FIFA 21 launched worldwide on October 9, 2020 and fans of EA Sports’ best-selling football game franchise will be acquainting themselves with all the new title has to offer.
The launch was delayed due to disruptions caused by the global coronavirus pandemic, but EA’s teams pulled together to deliver a fresh edition.
In what’s become a disappointing theme for sports games in general this year, FIFA 21 takes small steps in improving its core on-the-pitch play, but largely underwhelms off of it, providing very few big changes this time around. Sure, the moment-to-moment action feels as smooth as it has done in recent years, but a lack of real investment in Career mode and only slight changes to its other main modes feel like a series of missed opportunities. Incidentally, that’s something FIFA 21’s goalkeepers know a lot about when attempting to make a save in this game.
On the surface, those changes are hard to spot. There’s none of the usual big headline features to speak of, such as new set piece systems or the introduction of timed finishing that have come in recent years. But the more time you spend with it, the more you realise how many smaller tweaks have been made, most of them being beneficial. Those add up to something substantial.
For one thing, EA appear to have hit a sweet spot with the pace of gameplay this year, with matches flowing smoothly and, crucially, the speed of the players feeling appropriate when compared to their real-life counterparts. Not every attacker can leave a bedraggled defender in their wake this year, but certain stars such as Kylian Mbappe can – which is just as it should be. Inconsistent pacing has been one of my major criticisms of FIFA over the past couple of years, so it’s a very welcome sight to see this evened out this year.
eviews of FIFA 21 have mostly been positive, but the consensus view appears to be that it is a game that is essentially a minor upgrade on FIFA 20, with new skins and only few tweaks to existing features.
The Guardian‘s review is particularly glowing, handing the game a 4/5 rating with the observation that “football has been hard to enjoy in 2020, but FIFA 21 certainly makes it easier”.
Another high rating is given by Gamespot, which suggests that “FIFA 21 feels like a swan song for the current generation of sports games” in light of the impending launch of PS5 and Xbox Series-X consoles.
Interestingly, while IGN‘s FIFA 21 rating of 7/10 is solid, it is down on the rating the same reviewer gave to FIFA 20, which was 7.8/10. The main complaint is that there aren’t enough significant new features.
“Through small tweaks and refinements, FIFA 21 plays as well as it has done in recent memory,” writes the IGN reviewer. “But lacks the relatively big features that are usually used to justify a new version of an annually released game.”
Wired is somewhat more sober in its assessment of the new game, arguing, like Gamespot, that it marks the end of an era: “There’s a definite sense that the franchise is in a holding pattern as this console generation comes to an end, and that any big new innovations will likely be saved for the first edition to come to new consoles.”
What are the differences between FIFA 21 and FIFA 20?
Aside from new kits, squads, and all-new ratings, FIFA 21 boasts a number of features that make it different to FIFA 20.
Chief among these is probably the ability to jump into games in order to affect the outcome of a match in Career Mode. The game mode on FIFA 21 allows players to simulate matches in Football Manager style and if things aren’t going how you want them to, you can take control and play manually.
Another notable difference in the games is the new Player Development system, which allows you to retrain players so that they can play in new positions and their improvements are more realistic.
It’s not just in Career Mode that differences can be found between FIFA 21 and FIFA 20.
Volta has been upgraded to include a new story known as ‘Debut’, in which Kaka makes a cameo appearance, and the game mode now also features Squad Battles, which was not the case in the last game.