Although a Fifa appeared on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X last year, EA did not get much more than a few graphical improvements from the new generation of consoles. That should be different next fall. With Fifa 22, EA looks to the future and introduces HyperMotion: a new way of recording and displaying animations that is only possible on the new generation of game consoles. Is it marketing nonsense or really a revolution?
By the mouth of Line Producer Sam Rivera, who has already since years ago showing what’s new with the upcoming Fifa every year, EA reveals a lot more about HyperMotion than with the meaningless announcement trailer. Rivera explains in detail how HyperMotion has been worked on over the past three years and how real-life capture, combined with machine learning technology, will usher in a new generation for Fifa.
A real football game
EA recorded the animations for the first time this year during a real game of football, with twenty-two players on the turf. In the past, animations were also captured, but usually with only two or three players and often in a secluded studio. The football players then did a specific trick, or shot a few times at the goal. This way you have the real movements of a player, but you still miss certain details.
That’s why EA now uses Xsens motion capturing suits. These suits were used in The Mandalorian and various Marvel productions, among others. Instead of all kinds of balls being stuck on the body, actors only have to put on some kind of tracksuit. In this way they retain complete freedom of movement and can do their work in any environment – including on a football field. EA has used the suits before, but not on this scale.
Rivera explains that such a real competition results in a higher intensity and more athletic animations. Not only when players are on the ball, but also when they push and pull, engage in an aerial duel, or even wipe the sweat from their foreheads or yell something at a teammate. “The players took it so seriously that even a referee had to be involved, because the tempers got so hot”, Rivera laughs.
This new technology not only makes it possible to record the animations in a realistic setting, it ensures also for many more animations to be captured. EA will add over 4,000 new animations this year; that’s about three times more than usual.
End of the triple jump?
The second aspect of HyperMotion is machine learning. This is used when calculating animations. All kinds of animations are already predicted for every player, so that this can be taken into account. This should especially ensure smoother transitions.
In the past it often happened that a leg moved very unnaturally to fish a ball out of the air, or that a player made a strange triple jump to execute a shot. This is a thorn in the side of players and EA, which has been struggling for years with a way to tackle this problem. According to Rivera, the new generation of game consoles offers enough power to finally solve this problem through machine learning.
Match is still open
When we get to play an early version of Fifa 22 on the PlayStation 5 ourselves, it turns out that EA can still teach the machine a few things. The well-known triple jump is still very much present and even stationary feet sometimes skate over the grass to end up in the right place.
On the other hand, the animations look a lot looser and more realistic. It is especially striking how smoothly players take the ball. The ball is taken calmly on the thigh and laid dead on the shoe, or played frivolously from one foot to the other to maintain momentum in an attack. Fifa 22 is therefore not pronounced faster than its predecessor, but it all looks smoother.
The absolute star in this beta version, however, is for the goalkeepers. Admittedly, we’ve only seen world-class stars like Donnarumma, Alisson and Courtois in action, but they’ve definitely gotten better. They regularly pluck a ball out of the air in a catlike way. They also no longer hit a ball back towards the opponent as quickly, which means that there are substantially fewer rebound goals. Much more often they give themselves the chance to control a difficult ball in the second instance. Even one-on-one actions no longer guarantee a goal.
The entire match image is therefore immediately more balanced. Fifa is still sensational, with an above-average amount of balls hitting the aluminum, but it looks a bit less like an upset footrace. Experience has taught us that between the first beta and the final product, Fifa can change quite a bit in that kind of detail, but this first impression is hopeful.
Last generation still shrouded in mystery
Unfortunately, EA has considerably less in store for anyone who doesn’t yet have a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X under their TV. HyperMotion is the keyword this year and should lay a foundation on which EA can build for the next five to ten years. Development has clearly been put on the back burner for the previous generation of consoles. EA still promises that, among other things, the behavior of goalkeepers has also been adjusted on those consoles. The physics of the ball have also been made more realistic and some adjustments have been made to sprinting and tactics, but it all sounds a bit marginal.
Yet EA itself does not yet speak of a ‘Legacy Edition’, indicating that all further developments to the career mode, Volta and of course FUT will also be available on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. More about these innovations will follow at a later date.
Fifa 21 is from October 1 in stores. The game will then appear on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and S and Google Stadia with HyperMotion, and on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC without the new technology. The game will also be released on Nintendo Switch, albeit as a ‘Legacy Edition’ with only kits, squads and stadiums updated.