FIFA is back for another year, although if it wasn’t for the title screen and the neon world of Volta Football, you’d probably think you were playing the same game.
As has been the case for a while now, EA doesn’t really do much to change FIFA on the park. Sure there are a few tweaks here and there (apparently the ball physics are better), but players still feel like they are dancing on ice and the player likeness for some teams is just shocking and completely lacking in effort. It’s such a shame because FIFA is the premier football game, but when you have a two-horse race and second place is 30 points behind every season then you tend to get complacent.
There are some redeeming features to FIFA. Volta Football is the big new addition, adding in a story mode and even the ability to play in tournaments and online. This version of ‘street football’ mixes things up with its various modes such as rush keepers, where the outfield player nearest the goal acts as a goalkeeper when needed. Street, which is similar except with a dedicated goalkeeper and Futsal, which is more of a five a side with rules version of the game.
The campaign for Volta is around 3-4 hours long and takes you around the world, completing in different styles of the tournament. If you can put up with the overall ‘Hip vibe,’ which probably won’t be for everyone, then it’s actually decent fun as Volta is a fun mix of speed and skill. It is colourful, fast-paced and even allows for some customisation since you’ll unlock gear and be able to recruit new players for your team.
Of course, this is still FIFA so the mode is not without its problems. One of the main issues is that auto switching does not change players fast enough, meaning you’ll lose a lot of goals unless you are accustomed to changing players yourself. Another (really unforgivable issue) is that you’ll play against teams which have an exact replica of your team on the opposing side. This is really annoying as these players not only look the same but are also often wearing the same clothes, meaning you’ll keep passing to them only to then realise what you have done. It is completely stupid. You’d think if you are going to create a new mode you’d at least have enough player models to avoid issues such as this.
So yeah, while Volta is a fairly decent mode and something new and different, it is completely spoiled by what appears to be a lack of development time or just plain laziness.
Moving on to the main game and as usual, the focus is on Ultimate Team. This is EA’s main moneymaker and it shows since here is where you’ll find the main changes. First up we have an all-new ‘Tunnel’ animation when opening a pack, meaning on the rare occasion you get a good one it’ll take you all the way onto the park – don’t expect that to happen too often. There is also a new season progress mode, which tracks your playing and rewards you accordingly. These rewards are generally skins for your stadium, such as a centre circle flag or banners for the stands, although you do occasionally get a half decent loan player too.
Of course, you still have the modes you’ll have become accustomed too such as Squad Battles, Division Rivals and FUT Champions – so if you are desperate to build a great team and compete the option is there.
Elsewhere EA has improved friendlies with some new and fun additions. New options include Mystery Ball, which changes the conditions in a match at set periods. One minute the ball gives players a burst of pace, then before you know it’ll change to supreme dribbling skills or a more powerful shot. The ball can also change to give goal boosts, so if you are 3-0 down you’ll find yourself motivated when it changes to reward the next goal with an x3 multiplier. There is also a new King of the Hill game too. Here you have to stay in a set area of the pitch long enough to get a goal boost. Manage this without losing the ball and you can go ahead and score a goal worth double or even treble the amount. These modes are a fun addition to play with friends and I’ve certainly been enjoying playing them.
It’s hard to understand why EA continues to ignore one of the most loved modes in the game (well it’s not really hard to understand ££££££) but yet again Career Mode is sadly lacking in any innovation and not only that, it is broken too. There are some new additions such as the ability to create your own custom manager as well as pre-match and post-match interviews, team morale and the ability to have one-on-one conversations with your players but other than that it is a complete buggy mess.
Where do we begin? Well for one the commentary is awful, the post-game interviews irrelevant to the action and bizarrely each team keeps fielding a weakened side. If you choose a playing career you’ll be constantly puzzled as to why the best players are left on the bench and this is even worse in management mode.
Sure not many teams in real life would complain if the opposition managers chose to line up with a weakened side, making them easier to play against, but it ruins the fun in a video game, completely taking away any challenge. Hopefully this bizarre bug will be patched at some point, but the fact is it shouldn’t have been allowed to happen in the first place, a bit like the duplicate players in the Volta mode.
FIFA 20 isn’t a bad game. It plays fine, looks fantastic and is the nearest you’ll get to playing real football on a console. The problem is the minor bugs, the lack of innovation and the sole focus on Ultimate Team take away from the experience as a whole. EA really needs to stop being so complacent and try to bring some major changes to the table, otherwise, if its rival can get its act together, it may just find itself at the centre of an upset.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*