FIFA is a series that used to be one of my most played titles each year but now it’s not. Going from roughly 300 hours a year to less than 10 has been the result of an ever growing decline in a game once close to my heart. It got so bad that I actually stopped reviewing FIFA games after FIFA 18 even though I did play a bit of 19 and 20 (Possibly FIFA 21) thanks to Origin Access (which I got briefly for playing other games). My last official words for the series being:
FIFA 18 focuses so much on what happens around the beautiful game that it almost forgets about the game altogether. When a game starts feeling like more of a chore than an experience that you want every waking moment of each day, then that is the point when you have to take a moment, reevaluate what’s going on then make some changes to fix what’s wrong.
Which brings us to today. Today I am actually going to review FIFA 21 before actually playing it just to see how accurate I can be of a game that has become predictably worse with each release. If it turns out that I’m wrong then I’ll do a follow-up to this review but that’s highly unlikely. EA as a company has a track record of under delivering on their sports games and just for example we can look at none other than (dumpster fire that is) NFL 21.
FIFA 21 CAREER MODE
Career mode has been the forgotten love child of this franchise for years along with pro clubs but this year we do see some impactful improvements. Now simulation allows the player to hop in whenever they feel like, so if it’s the 79min and you need a single goal to win then you can simply take control. If you’re up three and need to run to the loo then relinquish control to the Ai till you return. All in all a seamless addition that adds to the quality of life experience in the game. EA have also opted to copy some of what Konami have in their Manager mode by including the ability to change player positions, play-styles and they have improved transfers. Now you can loan-to-buy players or include them in transfer deals – features already present in PES. Fans of PES may view this as a bad thing but It’s not. If FIFA 21 improves by adapting what is already good in PES and vice versa then we the players benefit. Such practices mean we get better products no matter which game we choose.
FIFA 21 ULTIMATE TEAM
FIFA 21 Ultimate Team on the other hand is more of the same agonizing gambling nonsense that it’s been for years. Remember this is still a game rated as suitable for young children yet they’ve persisted on including this predatory mode in the game. Locking the mode behind an extensive age gate system or making it a separate product would have been ideal but EA won’t make such plays till they’re forced by governments. You still have terrible odds at getting any of the best players and the whole mode is an arduous grind for progress. There’s also the situation whereby the meta has condensed to just a few viable squads thanks to the drop rate of certain players. The devs have also continued admiration of their competitor’s product by including co-op and a match day-like feature in FUT (a Feature already present in PES 2020).
They’ve made great efforts to streamline the menus, removed all fitness items and even dropped Staff Coaches and Training items. Resulting in not needing to worry about player fitness before matches so more focus can be placed on the actual matches. Matches with less replays, faster restarts and a new custom stadium system, dubbed the FUT Stadium. This new feature allows the player to almost fully customize their auditory and visual experience on the pitch. From choosing anthems, to seat colours even the Crest, kits and commentary name can be altered. In a way this is a feature fans have been asking for but just not for this mode. Player performance is also more malleable this year thanks to changing attributes which replicate their real life performance. All good stuff, right?
Well this is EA after all so with all the changes comes more of the same. The net-code is of course still terrible, scripting is alive and well and even though they’ve removed some items from packs to streamline play, they’ve added others. Did you think all those customization would come free? Hell no! They’re all a part of the never ending loot box card system which dominates every aspect of the game.
The great EA givet and taket more of your money and time with each new release.
I’m actually writing this section first even though it’s third in the pecking order because this is arguably the main aspect of the game that won’t change. EA has made a killing on hype while the quality of play has progressively declined. In FIFA 20 the defending regressed while the emphasis was placed on attack and set pieces. In FIFA 21 they’ve tweaked the gameplay to make it more in line with its competitor. Features like controlling players off the ball, close control dribbling and manual shots all make their way from PES. They’ve also claimed to improve the collisions but they claim that every year.
EA devs have a way of tweaking the gameplay ever so slightly to change the feel of play in a way that makes it seem like it’s improved but don’t be fooled. This is the same gameplay as last year that favours quick passing flamboyant play over anything else. Players with the ability to perform all the tricks will be gods online while the rest will either struggle or win using cheap tactics.
Glitches have of course remained aplenty because as any real FIFA fan knows – they’re a feature, not a flaw. Matches continue to be plagued with clipping, weird animations and ever present visual glitches. This all thanks to the continued use of the Frostbite engine – an engine originally developed for FPS games like Battlefield. Again feel free to look no further than Madden NFL 21 for great examples of how this “feature” will enhance your gameplay experience.
Visually FIFA 21’s gameplay looks exactly the same as FIFA 20. EA of course attempted to beguile players by using actual match footage in their trailers and it has worked. Players have placed their trust in the benevolent publisher and they have delivered that sweet 4K 60 fps gameplay. Players look just as good as they did last year and so do their managers. If you’re in charge of Chelsea you’ll see Frank Lampard barking orders on your sidelines, while Real fans will have the keen eyes of Zizu to guide them. This is one of those aspects of FIFA that brings the game more in-line with the real sport and with all their licenses they have a lot to present. The lighting engine remains mostly the same so up close players look lifelike while at a distance it’s easy to distinguish their individual physical traits. You will of course find some absurd facsimiles of huge global stars but that’s to be expected when dealing with so many players.
Show off some flashy trailers, toss in some big name players, lots of flamboyant colours and pretty much the average brain dead FIFA player will be hooked for another purchase. I’m not mincing my words to say this because you’re just as much a part of the problem as EA. We don’t just blame the dealer but the junky too. This is a supply and demand market after all and EA knows that most players either lack the cognitive capacity incite change or are too young to know any better. As such FIFA 21 will sell well while players will complain about some of the same things they did last year to no avail. Nothing will change because money talks and dum dums make up a large majority of average consumers. There have been some improvements thanks in part to adapting features present in their competitors game but EA have added their own touches too. Whether those changes are enough to get your money will depend deeply on how much you’d like FIFA 20.5.