aggression, movement, and smarts on both sides of the ball are something to see. I constantly found I had to slow myself down defensively so that I didn’t get absolutely embarrassed by the AI.
The recognition and understanding of space around the pitch by both teammate AI and CPU AI were surprisingly good. I think the most impressive AI improvement for me, tying into the Goalkeeper Rewrite (more on this later), was how absolutely fantastic and challenging the goalkeeping was in the beta. If there’s one thing that does not need any adjustment from what I saw, it’s the goalkeeping.
Far too many shots we’d see go into the back of the net in FIFA 21 are much harder to bury now. For players like myself that love the 22 to 25 yard finesse shot into the back corner of the net, you’re really going to have to place your shots well this year to see the ball hit the mesh. It was definitely rewarding to have to earn goals with well placed shots or good ball movement.
Kinetic Air Battles
Enhanced two-player interaction technology syncs player animations, creating greater realism and responsiveness as players jump to battle for the ball. Defenders and attackers push, pull, and jostle as they rise up to meet crosses, clearances, and long passes. This leads to an increase of quality in headed situations as well as cleaner outcomes as players fight to be first to the ball.
How It Played
There was definitely a bunch of new animations that I saw here that I don’t remember seeing in past FIFA titles. In one game while using PSG, I played a corner into the box to Marquinhos, who managed to get the one-up on Manchester City’s João Cancelo and looked to literally almost climb his shoulders to get the header off. I missed wide of the net, but it was pretty cool seeing Marquinhos jump up for a header, using the defender to boost himself as Cancelo kind of folded forward after being dominated.
The jostling and fighting in the box to get position on crosses was also a welcomed sight. Instead of the usual leaning and slight tugging we’re used to seeing, you could actually see players trying to out muscle each other to get the advantage in position to make a play. I still did see a few battles where one of the players would almost tumble over like he ran into the other player trying to win the air battle, but I think this was actually more due to being out of position and not having as good header and strength attributes than the opponent.
Composed Ball Control
Powered by the animation refresh, controlling the ball in FIFA 22 is more natural and fluid than ever before. Longer two-touch animations enable better control of aerial balls, more agility when trapping ground balls, and more strength while shielding give players new ways to move up the pitch in attack.
How It Played
I think that this feature will definitely tie into a given player’s ability/attributes, but was it sweet seeing players like Neymar kill aerial balls in space and smoothly transition into a second-touch move from the initial trap. I make heavy use player shielding, and there’s definitely more strength when your player looks to protect the ball. In saying that, if you do shield off a player but he has a teammate near, the teammate will close down your space. In other words, you have to be decisive in what you’re doing with the ball.
Powered by Advanced 11v11 Match Capture, new off-ball player animations and ambient behavior help bring on-pitch characters to life. See opponents talk, point, and direct each other based on the action. Updated intensity-based locomotion matches players’ urgency to make FIFA more realistic and immersive than ever before.
How It Played
I don’t feel like I saw much here that differed from FIFA 21. In saying that, the beta build I played probably didn’t have as much of the humanization programming in there as the final game probably will.
Gameplay Features For Current And Next Gen
Before continuing, the four additional gameplay features I’m going to touch on have been updated for both current and next-generation versions of FIFA 22. While these features are in addition to all the features above on FIFA 22 next gen, they look to be the only gameplay improvements made for FIFA 22 current gen.
A brand new goalkeeper system brings a new level of intelligence to the last line of defense, unlocking more reliable shot-stopping and smarter decision-making between the posts. In FIFA 22, goalkeeper positioning personality replicates the different styles of keepers throughout the game — to represent the lightning-fast reflexes of world-class shot stoppers.
How It Played
Continuing to focus on the next-gen version of FIFA 22 and the beta, the goalkeeper rewrite is absolutely fantastic. A bunch of new save animations, better positioning, and much more of a challenge to score has me elated from my time with the beta. Top-class keepers feel as such, making saves that we wouldn’t have seen in FIFA 21. This is a definite win, and hopefully something that won’t be changed too much before official release.
A new gameplay mechanic that changes the dynamic of one-on-one situations, Explosive Sprint gives you more control over acceleration when dribbling or defending. Lure opponents in and choose when to unleash your full speed to get away from the defender as you drive your team forward in attack.
How It Played
While I definitely felt the difference between regular sprint and knocking the ball forward with this new Explosive Sprint mechanic, I at times felt like defenders that should have been slower than my wingers were able to keep up with me after I’d set them up to then use the Explosive Sprint to get by them.
Neymar and Mbappé are arguably two of the fastest players in the world on the pitch, but John Stones was able to catch up to them with relative ease at times. I hope this is sorted out come final release, but either way I still think the Explosive Sprint dynamic will be a game changer when used in the proper context.
True Ball Physics
Real-world data imported into FIFA 22 takes the game’s ball physics to a new level of realism. Tuned parameters including speed, swerve, air drag, air resistance, ground friction, and rolling friction mean every touch, trap, shot, volley, pass, and dribble will look, move, and fly like the real thing.
How It Played
Another area of the game where improvements were easily noticed and incredibly impactful to the game. As I mentioned earlier when talking about Tactical A.I., switching play and lofting a ball to the other side of the pitch or dropping a through pass in the path of your forward making a run look absolutely beautiful. You can see the ball spin accordingly based on the pass you make, either catching some backspin or twirling off the curl across the pitch.
Trajectories and the variety in passes look much more authentic and closer to real life than ever before. I found myself lashing long through passes, switch passes, unorthodox ground through balls and a variety of other passes much more as I played the beta just because of how awesome they looked. To put it another way, some of the passes I made did not make sense in the context of the situation, but they were so enjoyable to use I wanted to experiment. Everyone will appreciate the refined ball physics, especially players that watch masters like Pogba and Kevin De Bruyne drop absolute gems on a Saturday matchday in real life.
New Attacking Tactics
New Attacking Tactics give you more control over how you want your team to play. Set up your team with different styles in each half of the pitch. Keep the ball in your half and explode into attack with fast build up in the opponent third of the pitch, play direct from box to box, or line up in your own unique style.
How It Played
While I didn’t tinker around too much with the tactics in the beta, the small yet impactful changes made to this tab are going to see players either create their own dominating custom tactics or exploit the system altogether. I hope for the former and not the latter. Unlike last year where you had your sliders to adjust tactics in increments while setting up in team management, FIFA 22‘s change sees players have sliders that scale from 0 to 100, allowing for true customization in how you want to execute your plan on both sides of the ball.
This should open up and unlock a variety of different attacking and defending styles to use with your favorite side, but I would need to test this a lot more to say how well it all works.
Bottom Line – FIFA 22 Preview
Betas are usually a good indicator of what direction a game is heading, either good or bad. Based on what I played of the FIFA 22 next-gen beta at this point and barring any massive changes, any fans and players of the series that have been lucky enough to land themselves a PS5 or Xbox Series X/S are in for arguably what appears to be the most different FIFA in a long while in terms of gameplay. Whether it ends up being the best or not, I’m still going to be in a wait-and-see mindset for now. Having been a fan of the FIFA series and playing the game every year without fail since FIFA 95, I’ve made my previous statement in confidence and am not taking what I’ve said lightly.
HyperMotion is an absolute game changer. The goaltending is an absolute dream that makes games not only more exciting but more realistic. Ball physics and the new attacking tactics should lend to new and satisfying football that I feel we’ve been wanting for years. FIFA 22 next gen and HyperMotion’s impact on gameplay could potentially change the landscape for FIFA as this generation starts to really pick up steam. If that ends up being the case, and FIFA ends up getting more sports games to appreciate every player working in unison on the field/court/rink/whatever, then I’m here for every second of it.
Are you looking forward to next gen FIFA 22 based on all the information that has been released so far? How do you think HyperMotion will affect the game? Let us know in the comments below.