Here we are again, another year another FIFA. I’ve been buying these games for decades now, in fact I’ll be open and honest and say now that I’ve been playing these since my mother was kind enough to gift her little boy a copy of FIFA 98 and in recent(ish) years I haven’t missed an entry since FIFA 07 (I think I went with PES that year, what a traitor)… I’ve seen the franchise go from the only football game in town to being second best to PES and all the way back to the unopposed juggernaut it’s become today. Though I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t admit that more than a few times over those years I’ve had to sit back and say to myself – “What was the point in buying it this year, it’s basically a carbon copy of last year”… And that’s usually the biggest gripe with FIFA games for most players. So where does FIFA 20 stand? Is it worth another £50 purchase this year?
First off I want to apologise as over the last few months I’ve made fun of the developers for all their buzz words such as ‘New ball physics’, ‘Authentic gameflow’ and ‘Better player intelligence’. Turns out they’re all spot on! FIFA 20 is not without it’s issues but I can confidently say that gameplay is far from one of them! This is not an overhaul like we’ve seen in previous years, it’s still the same frostbite engine from previous entries but tweaked to perfection. The way the ball bounces across the pitch towards a players feet no longer feels like a magnet, you need to control the ball as it comes to feet giving the whole experience a more weighted and realistic feel. The way you set up for shots, draw in a foul or run off a defender all feels a lot more realistic than last year and does genuinely give the whole gameplay a feel of authenticity you won’t find anywhere else.
This doesn’t mean the fun factor is gone, in fact EA have fixed a few annoying issues that plagued last years entry, the main one being that pacey forwards now have the ability to get away from a slower defender making attacking play a lot more enjoyable again. Gone are the days of Per Mertesacker being able to close down a forward flying Kylian Mbappe! Freekicks and penalties have also had a much needed makeover, it feels a lot easier to place the ball in the top corner of the net than it did before. It’s not too easy though, if anything I’d say they’ve found the perfect middle ground for these set pieces being a challenge while also giving you the excitement of actually being able to score past your opponent if they take you down anywhere near their own goal. There’s also been nice tweaks made to tackling, the way players come together and goalkeeping looks to have a few new animations as well. All in all I really can’t fault the obvious improvements to gameplay mechanics this year’s game.
Right let’s address the elephant in the room for all the single player guys like myself. Career mode… Oh we were promised the world wasn’t we, we were told all about dynamic player potential, press confrences, player morale, our own created managers and much more. Now all these features are in there but maybe not quite up to the standards I was hoping for. I do appreciate these additions and believe they make for a better career mode. Player morale seems too easy to control, in my career mode I’ve yet to find myself in a situation that was actually difficult to navigate. Press conferences often have the same questions over and over with an obvious team pleasing answer shoved in your face every time. Dynamic player potential on the other hand seems to be working well for me so far and is a much welcomed addition to the mode. I love that if I have a player I particularly like, I don’t have to rely on their set potential, I can make them a star with the right amount of effort in training and play time. These new parts of Career Mode are highly welcomed but a few tweaks here and there wouldn’t go a miss, here’s hoping for a patch (let a man dream!).
Now I’m going to take a minute to address the more popular issues surrounding career mode. Any fan of the mode will have noticed the #FixCareerMode doing the rounds on social media. Massive problems such as top six teams fealding weakened sides leading to low finishes for the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City. Fixture congestion and the edit player mode are all game breaking bugs that I can confirm are in the game. There’s really no excuse for this, especially given how many of these bugs are reoccurring issues! It just goes to show how little EA think of the mode and proves without a shadow of a doubt that they either never bothered beta testing the mode or they did and decided to launch with the bugs regardless. It’s quite frankly inexcusable and just goes to show that despite getting our hopes up, FUT is still the number one priority for EA.
Speaking of FUT, I dipped into this mode. Turns out it’s still an utterly pointless feature that has zero redeeming qualities about it. It’s there for one reason and one reason only and that’s to take advantage of people with addictive personalities who simply want to build a better team than their friend and will pay obscene amounts of real life money for the privilege of using top players who are free to use in every other mode of the game. I will never understand FUT and view it as nothing more that a leech on what could be a perfect sports simulator. None of this is a surprise though, I read once that EA make more money off FUT than they do from physical copies sold of the game itself… Wake up people, please stop being suckered into this garbage.
Moving onto something more upbeat now – Volta Football. Essentially the return of FIFA Street, I was unsure what to expect from this. It has a story mode which feels like a direct replacement for the now vacant Journey Mode which featured heavily in the last three titles. The story is okay and probably more enjoyable than the dull affair of Journey Mode’s third outing but still can’t help itself from being a cheesy cringe worthy mess at times, thought it does have it’s cool moments. Outside of the story you play other CPU controlled teams and if you beat them, you can recruit a player to your Volta team. You can then edit each individual player in your team with cool outfits and hairstyles you unlock through the story.
I found this to be a really fun and addictive thing to do. My only issue is that I wish you could edit the players names and faces as I would love to create my real life friends and use them in the story, it felt like a neat trick that EA missed out on. The gameplay of Volta is fun and I have lost many hours to it already, my only nitpick is that when you play with keepers it sucks the fun out and you’re more than likely to finish with a 1-0 scoreline than a 5-4 one you would on 3 vs 3. Also Volta mode is unavailable to play online with your friends which feels strange given it’s in kick off mode and you can play strangers through the Volta menu, again it feels like a simple yet wasted opportunity.
The visuals are of course stunning. Year after year EA have built and built to the point where FIFA is one of the best looking games on the market. Individual blades of grass, pitches tearing up, realistic looking light from both natural daylight and floodlights all look spectacular! We have even been treated to new presentation graphics for the lower leagues and friendlies, making the entire experience lean even closer to the real thing than ever before. Players for the most part look great as well… That is if you’re lucky enough to play with a team that has updated scans. For the most part, the big teams are complete top to bottom with real life scanned faces and they look brilliant.
Any teams from the second tier down is a mixed bag and that’s fair enough given the mammoth undertaking it would be to scan the thousands of players in those leagues. A problem occurs though if, like me, you’re a supporter of a recently promoted Premier League side. We know that EA have been out to these clubs to scan their teams but the new faces are not there… It turns out that they won’t actually be updated until the November patch and any tournaments or careers you start with those teams will not get the new scanned faces once the patch comes in meaning if you want to start a career mode with the greatest team in the land – Aston Villa, you have to wait well over a month and that really sucks.
So to sum up, we’re currently waiting on a patch for scanned faces for Villa, Norwich and Sheffield United, a patch to hopefully allow us to play with friends on Volta Football and a patch to fix the inexcusable amount of career mode bugs.
With these much needed patches in mind, it’s really hard to land on a final score. If all these little niggles were fixed on launch, I’d happily be sat at a 9 or above but unfortunately that’s not the case. The gameplay is nearly flawless, the visuals a thing of beauty and career mode has so much potential to be special it hurts that its not. Fix career mode, let me play Volta with my mates and give me John McGinn’s beautiful mug and I’ll go 9/10! Until then I give FIFA 20…