Why I spend too long playing Football Manager

Football Manager is a video game in the same way that Microsoft Access is a video game. Essentially, it’s a giant database of statistics, and a football simulation engine. Quite how this game is my most played in recent years is difficult to explain, but over the last few years I have poured hundreds of hours into meticulously managing my team and creating a dynasty before I scrap it all up and start again with the following years game. 

It makes little sense when you think about it, I have given up on my Football Manager 2019 save where I am 9 years deep into a save with Arsenal now the most successful team in history, and I am starting all again to use a slightly different game and revert back to a squad with all the problems I had spent hours trying to fix and train out of my squad.

But here I am, 8 hours into my next slog, and I am already feeling that addictive pull towards the game. It sucks hours from your life, and all of the time you’re watching the simulation, then addressing the press, discussing things with your players, attending scouting meetings to keep an eye on future talent, managing your youth squads and even negotiating contracts to try and keep your wage bill in check.

Do you stick to a dedicated wage structure, something the game will not police for you, but that you will have to actively decide yourself that no, you will not offer your striker 20k more than the other members of your squad. Last year I lost a star player because of 10k per week that I could easily afford. But in my head, he was out of form, and the cheek of asking for a raise at that point annoyed me enough to end up with me leaving him on the bench for a few months and getting rid at a loss.

Those moments, those situations that develop are what makes Football Manager so compelling. Yes on the face of it, it’s just stat sheet after stat sheet, but as it’s improved over the years, it’s become a story game full of relationships that build up and break down and even lead to grievances with players that you carry into the real world. I was furious when Arsenal were linked with Zaha because he had pissed me off on football manager 3 years ago and honestly, I have never let it go.

I will always have a special place in my heart for Tye Clemo though, A youth academy player the game generated itself who went on to become Arsenal’s 2nd all-time top scorer only behind Thierry Henry. I am heading into this year’s iteration with so much curiosity about what new twists await me in the coming hours I will spend berating my centre backs for missing tackles and fining a player because he got sent off and cost me a pen that means my 4-0 win becomes a 4-1 win losing my clean sheet.

To the uninitiated, it’s an unwieldy prospect. People play FIFA and Pro Evolution to live out their fantasies of watching their favourite players perform wondrous feats of skill on a football pitch. People play football manager for a different kind of love, even if stems from the same sport. I love playing football manager because I can pretend, even just on my own in my room, that I am in charge of the football club I love.

I was going to try and review the game, but I don’t think it’s a reviewable thing for me. I would never recommend anyone play this game unless they’re supremely passionate about all things football. But for the people that are in love with the beautiful game like I am, it is an absolute delight and I am going to stop this blog now because my last match was a humbling 2-0 defeat at Bournemouth after a solid start of 2 wins including a victory over Sp*rs.

Hope you have a great Monday!

ChAzJS

 

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – Spoiler Free Review

It’s odd for me to be nervous about a game, but that’s where I was about Fallen Order last week before launch. All the reviews were positive, but they were also comparing it to Dark Souls or Sekiro, games I just don’t enjoy the game play loop of. Dying repeatedly to figure out how to beat an opponent isn’t for me, and it doesn’t fit my idea of what playing as a Jedi should be. 

My first few hours with Fallen Order were intriguing, the world of course hooked me straight away, it’s Star Wars and I eat that up all day, but even the character of Cal was intriguing enough to get me into the story. The opening plays out as one large set piece designed to teach you the basics of movement and traversal. It works, and then it escalates to Uncharted levels of set piece. The camera tricks employed in one train sequence are excellent, and the opening ends with you being introduced to the crew you’re going to spend a lot of time talking to over the next 20-25 hours.

From there you travel to planets you’ll vaguely know (or know quite well depending on your level of fandom) and new planets we haven’t seen before. You learn new abilities, and your lightsaber becomes your pride and joy. It’s an odd thing to experience in the current gaming climate, where choice is everything, that you are given a weapon and that is it. The lightsaber is your weapon, the force abilities you collect as you go compliment it, but most of the plentiful combat is done with the iconic weapon.

That icon status helps a lot towards making it feel special, and the customisation you can apply to it is just nuanced enough to make it feel like it’s your lightsaber, and that nobody else will have quite the same one. It’s your lightsaber, and once you’re used to the combat, it feels brilliant. You can bat back blaster bolts from your standard storm troopers with ease, and then the more difficult ones require a little more thought. Late game, you will have to plan your moves in combat, but when it all comes together it looks and feels fantastic. Force Pull someone close to you and you just end them right there and then with one stab of your weapon, then you can deal with the rest of the enemies advancing on you one by one.

The combat feels well balance at the bottom two difficulties, the baby ass baby mode that I notched it down to for most of the game to get through the story provided just enough challenge to stop it being a cake walk, but lets you feel like a badass. The higher difficulties are where it becomes more like a Dark Souls or Sekiro game, relying on you avoiding being hit and picking your times to strike. The lightsaber forces you to need to get close for your most powerful strikes, but just rushing in is never a good idea.

The AI is mostly good, but there are some minor bugs at times when enemies just stand a stare at you for a bit before they remember they’re trying to end you. These things are a little bit annoying because they break the immersion a little, something that’s little but makes a different when you’re talking about the top tier games of this generation. That should give you an indication of how much I enjoyed this game.

Beyond all the game play, the story is what keeps you driving on through the hordes of enemies. Cal is not the most charismatic protagonist, he doesn’t quite have that Nathan Drake or Kratos personality, but the game play means he feels like your own character in the world, and the supporting cast around him are great. The two ship companions have some good banter between them and Cal, and one of them becomes more and more integral to the main plot as the story goes on.

The villain is an enjoyable one, at first seeming like a throwaway inquisitor, but by the end is a fleshed-out character who I almost cared for in a weird way. One character who is introduced later into the game, I found really intriguing from a Star Wars lore point of view, and it did make me wonder if there could be more stories with some of these characters.

All the game play, characters and story combine well with the stunning set pieces at the beginning and end of the game. Without any spoilers, the ending has some of the best moments in Star Wars and adds to the lore in an interesting way. There is one part of it I found myself going “Wtf I just did all that and this what you do with it” but when I thought about it, it made some sense in context of the story.

I have seen Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order described as a greatest hit of this generation and I understand why. It takes elements from Uncharted, God of War, and Dark Souls and combines them in a cocktail shaker to make this incredibly fun experience that I would encourage all Star Wars fans, and most gamers, to try out.

Everything in that shaker gets a little bit diluted by the other parts though, and therefore it feels like all three of those games without being as good at any of what they do. For example, while the set pieces are spectacular, none reach the heights of the Uncharted series. The game doesn’t quite have the polish and attention to detail that made God of War such an intricate, perfectly crafted gem of a game, and the story doesn’t have quite as much impact. The combat is really good, but it feels like a slightly toned-down version of the Sekiro system.

Fallen Order does so much of this very well, but nothing perfectly. It’s a Jack of all trades, Jedi Master of none. The fact I am even comparing it to these games shows you the level its very close to being, but it’s just a little below that tier, and that might push people that come to it for one of those elements decide to jump to another of those games. If you want stunning set pieces, go play Uncharted, and so on. If you want a game that combines elements of all of it though, then Fallen Order is a great game for you.

In a year where there have been very few games that have wow’d me, this is creeping near the top of my game of the year list. It hasn’t been nominated for the game awards because for some reason anything released after October just gets binned off until next year, which makes Fallen Orders prospects a little more ominous when The Last of Us Part 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 are here.

For me the Star Wars-iness covers over the little niggles that keep it behind the top tier games, and whilst I can’t argue it’s better than any, it’s certainly up there near them. What it certainly is, is the most fun I have had on any video game in 2019, and what more can I really want from a game where I am a Jedi.

9/10 – Respawn proves itself as one of the best developers in the business

ChAzJS

Call of Duty Modern Warfare Multiplayer Review

If you’re like me, you will have played the Call of Duty campaign to get you back into the swing of things before you charge into the Multiplayer. I did so once I had completed the campaign and I am 8 hours in, which isn’t much but it’s enough to get a feel for the game modes. Has it managed to capture the magic from Modern Warfare 2’s heyday?

Judging Modern Warfare against those rose-tinted standards is difficult. I probably spent just as much time being murdered on the old games, I just remember the highlights. Calling in a Nuke on Highrise and finishing the game with 31 kills and no deaths in a Team Deathmatch was a moment probably up there with my best in multiplayer achievements. Second only to my legendary exploits on FIFA Pro Clubs.

Over the years Call of Duty’s multiplayer had become a frantic wall running triple jumping horror show for me. Every time I would play, I would be slaughtered in most matches by people at angles I wouldn’t even think to check. That changes with this year’s CoD. Everything is stripped back, it’s you, a gun, 3 perks and some grenades. That simplicity means it relies more on your skills and reactions, and although I am far from being the Rambo I once was, I am thoroughly enjoying it again.

CoD has always had the best FPS gun play in the world; I don’t think that has ever changed. aiming and shooting feels so good on Modern Warfare that just letting that shine leads to some great multiplayer fights. I will shout “Oh fuck off” nearly every time I am killed, but in reality, the kill-cam doesn’t lie, I got hit, and I died.

This year the Killstreaks are more restrained, but still very useful. The UAV is a vital tool and although most players after level 24 will equip cold blooded to be hidden from this, just forcing an opponent to select that over something like the hardline perk is a tactical advantage in its own way. The air strikes are different, with you forced to be able to see the area and mark it with a laser before the bombs drop meaning a little more risk if you want to get it right. You can’t bomb the ever living fuck out of the other side of the map just to try and spawn kill people anymore, unless you run over there and risk being killed by the spawning team.

I mentioned the Nuke earlier, but as far as I can tell that is not in play here. The top killstreak is the Juggernaut armour, which whilst fun, is probably one I will never see equipped by anyone. The Chopper Gunner is pretty much the top dog in the killstreaks. CoD’s killstreaks have not changed much in general because they’re one of the most satisfying gameplay mechanics in any multiplayer. You’re constantly rewarded for getting multiple kills and that determination to get the next notch on the list keeps you playing.

In terms of modes I haven’t seen before, the new Cyber Attack is a welcome addition. It’s essentially a faster Search & Destroy, but with games that last just as long. Each team must grab a device and plant it at the opponent’s base, but you only get one life. You can be revived though, which adds an interesting slant to the gameplay. If you’re the last person against 2 or 3 enemies, you suddenly feel the need to be sneaky and get to your teammates and revive them and even up the game. It means that the game can be evened up during the fight and I have already seen games go from 1v1 to 6v6 again. It’s a cool mode and one I will probably get deeper into once I have honed my skills a little more in the bread and butter for me which is Team Deathmatch.

CoD classic modes are still present, Search and Destroy, Headquarters, Domination all present and active. The one mode I am yet to play much of is Ground War, which is CoD’s take on Battlefield’s larger more all-out war approach. I will be giving it go but I like my Call of Duty to be close maps and fast action.

I was a little sceptical going into this new Modern Warfare. The love I have for Modern Warfare 2 is deep, and it’s a game that really made me realise how great this franchise can be. Since then, the yearly titles have never reached the same heights for me, but this game is threatening to do exactly that. I don’t have the same number of hours to commit to this game that I used to, but I am very happy that I finally have a Call of Duty game to enter the rotation of regular games I play.

In a marketplace flooded with Battle Royale’s and hero shooters, Modern Warfare is a throwback to the games that started the multiplayer shooter genre off. It’s a return to form for the franchise and a game I will be playing long after release for the first time in years. CoD is Back.

9/10 – CoD’s multiplayer is back to its best.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare – Campaign Review

It’s been a long time since I have been remotely excited to play any Call of Duty game. As soon as the double jumping, wall running craziness started, I was out, and I have tried a few of them with no success. This year’s entry is a reboot of the classic Modern Warfare titles that essentially made CoD into the biggest game on the planet for a long time. The single player campaign was a big part of the original MW games, and this new iteration is no different. 

First, I have to mention the graphics. This is the most realistic looking game I have ever played. It competes with even the Sony first party games and sets the bar for Death Stranding and The Last of Us Part 2 to beat over the next year. The characters are all stunningly detailed and their facial animations are impeccable. This is the closest we have ever come to real people being rendered in game and it really does help sell the immersion.

This year it seems the story writers were given licence to make whatever they want and told to try and be controversial. They succeed at times, and at others it feels like they’re trying to be a bit too edgy. For the majority of the story, I was invested in the characters and the events and CoD legend Captain Price coming back with his unbelievable moustache got me to buy in even more. As the story continues, it’s a pretty standard CoD affair, there are twists and turns but nothing you won’t see coming story-wise. The story is there to give you reasons behind each mission, and those missions are where Modern Warfare steps out from the crowded FPS genre.

During the very first mission, I knew this was a bit different. Your character feels slower, each step feels more deliberate than the sprinting and diving for cover CoD is known for. As you work your way through the mission, you take out the guards as you get used to the shooting and how good it feels to be back playing CoD, or at least that’s how I felt being a lapsed CoD player. At one point in the mission, you enter a warehouse, and the lights are cut out. Its pitch black except for the light radiating from the torch you have that only illuminates a circle in front of you. All the sudden, I didn’t feel like an invincible soldier. The footsteps I could hear in my headphones were unnerving, I knew there was enemies. The tension in these moments is something no FPS has given me in years, if ever. As soon as I saw movement, I aimed at it, sometimes I nailed an enemy, other times I aimed at nothing.

Those moments are scattered throughout the campaign, and the tension is created in different ways. One of the most talked about missions is “Clean House” which is an incredible, slow paced mission that has you doing exactly what the mission name suggests, cleaning out a house. Not a house in the middle east that has been blown apart by a war. Oh no this is just a regular Town house in North London which is full of men, women, children. Some of them are armed. Some of them are terrified. Some of them are terrified, and then they grab an AK-47 and you must take them out.

The shock value feels earned in missions like “Clean House”. As the end of the campaign approaches it starts to wear out, and it’s a little too much. Eventually you’re a little desensitised to the situation of “person looks like they’re surrendering and then they grab a gun”. There are other missions that have their moments, Piccadilly Circus is a stunning recreation and the events happening there are frightening for someone who has walked around the area countless times, and the Embassy mission is the longest one in the game and changes up the gameplay multiple times to give things a slight twist and keep you on your toes.

I honestly did not expect much from this new Modern Warfare’s campaign. I was excited to see Price and the shooting mechanics of MW have never been beat. It turns out that I really enjoyed playing through this campaign, and at the end I was sitting in my chair squealing with delight about the name drops and references. I did not expect CoD to get that kind of a reaction from me. Modern Warfare has brought me back to the series, and even if it takes a couple years between this and the sequel, I am very excited to see what comes next in the rebooted story.

I have jumped in and played a big chunk of multiplayer, and I will talk about that more later in the week. The fact I have played a lot should tell you something though, as I have already sunk more hours into this multiplayer than the last few CoDs combined. The campaign is a reason to play Modern Warfare, and the Multiplayer may just be the reason I stick around.

Good: Incredible Graphics, Stunning set pieces, and some brilliant missions that change up the CoD formula.

Bad: The story will never be that great in CoD games, but it doesn’t really need to be. Some scenes that are shocking for shock’s sake that don’t add to the narrative at all.

8/10 – Modern Warfare is back and I am very happy about it. 

 

Ultimate Team is….

This year I really tried. I really tried I did. I wanted to like it. I wanted to be hooked and to get into the weekly grind. To get the satisfaction at the end of the weekend when you’ve got your wins and are rewarded with multiple packs and coins to spend on improving the squad. But I just cannot do it. 

I am of course talking about FIFA 20’s Ultimate Team mode. The microtransaction monster that has dominated the game over recent years and been the primary focus of the development team because it makes EA so much money. While most of the game modes in FIFA have gone through minute changes from year to year, every year there is overhauls to how Ultimate Team is played.

I tried a few years back and gave up when I was being drawn against teams with players I have never heard of with low ratings, and then being torn apart because all of them have 99 pace ratings. I left it alone for years only dabbling a little in the game mode to see what’s what. This year I decided to follow my mates and play it, and at first all was well. I opened some packs, and despite how much I hate microtransactions I bit the bullet and invested £20. I got some okay players, nothing amazing, but it was enough to build a decent team and play some squad battles to improve the team a little.

After one week of those rewards, my premier league team was built. Jamie Vardy up front, a strong core and a formation I know very well from Career mode. 4-3-3 is my favourite formation, with a holding midfielder to protect the centre backs. Well in career mode this works, I even have the holding midfielder dropping deep to collect the ball at times. I have everything ready; my team is set up to play in the exact way I have grown used to playing the game in every mode. I am yet to be beaten by anyone online in other modes and I haven’t been beaten face to face on FIFA in about 10 years.

Things start off ok. I jumped into Division Rivals placement games and noticed straight away the gameplay was not the same as in other modes, or even in the Squad Battle challenges. The players feel loose, and they look like they’re barely able to bring a ball under control and tackling anyone is a bit of a lottery. Sometimes your player will come out of the tackle with the ball, other times it will ricochet unnaturally to another player, be that on your team or the opposition.

Ultimate team’s gameplay is like normal FIFA with all the stats slightly adjusted, and a load more random things that at times feel unfairly balanced one way or the other. There is a big discussion about how regularly goals are scored after conceding, something I always thought was much ado about nothing. Having played the game mode a bit more, I have to say it really is oddly hard to win the ball no matter how cleanly it seems like you tackle the player. It makes for a very frustrating game of football and doesn’t give me anywhere near the satisfaction I get from dominating a game of Pro Clubs or leading a team of home-grown players to glory in Career Mode.

What I find most frustrating of all is that Ultimate team has the components to be a very fun experience, but when the part where you play football is the worst part of a football game mode, you have to wonder what could have been. I have had more fun in the squad building challenges than any other mode. Those puzzles have entertained me for hours and I am looking forward to the next load of puzzles, but it’s now just a glorified mini game to me. I sold my squads and will probably forget about the puzzle mode after a while.

Ultimate Team’s days are possibly numbered, with governments all around the world looking into the legality of the loot boxes and the gambling aspects of video games, it may well mean that FIFA ends up with a R/18 rating for gambling mechanics. I can’t imagine that will fly well with EA, so they may need to revamp the mode completely.

For now, though, I will stick to Pro Clubs for most of my FIFA gameplay, and leave Ultimate Team to those who can deal with the frustration.

Have a great weekend!

ChAzJS

 

Borderlands 3 Spoiler review

Finally, I have finished Borderlands 3. By finished, I mean completed all the main story missions and rolled credits. It honestly felt like a weight off my shoulders, right before the release of Ghost Recon. Now that it’s out of the way I can just focus on being incredibly excited to see Joker this weekend. I am going to go into the spoiler for the end of the game now so if you’ve not got there yet, don’t read on unless you don’t care for spoilers. To be honest, there isn’t much worth spoiling. 

Borderlands 3 ends how it starts, with loads of shooting.  The final battles and final levels are all just jump and shoot bullet sponge bosses, which is ordinarily fine, but being outshone by other bosses earlier in the game isn’t a great look for Tyreen and Troy Calypso. The twins who have been one step ahead of you and the Crimson Raiders all game finally confront you, but don’t use any of the powers we have seen them display through the games story cut scenes up to this point, its flabbergasting.

Finally found a reason to use the word flabbergasting.

Troy Calypso has become a powerful Siren in his own right and has been using an ability called “Phaselock” on an entire Moon to pull it towards a planet. Does he use this Phase lock on you, the one who has wiped out thousands of his minions and is now clearly the only obstacle in his way? of course not. It’s not even acknowledged as something he could do in the final battle with him.

Tyreen spends the game leeching peoples life away with ease, even stripping Crimson Raiders leader Lilith of her powers. You fight her and she has essentially become a god we are told. Well tell that to my machine gun. She is the final fight in the story mode, and it’s one of the easiest fights in the game, perhaps surpassed only by Troy. I didn’t come close to dying in either fight and all they involved was jumping over some sweeping attacks and running in circles and shooting them.

Perhaps I had overpowered weapons and a higher-level character? Well according to the game I was levels below both Troy and Tyreen, and my guns even lower than that. The guns are the only reason it was slightly enjoyable to play through, as I was continuously throwing my Tediore submachine guns around, so I had a mini army of turrets. The range of guns really is this game saving grace.

I must point out that I didn’t want to be pummelled Dark souls’ style in Borderlands 3, I just wanted to see something a bit different for the final few fights. There is a Vault monster earlier in the game where the attacks it has are wildly varied, and then it affects the actual battle area you are fighting in and you have to think about what you are doing and where you are positioned, as well as pumping him full of bullets, and fighting off minions. It’s a challengingly fun boss fight, and me and a mate played it and really enjoyed it. That high bar is never touched again, and it is a more intimidating presence than the “Destroyer” that is spoken about and then revealed at the end.

Mechanics aside, the story is quite good, and I found it entertaining and its attempts at an emotional twist at the end are well done. I am not entirely sure what or how Lilith does what she does, but it certainly looks cool. Borderlands has set up Siren’s to be this bad ass thing, but I have no idea what their powers are supposed to be. They all seem to be capable of whatever the story requires of them. The main issue I have with the story in Borderlands 3 is that the character you play as, the one doing all the work, is completely unimportant to the story. You’re referred to as Vault Hunter all game, not by the name of the character you chose, and you’re not in any of the cut scenes.

It’s so odd, you spend 20 minutes fighting a boss battle, only for your guy to be completely ignored in the scenes. Quite what the point in all the customisation was is beyond me, as you only ever see your character when you perform an Emote or get into a vehicle. I played as Zane, and early game I felt like there was a connection brewing between Zane and Ava, a parent daughter type thing, and perhaps that was intended. The final missions she comes along and maybe that was supposed to pay off there, but due to Zane being missing from every cut scene. I felt sort of detached from the main story. Sure, Tyreen and Troy did some awful stuff, but no character has ever shared a scene with my green haired bad ass, so why do I care. It feels like I was playing as a mercenary whose job was to do the shooting for Lilith.

I feel like I am being harsh on a game I did enjoy playing, but it’s because the potential for this game is sky high. Better writing more intelligently set up boss fights with some challenging mechanics in there and including your character in the story would have made this a 10/10 game of the year contender. As it is, it’s a solid game, and a good return to a really fun universe. I hope the next borderlands game takes what 3 has achieved and really builds on it. Perhaps giving us the chance to make a completely new character and make them have whatever abilities we choose. It would be something new, and the range of characters we already have is certainly one I want to see more of.

That’s it for Borderlands 3 for me, and therefore this will probably be the last post about the game for a while. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading it!

‘Til tomorrow.

ChAzJS

 

FIFA 20 – Review

Every year FIFA is the game that outlasts everything else. It’s always in rotation, sometimes it is the only thing I am playing, other times I am just dropping in occasionally to get my fix of football. My love of the beautiful game is what brings me back just as much as it is the video game itself. This year there are some changes and an entirely new mode to play, but does it all work out to be a better game?

FIFA 20 introduces a new game mode called Volta, which initially looks like FIFA Street in a new form. It sorts of it, but there is less emphasis on the over the top tricks and one on one battles and its more of a team effort. It can be very satisfying to ping the ball between a few of the Volta players as you progress up the small 3, 4, and 5-a-side arena’s which all have their own style and rules. Some have walls reminding me of the 90s FIFA games when you have smaller sided indoor games available.

Volta is a good idea, but it is some way off being the finished article. If you control just your edited character “Revvy” your AI teammates will fluctuate between being useful and being liabilities. The shooting mechanic is a little broken against AI teams as well, as you will find yourself with a shot you think should nestle in the top corner flying wildly towards the corner of the arena, whereas your AI opponent can hit the target from anywhere. The 3 and 4-a-side games don’t feature goalkeepers, so the problems are exacerbated in these game modes. The 5-a-side is good, but keepers are arguably overpowered here, as the tiny goal they are protecting means every shot is very near them. This creates a game where you are constantly trying to pull off a “sweaty goal” where you run up to the keeper and then roll it to the side for your team mates to hit home.

Moving on from Volta, I should touch upon the game mode I love to hate, Ultimate Team. I have played a bit of it this year to understand what’s there, and its largely the same as every season, the game is just a near perfect engine for trying to tease and extract money from you. The satisfactions from seeing a “walk out” player from opening a pack is a great thrill, but I have had one in the entire time I’ve played, and I have well over 300 players from packs. I didn’t buy all the packs, most of the packs are earnt through the game modes one saving grace for me, the squad building challenges.

These are 11-piece puzzles you need to solve using different players with matching clubs, leagues or nationalities to meet the targets of each challenge. They are immensely satisfying to complete, and although you could probably google it and find a much easier way to get through them all, I found the challenge and reward very satisfying. The few games of ultimate team I did play online and offline were frustrating, either way too easy offline or, once I had won against a few teams of similar level to mine online, I got put against a player who had an incredibly overpowered squad. Messi lined up alongside Suarez and Thierry Henry, all 3 players costing more individually than my entire squad of 18. This is an example of broken matchmaking and what I feel is the game trying to entice people into buying packs because when you see those players, you want them.

Enough about that shite game mode, onto Career mode. It’s been a rough launch for FIFA 20, with its career mode reportedly being a bit broken. Weirdly, I haven’t had any of the issues reported, but I have noticed that the squads are still not updated. Whilst I am grateful to have Nacho Monreal still at Arsenal, it does break the feeling of it being an updated new season a little. I played a full season and a half so far with Arsenal, and I have found it a bit too easy. Without playing many games I won the league and cup double, and the following season I bought Kylian Mbappe for just 130m. At that point I stopped because it just felt too easy, so I will wait for the new update and try again.

Career mode’s big new features are more squad interaction and a new dynamic potential system for play progression. The press conferences and the post-game interviews are well presented, but they appear to have very little effect on anything. Morale is present in the game but so far everything I have said has boosted morale. Player interactions are improved as you can now respond to a disgruntled player who wants more play time and explain why, but again I am not sure it has any purpose beyond a morale rating.

The dynamic potential is a feature I am very intrigued by, and I think I saw it working a little bit. In my playthrough I played Matteo Guendouzi a lot, as well as Reiss Nelson and both players improved significantly more than I would have expected them to in FIFA 19. By significantly, I mean 2 overall points, but they will make a big difference long term over a few seasons so I will be keen to see how this plays out over a longer time.

Finally, and most importantly, Pro clubs. It’s the best mode. It just is. Unfortunately, EA haven’t paid much attention to it, continuing the tradition of them ignoring their own ready-made eSport. The player creation is a different but gives you the same pro’s after you’ve been through it, and the skill tree is a bit more intricate, but beyond that it’s the same core game I love.

The actual on pitch gameplay is, and I am not sure many share this opinion, a much better game than FIFA 19. FIFA 20 is a much more challenging game to play at high levels online in Pro Clubs, which is how I will judge most FIFA titles. You can easily batter the AI if you’re an experienced player, but the online game modes like seasons and pro clubs test the games metal a lot more. You can no longer float a ball over the top into space quite so easily, as defenders do seem a lot more aware and switched on to attacks. They attempt to intercept all the time, and whilst it’s frustrating to have what you expected to be a well times through ball cut out by a defender, it does give me that feeling that I can improve and learn to get those passes right.

The close control is better than it’s ever been and for the first time I think FIFA has managed to get pace and physicality between players right. If you’re a faster player, you will notice that now you have enough pace to get past an opponent but it you miscontrol it in slightly the wrong direction the defender will have a chance to get back in and slow you down with a shoulder charge or a well-timed tackle. FIFA 20 has its own pitch problems though, and one of them is referee’s. The inconsistency is a real frustration for me, as realistic as it is. In FIFA, I expect it to get all the decisions right, and it gets far too many fouls wrong. At times you will be booked for an innocuous coming together when you’re running for the ball, and other times the ref won’t even notice a player taking out another with a late slide tackle.

FIFA 20 delivers this season on the pitch with a more realistic, slower game where your pace is a weapon, but not an overpowered one. Slow build up play and smart off the ball runs are rewarded, and there is some really satisfying football to be played. I will be playing it long into next year, and I think with the incoming patch updates and squad corrections, it will become a better all-round game.

Good: The presentation as always is great, and the gameplay is better than it’s been for a while. New models are promising but need a bit of refinement to be a viable regular game mode for me.

Bad: Ultimate Team is still there, and the referees are frustrating. Career mode needs an overhaul, and it has for a long time.

8/10 – FIFA 20 is a solid platform, hopefully next year they can build on it and address the community’s concerns.