Review: FIFA 20

the whole final third has been tightened up very nicely…

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It’s getting really tough to review FIFA games. Each year there’s the pile of new tweaks and changes that will supposedly transform the series entirely and warrant another ¬£50 on the game (and that’s before any Ultimate Team financial commitments) but, as the game gets closer to what everyone wants it to be, those changes become ever harder to justify. It needs a big new game mode now to make an obvious difference, and so while the core gameplay of FIFA 20 is pretty similar to what we’ve had before, the all new Volta mode has more than enough to warrant adding this to your ever-growing collection of football games. It does, however, come with a big “but”…

The small changes this year are spread across both attacking and defending, with quick wingers and strikers being able to outpace their slower defensive opponents in the way you’d expect them to. A couple of new skills and tricks will let you jink your way past the full backs too, which means getting the ball out wide and whipping in an early cross to your quick strikers to run on to can be a very handy tactic. It’s not a never-fail option though, reflecting the more intelligent defending that the AI displays much of the time. The positioning of players has been improved, and those with a lower speed stat often make up for it by being in the right place at the right time, sticking out a leg to cut out that devastating through ball or winning a crucial header to get the ball clear. The increase in chances from better pace is countered therefore by this improved defending, giving a nice balance while improving the on-pitch action, and with your own defending carrying potentially large issues if you mess the timing up, the whole final third has been tightened up very nicely.

Ultimate Team is as addictive as ever, bringing in some XP based missions to climb a ladder of rewards over the course of several weeks. Daily objectives contribute to this as well as longer term tasks, with bite sized challenges like playing two games, scoring from a cross or just buying a player regular and achievable goals. I’m still not a fan of the paid options here, and at risk of sounding like a other person banging on about loot boxes and gambling, I wish more people understood what they or their kinds were about to pay for. You’re buying standard packs that you can buy with the in-game currency earned by just playing, and having opened a very decent number of packs I’ve only had one player that went beyond the usual standard gold players. If I’d have paid a good chunk of real money for them, I’d have been extremely disappointed. But as a non-paying player, I still find the Ultimate Team to be one of the best ways to play FIFA, and the difference between this and the Madden UT modes are stark – as a FIFA fan you’re most definitely getting the better option.

But the most obvious addition this year is the Volta mode, taking you away from 11-a-side games and onto smaller, tighter courts. Initially there’s a FIFA Street vibe, but that’s only visual. The games themselves feel very different, relying less on fancy tricks and more about tight, close passing and quick movement. You know those mini games you’ve been playing while a match loads for the past few years? You’ll start to find a use for all that practice. There are a range of different pitches and courts to play on which also give a very different feel to the games, and while I wasn’t sold on the Rush games where there’s no keeper, it almost feels like a game by itself, and if you’re looking for justification for buying this year’s version this might be it in itself.

But there’s that forever-nagging question that still doesn’t sit comfortably: how does it compare to Pro Evo? Well, this year’s Pro Evo game is incredibly good on the pitch, as we’re getting used to, but as is also the norm nowadays it doesn’t perform well once you step over the white line, off the pitch and back into the menus. FIFA is miles more polished, it’s almost baffling how PES is still looking as ropey as it does after so many years of the same criticisms from so many people. The lack of licenses isn’t the issue as that’s easily fixed with an option file you can get for free, but the general presentation of PES is still a long way behind FIFA. If that’s important, and it certainly makes a difference, then you should ignore PES and stick to EA’s offering. But if you just want pure footballing action, the more realistic and accessible game, the one that¬†feels more like a real game of football, then you have to give Pro Evo the nod. It’s close, but it’s just that little bit more responsive than FIFA.

But that said, FIFA is still worth your time and money. While the Ultimate Team payathon still isn’t my favourite thing, it’s very playable without dropping any real cash, and it’s still looking every bit as amazing in both player animations and presentation as you’d expect. If you need to justify another game then the Volta mode will fit perfectly, but I’d say this to close: if you’ve got the money and time for both FIFA and Pro Evo, you should get both. I very much doubt you’d regret it.

Reviewed on PS4

 
 

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