There is both an inevitability and a level of comfort that comes with the release of a new FIFA game. The football season is back. The squadrons are correct again. A few new features to keep us busy during the long nights. All is well with the world. FIFA 20 may not be the series in absolute top form – Volta is not the revolution it might have been, and Career Mode still feels underdeveloped – but modern FIFA is such a broad, deep, and complete offering that it remains a must-buy for football fans. This is our FIFA 20 Review.
FIFA 20 Review: About
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows
- Developer: Electronic Arts, EA Vancouver, EA Bucharest, EA Romania
- Publisher: Electronic Arts, EA Sports
- Genres: Sports game
- Release Date: September 10, 2019
FIFA 20 Review: Official Gameplay Video
FIFA 20 Review: Gameplay
On the pitch, FIFA 20 is remarkably similar to last year. Sports games change from year to year – I just feel the rate of change slowing as we reach the end of this console generation. So while there are some welcome improvements – more natural first touches and more satisfying ball physics – things feel a lot like FIFA 19 once you exit the tunnel.
However, set pieces have received a bit of a makeover – unusually direct free kicks and penalties. In a half-day legacy of FIFA 2003, both of you now aim a reticle at the precise location where you want to place the ball. Then, with last year’s genius timed finish mechanic, you need to hit shoot again at the right time, while also adding a curve in the case of free kicks. Both take some time to get used to, but they provide more depth and satisfaction when you hit one in the top corner.
In another nostalgic move – and to offer more significant improvements off the pitch – FIFA 20 introduces a new model, the FIFA Street-esque Volta Football, which brings street football to the main series for the first time. You will drive a team of street superstars who are out to become the world’s best on a journey that takes you through several unique, exotic locations. These three, four or five-on-one matches are shorter and more chaotic than a standard 11-on-one game and feel sufficiently different and entertaining to become a valuable part of FIFA’s selection of modes.
The Volta store and challenges unlocking new gear – combined with the ability to play against online human opponents in Volta League – mean the mode certainly has a longer life span than the model it replaces, The Journey. And Volta Story, the single-player campaign that takes you up against AI teams, is a closer analogy to The Journey with its cutscenes and cast of characters. The structure of the world tour is fascinating, and the real-world locations are well-realized, with unique personalities and own playing styles.
But the characters you share your travels with are so annoying and the writing so aggressive. How do you do, fellow children, that it becomes a chore to play. Other quirks, such as inexplicably having to play the same opponent all the time, each team having the same goalkeeper and some consistent basic positioning errors, mean that Volta comes across as a mode that feels long and half-baked at the same time. As a final, odd note, Volta needs an internet connection, even when playing single-player mode, for unclear reasons.
Career Mode is FIFA’s other primary single-player offering, and it includes a slew of new features. In this way, good conversations between manager and players are finally possible; players come to you to complain or thank you for their playing time, as they have been doing for many years. However, now you have the opportunity to answer, aiming to keep their morale – and therefore, performance level – high. The system is superficial, with the moral bar seemingly the only variable you can influence, and messages are still repeated far too often with the same old typos intact. Still, at least it feels a bit more interactive than the stagnant old email system.
Likewise, pre and post-match press conferences have been overhauled and are now more similar to those in The Journey in previous seasons. Again, the goal here is to maintain your team’s morale, and still, there’s not much going on, but it’s more visually and intellectually stimulating than a simple menu screen, as it was before. The last prominent new feature, dynamic player potential, means that the potential rating of players now changes based on your treatment of them. The move will please Career Mode ultras, but in practice, it makes little difference to none other than the most dedicated players.
Disappointing, despite all the changes, Career Mode still feels a bit barebones, and it still has some inaccuracies. For example, the transfer window ends abruptly late for English clubs, while VAR and short goal kicks have not yet been introduced in FIFA. Transfer negotiations are unchanged apart from two new background locations to work out a deal, and scouting and youth teams have been the same for a year in a row. Career Mode has taken some steps forward this year, but a revolution is needed.
Ultimate Team, meanwhile, continues to expand and is now bigger and better than ever. The adoption of a Fortnite-esque combat pass model in FUT Seasons – not to be confused with FUT Seasons, the submode – is somewhat confusing, but a mighty blow. It primarily manifests as an extension of the existing daily and weekly challenges, with new tasks that you can work on for several weeks or all year round. Rewards include packs, players, new cosmetic options, including tifos and balls, and more.
The other new addition to FUT is Friendlies, a new way of playing casually within Ultimate Team. There are no great rewards for playing FUT Friendlies, but you still earn coins and, crucially, player injuries, contracts, fitness, and your playing record remain untouched. The community is crying out for a place to go if they can’t handle the pressure of rivals or Squad Battles, and they finally have them. It also includes the same in-depth stat tracking and bizarre mode variations as introduced in FIFA 19’s Kick-Off mode, along with new house rules.
Completeness seems to be the ethos that FIFA is alive, and despite the omission of Juventus (Forza Piemonte Calcio), this year’s game feels more complete than ever. The same goes for the aesthetics and licensing, which are still as close as possible to the practical approach to real football – or rather the football version of Sky Sports.
Flawed and iterative, yet reassuring, complete, and compelling, FIFA 20 review is just as frustrating and essential as ever. The Journey and FIFA Street will still be missed. Still, Volta offers a genuinely different option for those looking to dive in and out of the game’s FIFA smorgasbord as Ultimate Team continues its route to world domination. It’s just a shame the career mode continues to stagnate – even if EA has finally remembered it exists.
FIFA 20 may not be the series in absolute top form – Volta is not the revolution it might have been, and Career Mode still feels underdeveloped – but modern FIFA is such a broad, deep, and complete offering that it remains a must-buy for football fans.