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FIFA 21 Review


 

Developer: Electronic Arts

Publisher: Electronic Arts, EA Sports

Reviewed on: PS4 Pro

Also available on: Xbox, PC, Nintendo Switch

Release: October 9th, 2020

Rating: G

Price: $67

 

FIFA 21 is a football simulation video game published by Electronic Arts as part of the FIFA series. It is the 28th installment in the FIFA series and was released 9 October 2020 for Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One consoles.

 

I need to make it clear that this review is for the PS4 version of the game, not the Nintendo Switch version, which by all accounts is a very different experience…..

Before I get into what I thought about FIFA 21, I want to make it clear that although I am a FIFA fan from way back, I haven't played a FIFA game properly since around FIFA 17. I want to make this clear upfront as I know that every year with FIFA, the argument is that it's so similar to its predecessor, this was not the case for me after a decent break from the franchise. Having said that, I did do a quick google search to see what features if any have been added since FIFA 20, and well, I was very pleasantly surprised. Here's a full list of new features in Career Mode alone, that I found:



Interactive Match Sim

A whole new way to play out your season. Jump in and out of gameplay during matches to control the outcome of the match, change the course of a game by controlling key moments like penalties and free kicks, and make changes directly from the sim as you monitor your players’ performance, levels, and the match statistics.

New Player Development System

Enjoy more control over your players’ growth in FIFA 21. New position training lets you turn marauding right-backs into right-wingers, goal-scoring midfielders into false 9s, and more, while new development plans let you focus your squad’s development in the areas you want to match your team’s style of play.

Match Sharpness and Active Training

Get more insight into your squad’s performance levels with match sharpness, a new attribute that indicates how likely your players are to perform in the most crucial moments for the duration of a game. Increase sharpness with a new Active Training System that gives you the ability to set up group training sessions to improve the likelihood of your strikers putting big chances away, or of defenders making the key tackles that make the difference between winning and losing.

Schedule Planning

Plan your team’s training schedule with a new activity management system. Decide when to train and when to rest during the week as you balance your players’ sharpness with morale and fitness to keep your team firing on all cylinders.

Overhauled AI

Plan your team’s training schedule with a new activity management system. Decide when to train and when to rest during the week as you balance your players’ sharpness with morale and fitness to keep your team firing on all cylinders.

New Transfer Options

Enhanced transfer realism provides both human and AI-controlled teams with new ways to sign players. Make Loan to Buy offers with future transfer fees to secure new talent for your team, and respond to AI manager-initiated player swap proposals as you look to bolster your squad each transfer window.

As you can see in one single game mode and one that I spent most of my time playing there are quite of changes/new features. Let's discuss some of those and I’ll tell you what I think.


Career Mode:

The biggest and best new feature for me was the Interactive Match Sim. The interactive Match Sim gives you much greater control over your team and its results without having to spend hours playing every single minute of every game. It turns FIFA into a football simulator, allowing you to simulate the match much as you would in games such as Football Manager, and then if your team goes down 1-0 you have the option to jump in. This is a well-crafted feature as when you press jump in the game will literally drop you into the game in the exact spot you were in the simulation, so pick your time right and you could well be through on goal with only the keeper to beat.


Although this is undoubtedly one of the best new features in the game it did leave me disappointed, there's so much more EA could have done with this feature. Such as; much greater tactical control, a more in-depth game plan, and just an overall much deeper tactical input. This would have led to a much more immersive, football simulation experience.

Another feature new to myself is the transfer system, having sat down, face to face meetings with managers and agents alike to hash out the details of a deal, really did help to add to the immersion. I know this is a feature featured on previous versions of the game, just not one I have played extensively enough to experience. While this feature was good, it did become quite boring rather quickly, I found myself pressing the square button (to skip) far too often for my liking. A cool feature nonetheless.

As a lifelong Everton fan, there’s no better feeling than jumping into a game like FIFA and winning the EPL with your boyhood club, an experience made all the better by the new features introduced, from greater control over your team and its players to the option when setting up the career mode, to include a cash injection of up to $500m allowing a much more “arcadey” feel to buying players.

Player development was also a feature I found to have had a massive overhaul, allowing you to invest in the yonder players in the team and give them all the tools they need to succeed in the future and reach their full potential.

There are, however, the inevitable “FIFA glitches”. Quite often players will fall over each other awkwardly, a couple of times my players even glided along the ground after being tackled, etc. Such glitches have been an ever-present part of FIFA for as long as I can remember, however, do seem to be a lot less frequent than they used to be.



The immersion in the career mode is better than ever before, with much more polish on the presentation of things like pre and post match interviews to the complete replication of the match day experience of watching an EPL game on Optus Sport.


Career mode as a whole is fun again when I felt like taking the break It benefited me, in terms of it feeling fresh and new, but I think there’s also enough fresh content for once, to justify jumping back in.

Volta:

Discover the world of street football to life with Volta. New game pacing and intelligent squad movement create more opportunities to let you play to the rhythm of the streets. Energized skill moves and Agile Dribbling raise the excitement of going up against a defender to add to the number of ways you can go past - or even through - opposition players, while defensive counters like a new blocking system ensure gameplay is more rewarding on both sides of the ball. I did only play through the introduction portion of this game mode at the point of writing this review. That time however was a breath of fresh air and a throwback to the retired FIFA Street franchise. With Volta only being added to the game since I last invested in a FIFA game this was a completely new experience for me and an extremely enjoyable one at that. It's a lot less fast-paced and chaotic than I expected it to be, giving it more of a Futsal vibe than a full-on game of intricate skills and button combinations. From the research I’ve done on Volta, it seems that a lot of people, last year, found the game mode unenjoyable, and almost unplayable. The new responsiveness in FIFA 21 however does seem to go some way to fixing that issue. Combine that with a decent story and instantly recognizable, legendary ex-players as characters in the game and Volta is a decent take on what used to be an extremely enjoyable standalone game.



Ultimate Team:

Ultimate team is largely the same as even the last time I played barring some new-look menus etc, but honestly, I don't know what I’d expect to change in a game mode like this. If you're new to the concept FUT is close to FIFA’s microtransaction heavy online portion of the game in which you play online against other players from around the world. Teams are made up of either, players you're lucky enough to unearth through the randomly generated card packs you can buy, or by trading with others. It's essentially a trading card game that translates into a real team on the pitch. While it is Microtransaction heavy there is no obligation to spend any real money and packs can be purchased by earning in-game currency via winning games and completing objectives.

FUT is fun, however takes a LONG time to build a team capable of really challenging others. If you're looking to play online against others with a team you've built from the ground up, the FUT is the game mode for you. The absolute key to building a strong FUT squad is pace, this is an issue that has plagued FUT for years, quick players like Mbappe are virtually unplayable as they will be through on goal before you even realize what's happening.



The thing that has me the most excited about this game however is the free upgrade to the next-gen version next month. The game looks great on PS4, so I can only imagine what it will be like on PS5

Overall FIFA 21 is a very enjoyable experience, that is in some way down to my absence from the franchise but also in the new additions they have added to this year's title. I know the narrative with games such as FIFA is that its a “copy and paste" game every year, and to a degree, that is correct. However, there are enough differences here to say that is just not the case this year. Now the Nintendo Switch version is, by all accounts a completely different kettle of fish, and is allegedly a carbon copy of last year's game with an updated roster. This PS4 version though is different. Of course, there will be those that FIFA titles don't appeal to, but I'm assuming that if you've spent the time to read this review then you're at least somewhat interested in what FIFA 21 has to offer, and if that's you, then I'd recommend it as a good installment in the franchise. Not perfect, but good.


For those of you that are into the FIFA franchise and are currently playing FIFA 21, we will be releasing a few career mode related guides over the coming days, lists including the best under 21 players to buy, to hidden gems with huge potential. So keep an eye out for those.


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