FIFA 21 Review
Sports games get picked over with a fine-toothed comb each and ever year, and for good reason. At 79.99 in Canada, it’s a steep price to pay, and folks want to make sure they aren’t getting a very expensive roster update. While FIFA lacks any major overhauls this year, there are enough changes that should justify a purchase for even the most casual of FIFA fans. Let’s dive in!
When it comes to how the game feels after a good number of hours playing in each mode, FIFA 21 is definietly a strong improvement over FIFA 20. Sure, we didn’t get any brand new game modes like last year, but small tweaks to everything has FIFA 21 feeling like a worthwhile upgrade, even if not everything is sunshine and rainbows.
Career mode has never been where EA has focused their resources, at least not since the days of their single player story. A few welcome tweaks have been made here though, including a live, simulated match that can be interupted at a moments notice to quickly change the tide of a game. While this has been a feature in Madden for a while, it builds off the old mechanics used in most other EA Sports titles and gives players more control over when they jump in, and how they turn the tide of the game.
Further, players have more control over the makeup of their team than ever before, giving you a greater sense that you really are the manager of your squad. Swapping players around the pitch isn’t just something you do to fill a hole for an injury now. If you feel a specific player on your team would perform better as a center back, as opposed to a defensive midfielder, you can make that swap. It might take the player a few games to adjust, but making the right calls can actually improve the score of players on the pitch. It’s a phenomenal way to feel like you have real control, and you have full reign to do whatever you want!
Volta, which was introduced in FIFA 20, is also getting a few minor tweaks. A new short story mode now introduces you to the the mode, and while it’s a bit silly during the 2-3 hours that you’ll need to finish it, it’s a good way to get introduce to the different gameplay tactics used in Volta, as well as some of the characters you will encounter. For someone who skipped out on Volta in FIFA 20, this was a welcome addition.
Additionally, new locations, teams, and players have also been added to the mode in FIFA 21, as well as the ability to play online, a feature that was woefully absent in FIFA 20, for no good, apparent reason.
FUT is where I’m happiest to see a number of good, albeit small changes. Since it’s the mode I play most often, getting a fresh coat of paint and some new features will keep me playing longer than I might have before. While nothing large, FUT Stadium is a neat addition that allows players to add some flare to their home pitches. Banners on the south and north ends, trophies and statues along the side, and even the ability to customize seat colours and more. Add in some goal songs, crowd chants, and a few other minor tweaks, and each stadium you enter when playing online with FUT should feel relatively unique. While it has no impact on the overall gameplay, it definitely adds positively to the experience.
Cooperative play has also been added into FUT, which is a huge addition for those that have been looking to play this mode with friends. Although it hasn’t evolved to the point where folks can co-design and lead a team, there are still fun ways to interact with others while building up your own squad. You’ll be able to play in a variety of modes with a friend, including Squad Battles and Rivalry, but you only get to use one players squad, not a mixture of the two. You can earn progression, however things are tied to the higher ranking players status.
While there have been other tweaks, especially to Rivals, one of the most welcome changes is the removal of fitness items. While adding another layer of depth to FUT, they were mostly seen as annoying necessities that clogged up your hard earned packs, as opposed to something that really made FUT more enjoyable. Seeing these removed is a welcome change.
Across all modes, though, FIFA 21 makes a few small tweaks that makes playing FIFA 21 more enjoyable than FIFA 20, and it all begins in the final third. The quality and consistency of heading balls towards goal has been drastically improved – even though that wasn’t hard as it was seemingly missing from FIFA 20 altogether – as well as finding space in those 1-v-1 situation through the brand new agile dribbling mechanic. This works really well, and is tied to the skill of the players attempting to make those key touches to find that open space. It’s never 100%, but it felt good to deke around the final player using agile dribbling, even if I ended up getting pulled down in the box.
The defending side of things recieved much less attention, and this is where FIFA 21 is showing a few cracks. While slide tackles seem more accurate, where defending teams will actually get possession back more often than not, the rest of defending in FIFA 21 remains a bit of a chore. With so many improvements made on the attacking side of things, it would have seemed obvious to tweak the defensive game as well. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Where things get woefully bad, however, is in goal. Goaltenders continually make errors that you wouldn’t see in even the lowest tiers of professional or amateur soccer. The most notable issue is goalies punching balls when it really isn’t necessary, or where grabbing and holding the ball would be the obvious choice.
FIFA 21 makes enough improvements to warrant a purchase in 2020, even for those that put dozens – if not hundreds – of hours into FIFA 20. This year’s iteration is more than just a roster tweak. Enough has been added and changed to all modes so that regardless of how you decide to play FIFA, there will be something new to enjoy!