And so begins another football season and another installment of the hugely successful FIFA franchise hits the shelves.
In what has been a turbulent, unpredictable and worrying year for the world as a whole and the football landscape, the return of a shiny new FIFA is just a little more welcoming. That little bit more comforting.
First, is this the kind of game you can learn and not realize that the hours are sailing? Absolutely.
A new football season and a new FIFA as a hugely popular franchise makes its annual comeback
Kylian Mbappe is the FIFA 21 poster boy and one of the game’s highest rated players
But weren’t most FIFA soccer games like that?
Dedicated fans will stick to the latest offering as much as its predecessors, but it’s the beauty in the details that really worry us.
So, is FIFA 21 different? And how much is it?
To put it quickly, players who expect noticeable changes to the game system and the way FIFA flows will be disappointed.
Instead, you can see nuanced modifications stitched into the existing football machine skeleton. Passing is smooth, players are more responsive, and overall game transitions seem to bend much more gently into each other.
Subtle details are visible within the gameplay, while the stadiums are stunningly recreated
FIFA has drawn realism across the board, with the Anfield winger seen here
But these are the little things you feel after making your way into the new product. In terms of immediate first impressions, everything looks pretty similar to 12 months ago.
There really is a lot to like. A well thought-out line-up will be rewarded with sublime goals that seem to be conveyed straight from the live action. Realism comes into play in FIFA 21, but jarring elements still persist.
Perhaps, unlike me, your FIFA skill level will quickly fix any teething problems, even if it seems the rigid defense system in the game feels much more testing than it did in previous years. Clumsy, almost.
Holy patience must be maintained as game poster boy Kylian Mbappe – now rated 90 overall – dashes to your defensive line with dazzling feet. It’s definitely a baptism of fire, dive in and you’re done.
Yet the game feels very much like a learning process. Being humiliated once allows the user to quickly realize the need to move players away from the ball, bringing support into play. Fans will be happy to know that this time around the pacing attributes are back in a big way, putting the speed demons in a league of their own.
FIFA has tried so hard to level the playing field in terms of pace in previous years, almost to the point that it has become superfluous. Now, fortunately, it’s optimized and right on the song. A new “Agile Dribbling” feature will delight the masses too, with the toggle buttons on the respective console becoming your new best friends causing body rolls and false tacks galore.
The transition to the game is smooth, while the dribbling has been remastered and the pace is vital again
Liverpool’s title-winning season sees them as one of the highest-rated teams in the game
Player selection is now key, and those who don’t pay dues to the attackers they clash with could find themselves on the sore spot of humiliation.
The passing repertoire remains high all the time, with the pleasant continuation of reactive surfaces and weather conditions hitting the ball. Enter a stormy autumn match in the Premier League and you will soon know all about it.
One feature that stands out is the Career mode. Some people love it, others hate it. Either way, the excessive criticism leveled at FIFA last year regarding this medium has certainly been taken into consideration.
This time around we find a much more detailed offer, containing an interactive Football Manager-style match simulation, which allows you to switch between the standard FIFA match view and the new simulation view whenever you want.
Perhaps it is long overdue, but it was definitely necessary. The collapse of everyone’s favorite transfer window has also been exacerbated, with player negotiations feeling far less robotic and in line with the club’s financial and competitive status.
FIFA has responded to the criticism of the career mode and added the features of Football Manager
When you’re not getting lost in career mode, ‘Volta’ street football offers a complete cleanser for the palate. After its introduction in FIFA 20, Volta has been sculpted and the good things have been improved while the bad things have … well, gone.
The mode offers a throwback with nostalgic undertones to the days of FIFA Street, offering a variety of options in which to play small games using the biggest names in the world.
Improved system changes include VOLTA squads, featured battles, new match types, VOLTA debut and kickoff.
However, for those masters of the online discipline, who head straight to Pro Clubs and FUTs, the key theme is constant continuation. New features include FUT Events, Live FUT Friendlies, FUT Stadium, and a FUT Club offering upgraded options.
Street football ‘Volta’ provides an injection of nostalgia from the days of FIFA Street
Users can select locations around the world to play short-sided games with superstars
The same emotions continue and the ongoing treasure hunt to pack a Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo or Mbappe remains rarer than ever, although the excitement of course is always in the search.
While it won’t be without criticism, all in all FIFA offers and promises a new set of excitement for avid fans to carry into the next year and beyond. With more subtle details filtering through at random intervals, there’s little risk that the new offering will feel stale anytime soon.
And, if nothing else, the sight of stadiums packed with fervent fans fills our hearts and leaves us wanting a return to normal once again.