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.