FIFA 20: one month in…

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FIFA 20 has been out for a month and I now feel that I have played enough to write a review. Few games stir such powerful feeling as FIFA. Few can match the soaring highs and crushing lows felt as you navigate your way through the dangerous world of online FIFA. Fewer still can let you live your footballing dreams vicariously through virtual incarnations of all your favourite professionals, even if some are more faithful to real life than others, as well as FIFA can.

Ultimate Team remains FIFA’s primary vehicle. The perfect combination of trading card game and football simulator, it allows you to earn coins and open packs on the road to building your dream team, mixing and matching modern superstars with a selection of ‘Icons’ from previous eras. The Ultimate Team formula is relatively unchanged, with only superficial alterations to menus and objectives. ‘Division Rivals’ remains the primary online competition during the week, while ‘Squad Battles’ and ‘FUT Champions’ both return – providing single player fun and a sterner online competition at the weekend respectively.

The gameplay itself feels different to the previous iteration – gone are the dark days of your opponent’s Kalidou Koulibaly unleashing a Le Tissier-esque strike on a regular basis. Instead, online games have become counter-attack fests (imagine Mourinho’s Inter playing 2012 Celtic on repeat), possession is superfluous. The effectiveness of the cross has also been severely reduced, with headers lacking any semblance of accuracy. To score, you must either channel your inner Del Bosque, embracing the tiki-taka and waiting for space to reveal itself, or accept (as I have reluctantly done) that to beat the counter you must become the counter, sitting back and choosing the opportune moment to punish any fateful overextension by your opponent.

Aside from Ultimate team, the trio of ‘Manager Mode’, ‘Pro Clubs’ and ‘Online Seasons’ remains much the same as FIFA 19. ‘Manager Mode’ showed early promise with the introduction of interactive press conferences and meetings with players, but has been plagued with bugs since release. The addition of new modes to ‘Kick-Off’ brings a refreshingly ‘arcadey’ brand of fun, which the new addition of ‘Volta’ also capitalises on.

‘Volta’ is EA’s response to the groundswell of fan requests to bring back the FIFA Street title. The mode allows Ricardinho wannabees to express themselves in six-or-fewer-a-side games, full of decadent skills and outrageous tricks. While perhaps a little gimmicky, ‘Volta’ certainly brings fun in moderation and is a step in the right direction for the FIFA title.

At its best, FIFA is everything we love about football: action-packed, exciting and constantly pulling you back for ‘just one more’ game. However, it’s far from perfect. The debate over packs continues (with Belgium taking a stand against the practice), the bugs are as inevitable as an Andy Carroll elbow, and the gameplay occasionally has the potential to give Guardiola a stroke.

Oh, and Juventus are now Piemonte Calcio…