FIFA 20 is out Friday, but those like me with an EA Access subscription have already been able to plough 10 hours into the game over the last weekend. I won’t go into the Pro Clubs or any of the online modes, but I have played through most of a season in career and a few games of Volta, so this is just my thoughts so far. I will post more next week when I have had a chance to play the other modes.
One immediate thing I noticed after coming from PES 2020 last week is the presentation is just so much more immersive when it’s all the correct badges, animations, and stadiums. PES this year runs FIFA close on the pitch but the area around the pitch and the menus and other areas of the game are just not even in the same class. FIFA nails presentation and it has for a long time, so this really isn’t anything new.
What separates this year’s effort from last years is the gameplay on the pitch, and the introduction of Volta football. Volta is essentially a remixed FIFA Street with less of the bombast and more grounded in actual futsal and street football. Players glide with the ball around the futsal court, and your players feel like they have more close control than they ever do in an 11-a-side game which is exactly how it should feel as the close control is essential on the smaller pitches. I should mention so far, I have only played the 5-a-side games, but there are 4’s & 3’s available later in the game. I didn’t spend enough time in Volta to get the full experience or even begin the story mode in there, but what I played was promising and very expansive compared to the Journey we’ve had for the last 3 iterations.
Volta adds another huge mode to the game, a game that already boasts Career, Online seasons, Pro clubs, Matchday, House rules and Coop. That’s all without EA’s favourite mode, Ultimate Team. With all the controversy around gambling mechanics in games, this year could be the last time we see Ultimate team in its current form. Either that or FIFA 21 could be rated 18. I personally hate the mode because it’s paid to win but based entirely on chance. The mode prays on addictive personalities and has been the main cause for the stagnation of other modes over recent years.
Ultimate team is what makes the most money for them, and therefore it’s the mode that has been developed the most. Seasons and Pro Clubs deserve huge overhauls but they’re not going to be arriving this year. I am unsure why there is no huge e-sports league for Pro Clubs, but I imagine it’s because of the complete lack of attention paid to it by the developer of the game. What worries me is that any development put into it will result in the bullshit of Ultimate teams’ packs and micro-transactions finding their way into Pro Clubs. To be fair I don’t mind Micro-transactions in most games, but in a series that asks for £60 every year, I think its egregious and greedy. That’s why I don’t play much Ultimate team.
I spent most of my time with the game playing Career mode, trying to get through the new features whilst getting a good few games under my belt. The menus and layout are much the same with a few tweaks that have helped with navigation and made it easier to get where you need to be. Little things like being able to go from the scouting screen straight through to the transfer hub when you find the player you want only saves 3 or 4 button clicks through menus. but considering the amount of times you do that in career mode, it adds up very quickly.
This scouting system has not changed from previous years which is a disappointment for me. I love the feeling of finding a player on Football Manager using my scouting network and them becoming a star. That feeling is there on FIFA for a while, but soon there will be lists online of the highest potential players. Or at least that’s how it’s always worked before. There is a new Dynamic Potential mechanic in the career mode now which is supposed to raise the potential of players based on how much game time you give them and train them. This is a game changer for me if it works, but only time will tell. Being only 2 thirds through the first season with Arsenal, I haven’t noticed much. I am giving a few young players a load of game time to try and see if they improve faster than the youth players I am not playing, and it does seem to be working.
On the pitch the improvements are noticeable. One key thing is the ball physics and how your players move their bodies and adjust to the ball depending on the position it is arriving at them. I am interested to see if these animations are fluid enough to not become standard, which is normally a thing with every FIFA. At the start the new animations feel new, and then over time you notice all of them and the game becomes more predictable. Right now, having finished my ten-hour trial, it is still surprising me with different animations all the time.
The other major changes are “strafe dribbling” which enables you to slow down your player and utilise the skilful players close control by shifting the ball from side to side. and then shuffling past a defender with a quick dash when they’ve committed one way or the other. This is counteracted by the defenders new stat, Defensive Awareness, which so far seems to mean defenders are much more likely to intercept a ball when its near their feet rather than the players not taking the ball unless you press a button to make them do it. Changes to the player physics mean you can now run alongside an attacker and your defender will push and try to get ahead of them and steal the ball just by you angling your stick towards them rather than having to hold circle.
As I mentioned my trial is over, and I won’t be able to play more until this weekend, but so far, FIFA 20 has made enough improvements to keep me coming back, here’s hoping I am surprised by Pro Clubs and the Volta.