Autumn has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere, meaning that the ‘holiday’ season of gaming is upon us. Like every year, the sports video game market gets its business done early and FIFA 21 hits the shelves on Friday (unless you’re one of the lucky sods who pre-ordered a premium version of the game).
Below we’ve taken a look at five improvements to this year’s instalment of everyone’s favourite football-sim. Just don’t go throwing your controllers at the wall this year, alright?
Finally, You Can Build Your Own Arena
Back in the good old days of the PS2, a small selection of sports games used to have an option to create a stadium/arena, whatever the sport - the Madden series would even let you change the ticket prices and how much a hot dog costs in the concession stand! NBA 2K, on the other hand, lets you create your own court with custom images and a variety of options, all the way down to choosing what wood is used on the floor.
FIFA hasn’t had any form of stadium creator since EA’s FIFA Manager series, and they haven’t released one of them since 2014. Until this year that is.
EA’s big moneymaker in FIFA, the Ultimate Team game mode, now allows you to customise your stadium, with choices ranging from seat colour and pitchside trophies, to giant tifos that eclipse the main stand and chants sung by the virtual crowd that reverberate through the terraces from whichever team you like (we’ve gone for Celta Vigo, for obvious reasons).
It’s refreshing to finally get a bit of personality to liven up a previously lacklustre part of the game. Watching the fireworks go off after a goal as the crowd ecstatically sing a random tune from around the globe is something that’s quite unique in the world of FIFA, so enjoy it while it’s fresh.
Career Mode Remastered
These days, a compelling Career Mode is a staple of any good sports game. Whether it’s being the starting quarterback in the Superbowl or captaining an Ashes winning team, there’s something about guiding and building your character/team up to be the best in the world in any given sport, and with FIFA 21 football is no different.
This year revamps the manager experience, allowing you to control your teams training and development, something that the devotees of the series have been dying to see. Position changes, more interactive transfer windows and dynamic potential of youngsters are three more new additions in the new and improved game mode, allowing the proper manager among us to harness an ageing team, bring in new blood and adjust the elder players to adapt and play at their best. It’s fresh to play and great to discover, it feels like a brand new world every time you launch a new save with lots of unexpected twists and turns throughout each window and each game.
There’s a new game simulation option too, if you want to skip through games a la Football Manager, and a ‘Quick Sim’ that allows you to see real-time events in the game and jump in at any point. It feels very Soccer Saturday but this time you can step into whatever game Chris Kamara’s watching instead.
VOLTA: Year Two
VOLTA came out to a mixed reception last year, the once great FIFA Street is an incredibly difficult game to copy, and its impersonators can be easily critiqued. Last year, VOLTA suffered mostly from the lack of online play with friends - if you’re going to play street football, you’re going to want to do it with your mates as it kind of ruins the novelty when you’re on your own just kicking a ball a against wall.
Its second season has thankfully delivered an online play-with-friends option, and it looks alot like Pro Clubs, where each player on a team is user-controlled. It’s heaps of fun and VOLTA’s whole hype on random celebrity cameos and brand sponsorships getting some of their more exclusive clothes thrown into the game, is actually enjoyable this year. It’s a bit bizarre playing Eric Cantona in your team within the suburbs of Paris or with Anthony Joshua on the streets of London. Even if you weren’t a fan last year, it’s worth giving a go this year.
Every year, possibly every sports game in the world says that they’ve got ‘New and Improved’ gameplay. But what does that actually mean?
This year, EA’s use of the Frostbite engine gears up for the next generation of consoles, with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X launching in November, creating a system that improves the animation of the players’ faces and actions but also introduces a new collision system. Basically, sparing the mumbo-jumbo, the game runs better than last year’s, the tackles are cleaner, skills are quicker to manoeuvre and less predictable. On top of that, shooting can be affected by any sort of defensive action, whether it’s a nudge of the shoulder or a clip of the feet.
High intensity, high amounts of fun, it’s a big improvement over the last couple of years, even if every keeper vaguely resembles Jordan Pickford on a bad day, but we’re sure that’ll be resolved soon enough.
Old Legends Return To Football
They used to be legends. Now they’re icons.
FIFA’s Icon card collection is now at 100 cards. That’s 100 icons from footballing past now available from day one for football fans around the world to use in Ultimate Team. This year’s additions haven’t disappointed either, combining the old school heroes that your Dad remembers with the modern legends that made you fall in love with the game.
The original ‘ballers’ like Ferenc Puskas, Davor Suker and Eric Cantona join up with the heroes of the late 2000s, Xavi, Fernando Torres, Nemanja Vidic and Ashley Cole to name a few. It’s great to see these players added and we can’t wait to see many more gracing future games.