EA is back with the annual football release of its football/soccer franchise, FIFA 21 that features game improvements and additions, as well as some notable omissions.
Every year, fans look forward to the latest edition of FIFA expecting better gameplay, enhanced modes and more importantly the latest rosters. FIFA 21 does deliver on most fronts.
Player animations and updates to the “natural collision” physics make the game even more realistic as you jump over tackles, nudge others off the ball or glide towards goal. The introduction of features such as agile dribbling means that your thumbs will be all the busier, and your players trickier.
The AI has received a significant upgrade and now your players will move into space and defend based on their awareness rating. They’re no longer getting in their own way as much.
Press R1 (PS 4) and flick a stick, and you’ll get to send a supporting player off on a run to receive a pass or a cross. A devastating tactic for the nimble-thumbed.
Scoring goals from crosses is now a legit tactic rather than the crapshoot they were last year.
FIFA 21 team rosters are updated to the latest moves, including Edison Cavani to Manchester United on transfer deadline day. Life-long Leeds United fans will also be thrilled that their team is reinstated to the Premier League after a 16 year absence.
However, due to licensing, AS Roma joins Juventus in the unlicensed bracket in the guise of ‘Roma FC’ and ‘Piemonte Calcio’ who don custom kits and badges in all game modes. The players remain authentic though.
International matchups are slightly affected as well with the loss of licenses of both Portugal and Italy national teams.
Cristiano Ronaldo fans will have to settle for the fact that while he’s in the game, he won’t be donning official Juventus or Portugal jerseys.
Career mode has received a number of tweaks that add additional management layers that include a refined training system and the ability to simulate and control matches. However, the fact that you can still jump in and control your team to victory means I still can’t look at this as a true management sim.
FIFA Ultimate Team is clearly EA’s true focus with the addition of customizable stadiums and co-operative gameplay modes. FUT still remains tragically play-to-win as gamers shell out real money to purchase FUT packs in a chance to draw a top-tier player.
The FUT pack mechanic feels akin to handing Ed Woodward a list of names you want for your team, and he hands you everyone else but the requested. Spend enough though, and you might just get your man.
Considering that we’ve been on FUT since launch day, and that we’ve already come across some really high profile teams across several divisions, proves that packs are selling quite well.
Fitness and training cards have been removed though which does help the FUT experience.
2020 hasn’t been kind to sports. Empty stadiums worldwide have spun football on its head and while the gaming industry is thriving as fans head for their consoles, FIFA 21 has me thinking if cost-cutting measures by way of the reduction of developmental and talent costs, or even real-world restrictions, have caused the game to scale back in some ways.
One of the biggest features that’s taken a step back would be the “story mode”. Since FIFA 17, we’ve followed the Alex Hunter journey – a unique offering that made the game more than just a football game and gave it more character as a whole.
When the 3-part arc ended, FIFA 20 introduced us to Revvy and his futsal journey. FIFA 21’s story though (if you can call it that) is so paper thin that it makes you think if this was hindered by the lack of funds (probably not, because FUT) – or just simply the lack of effort.
Volta as a game mode is still pretty much as it was last year, just with more venues. If anything, it just highlights that FUT is EA’s true focus for the game.
That and some interface glitches make me wonder if FIFA 21 on the PS4 is just a port of a game that is developed and optimized with the PS5 in mind.
Funny enough, the only thing that might save Volta might be a FUT-styled approach.
Final whistle, gameplay is definitely better than FIFA 20, even though I wish more was done. Maybe they’re keeping all the big features for the first next-gen version in FIFA 22?