I’ve played hundreds of hours of FIFA over the last decade. My rollercoaster relationship with the series ended last year when I refused to buy FIFA 19, having grown increasingly irked at the lack of significant changes in previous years.
I’m happy to report that FIFA 20 is not only different enough to warrant dipping your toes back in but is worth plunging in head-first; it’s probably the most complete entry the series has ever experienced. It still has some lingering issues – Career Mode, especially – but there’s plenty on offer in EA’s latest football instalment.
Starting with the brand-new mode of FIFA 20, VOLTA harkens back to the days of FIFA Street, with close control and skilful flair taking the spotlight in smaller matches. There’s a short story mode that lasts five hours or so, which, while awfully cheesy, has a good degree of production value. This is excellent woven into the rest of VOLTA, as you go on a journey to build and expand your street team.
There’s everything from 3-on-3 matches with rush goalies to professional Futsal rules and recruiting new players from the teams you win is a blast. There’s even an online component, too, VOLTA League, which lets you take your created player and customised squad and challenge other players. Each match will have an accompanying set of challenges for you to complete, in the hopes of unlocking some sweet new clothing for your team.
The customisable clothing can, of course, be purchased separately with real currency, something the community was originally up in arms about, but I was pretty underwhelmed with it, to be honest. As the unlockables are purely cosmetic, there’s little incentive to keep attempting challenges unless you really care how your team looks. Of course, introducing game-changing stats to the clothing would draw the “pay-to-win” argument, but I think restricting those clothes to the singleplayer portion of VOLTA would have been an excellent way to keep people playing.
As it stands, VOLTA is a brilliant addition to FIFA 20, and a fun excursion, but it won’t be the only reason football fans buy this title. Moving onto to the ever-popular Ultimate Team, things are largely the same with a few minor tweaks and UI changes to keep things from getting stale. I will say that the offline portion of FUT is better than ever this year, and you finally feel as if playing the AI gives you a decent reward for your time.
The Friendlies mode is a big part of this, which now allows you to add the ‘House Rules’ modifiers that were previously exclusive to kick-off games. These produce some wildly entertaining local co-op matches, especially the Mystery Ball mode, which changes the power, speed, and behaviour of the ball every time it leaves play. FIFA 20 is also an excellent entry point for newcomers to the series, with extensive tutorials now available for just about every mode, and a host of skill games that help you get to grips with the controls and mechanics.
Career mode is still a sore spot for many veteran players, though, with the changes this year being largely cosmetic – such as the pre-game interviews and player conversations, which offer little impact to the mode overall. There was also near-universal uproar on release, with Career mode featuring several glitches such as the Champions League groups not being updated since FIFA 19.
EA have addressed some of these concerns in interim patches, but many of the Career mode issues remain largely untouched, unfortunately. EA have stated they are working on addressing the community’s complaints, but it may be another few weeks before we see any updates go live.
They have been making some key patches elsewhere, though, already improving how the dribbling, defending, and goalkeeper reactions feel alongside a myriad of UI tweaks. Couple these with the existing overhaul to attacking and defending options, and FIFA 20 becomes genuinely fun to play again.
Gone are the horrible changes to penalties that they made a few years ago, replaced with a much cleaner version that’s easier to understand. The same goes for freekicks, which now offer an unparalleled level of control and technique. Scoring one feels amazing again, and the emphasis has really shifted more towards user skill this year.
This all culminates in a FIFA that feels good to pick up – at least to someone that used to love the series. The old debate of FIFA vs PES has always been contentious – like any good rivalry in gaming – but it’s safe to say that FIFA 20 is worth giving another go if you’ve spent a few seasons away from the dugout.
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