Unless you’ve been living under a rock for a while, you’ll know that this year’s FIFA game isn’t a FIFA game at all, instead it’s the start of a whole new era of EA football games. While it might take some time to stop referring to the game using the previous moniker, EA are looking very much to the future with the new branding, and while the whole package feels extremely familiar, there’s enough newness here to believe the future could have some pretty cool things coming up from the brains behind FI… I mean, the brains behind EA FC.
Initially, aside from a welcome redesign of the menus, things seem to be business as usual. There’s the usual options to jump into a quick game, the career options covering both player and manager careers, and the ongoing cash-cow that is Ultimate Team. Volta football is back as well for some fast paced street football, and jumping online will let you get back into a new Seasons career; the latter of these is where I spend a sizeable amount of my time, moving up and down the leagues while playing others of a similar skill level. But all of this has been in place for years, so the annual question of “what’s new” comes up, as well as the consideration of whether it’s worth dropping another bunch of hard-earned pounds on this year’s game.
Pleasingly the on-pitch action has had a few upgrades and tweaks. New this year is the PlayStyles system, giving players special skills in line with their real life counterparts’ abilities. Those rapid wingers are now even more devastatingly fast, allowing you to use that to your advantage in a speedy counterattack. That is, of course, unless a beefcake defender with an opposing special skill crunches you off the ball before you break through the back line. The advantages are subtle – don’t expect to pick up the ball in your own area and sprint past the entire team – but it’s a pretty cool way to push your play style towards those major players in each team.
Player upgrades are the order of the day in Ultimate Team as well. Have you ever pulled a player from your favourite team that’s been setting the league on fire, but lost out on the stats when they were being decided? It could be a younger player just breaking through, a transfer who turned their career round when joining another team, maybe just a player you like who isn’t quite as good as you wish they were. Evolutions have been brought into Ultimate Team this year, allowing you to complete challenges to improve and upgrade your individual players instead of spending too much time and effort trying to fluke a pack containing a top end player.
Another headline feature in Ultimate Team is the introduction of female players to earn alongside your male teammates. The new female players certainly aren’t here to make up the numbers either, and will easily find a slot in your team while improving the overall quality of what you can do with your finely crafted squad. There’s obviously been some cries of anguish from certain corners of the gaming world about merging the worlds of male and female football, but frankly if you’re the kind of person who’s offended by some of your virtual footballing people looking female instead of male then I suspect you’ve got bigger issues to worry about. Personally I think it’s an awesome addition, especially given the success of the Lionesses in recent years, and if it means more variety and bigger range of possible tactics then I’m all for it.
Elsewhere the career mode has seen some new features as well, letting you manage your club with more detail than we’ve seen before. It’s not at the level of the Football Manager series obviously, but you can now focus your tactics and training at specific areas of the pitch or certain ways of playing, and bring in coaches that will help to build up your team to play just the way you want to. It’s a really cool new feature and adds a nice way to make your team your own while still chasing glory and scouting for those hidden gems that’ll be the centre-point of your team for years to come.
As each year improves bit by bit, the on-pitch action improves and the same game modes we’ve had for years get their small increments to make them better still. The newly branded EA FC has shown the way for the future by bringing male and female players together, adding depth to the career mode and giving the Ultimate Team its first new features for quite some time. I’m sure they’ll come up with more improvements next year, but for now this is the best football experience you’ll find, and one that you should seriously consider.
Reviewed on PS5