Every year us footie fans wait until the release of our favourite football game FIFA. Each year with the FIFA series we always get some mild updates to try and improve on the beautiful game. This year in FIFA 21, can there be that much improvement that would warrant a new game?
In short yes, but maybe only for those that are nuts about footie! While there is a lot for everyone in the game, from the Career mode to Ultimate and my favourite Pro Clubs, some may feel there is not enough added this year to pick it up. In FIFA 20 last year, everything felt new and fresh and more fun, with the gameplay getting some much-needed attention and improved a lot over FIFA 19.
In FIFA 21 however, somethings have been changed and it’s not all for the best. The gameplay mechanics has been improved and some of them are for the better, but… First, the shooting is as easy as it ever was, with finesse shots almost a guaranteed goal, which was a real pain in previous FIFA games like FIFA 18/19. Second is the chip shots and the keeper, this shot is the next shot in your arsenal that will almost guarantee you a goal and there is not much effort into pulling one off. To top these two off is the keepers themselves. These so-called pros of the game can seem to be of a Sunday variety when they try to grab a ball in the air or when they try to save a shot. At times it’s almost comical if it wasn’t downright frustrating!
Adding even more to this would be the Agile Dribbling that has been added in this year. It’s a close control dribbling that you can do with the top players and your Pro in Pro clubs and it lets you do more direct off the ball runs. When you are one on one with another player, holding down the RB/R1 button will see you player enter Agile Dribbling and you can almost run the ball into the goal. While this is a great addition to the game, it’s slightly overpowered and I feel an update to tone it down slightly would make it perfect. The Keepers in the game are not as good as they could be, and I wish that EA Sports would look at them and try to improve on them. The amount of goals that these guys let in is ridiculous and the scores in some games go into the double digits. Sometimes your keeper will go to make a save and it looks like they can’t be arsed to jump for the ball and just fall backwards as an afterthought.
What has been a great improvement in terms of gameplay is the actual fundamentals of the game, moving the ball about the pitch feels more natural, and able to string passes, crosses and shooting all comes second nature after a while. Headers in the game have been greatly improved and they are now set to manual or automatic, with manual being the default option for online games. With manual being on, you have better control over your headers and I feel that it’s the better way to play the game.
The emphasis in FIFA 21 is strongly favouring the attacking force and its on you to learn to defend and defend quickly, as the odds are heavily stacked against you. Like I said earlier, the keepers are almost comical and that when it comes to the rebounds, they are still leaning towards the unfair side of things, just like in FIFA 20, and more often than not, a ball will rebound back to an attacking player.
Some other changes made in FIFA 21 happens off the pitch, which I mean their game modes. Ultimate Team, which is a mode I barely play, has seen some improvements to the game mode. You can now play Ultimate Team in Co-op play, where both of you will receive rewards and will progress through the mode as you play together and it’s always best to make sure you have a friend to play with. As with every mode, playing with random gamers in FIFA is never the best idea. Other less than exciting additions are new stadiums and Live Friendlies. Overall, it’s not a game mode I particularly like.
Away from the pitch, the biggest change to Ultimate Team is the addition of co-operative play. Both players receive rewards and progress for playing, but sadly there’s no matchmaking to find a co-op partner, so you’ll need a regular Fifa buddy. Fitness and training cards have been removed, too, which is a welcome bit of housekeeping. New stadium customisation and “live FUT friendlies” features are less exciting.
For those of you who are not fans of UT will have Career, Volta and Pro Clubs to mess about in. For me Pro Clubs is my one and only mode that I play year in and year out. With Career mode, you get a single player experience much in the same as you would with a Football Manger game. You can develop your players, sort out your scouting team and try to find some young talent to grab for you teams upcoming season. You will also be able to jump in to gameplay and then back out, this is so that you can try to change or control key aspects within the games during the season. Volta is the same as always, with some 5-a-side street football which is just a fun knock about game mode that doesn’t take itself serious. I feel that this mode is just something in the game to fill the void. I would have prefered more time being added to my favourite game mode Pro Clubs.
Pro Clubs is the mode that I played the most and it’s a mode that I always hope that EA will give the love and attention it deserves. Each year we always receive a small update to keep us coming back for more, but so far nothing major has been done. Yet, we still come back and each year we play.
In FIFA 21 we get some minor drops in the game, with how we can setup our tactics for each formation. We are given more options in terms of how we want our default players reacting when it comes to forward runs and getting into defensive positions. We can now also edit our default players so we can add a bit of personality to each of them. You are able to change their names, their appearances and even change their boots etc… It would have been nice maybe to change their height and weight and more, but while it would be a nice idea, most would probably have a team of giants running about or tiny footie players all running at crazy speeds. However, who knows what we will be able to do in future titles.
When it comes to your own Pro, everything is much the same as always. You get to choose your height, weight, boots, kit type and more. The only options that are missing would be to give us the options of tattoos and maybe even add more running styles and animations to the players.
Your Pros skill tree or traits have also been given a face lift. While everything is the same in terms of functionality, the traits themselves have been changed around between the different categories. This is more of a tidying up than anything else and everything is more cleaner when choosing what traits you want on your Pro, for example the Free Kick Specialist trait was always in Passing, but they have now moved it over to Shooting. It’s nothing major, but it makes it more relatable.
In other areas of Pro Clubs, everything else is as it was and you would feel that there is a lot more that could be added to this game mode. We would love the option to build or even expand on stadiums, further customable options for our kits and give us back the accomplishments, as it would make us feel like we are growing our Pro players more organically.
Also, Pro Clubs would also make an amazing eSports mode. Just imagine getting to play in 11 v 11 Pro Clubs Tournaments and battling it out against the worlds best. Maybe add a feature in that would allow these types of tournaments to be setup or created. Most Pro Clubs fans go to 3rd party websites to join tournaments to play in, and I think EA should jump in to this and see where they can take it.
FIFA 21 is the best of a bad situation when it comes to getting the best footie experience on offer today. It’s still the same tried and tested FIFA that we love to hate and play each year because there is not much competition out there. You always yearn for a deeper, richer game and the gameplay mechanics they added this year does improve on the game, but not enough to make it a richer experience that us fans deserve. EA still concentrate too much on Ultimate Team and I hope in the future, they will give us a FIFA fans deserve!
GoG Rating: 7/10