FIFA 20 Review – A Few Steps Forward, A Few Steps Back

    Title: FIFA 20
    Developer: Electronic Arts
    Release Date: September 27, 2019
    Reviewed On: PS4
    Publisher: Electronic Arts
    Genre: Soccer

I’ll start by saying that I am and always have been a casual FIFA player. Whenever my friends want to play to FIFA, I say “Okay!” and play — or I’ll play a couple of casual, offline games and call it a day. So, calling myself a die-hard fan would be far from the truth. That said, I decided to jump into Electronic Art’s new FIFA installment FIFA 20 with two simple objectives in mind: 1. Be a Volta Football champ, and 2. Don’t play the game casually and instead, actually become an experienced FIFA player.

FIFA 20 truly sets the stage for players to be aware of Volta Football, the new street soccer mode in FIFA 20, right in the beginning. The opening for the game goes from being a flashy montage of a thrilling world-class soccer game to then transitioning right into an insane street soccer juggling session that then becomes an actual Volta game to play in. I have to say; this opening alone got me excited about what was to come in the game.

To put the Volta mode, it’s like a lite version of FIFA Street because of how it offers quick matches, cool tricks, fun celebrations, and RPG-like elements. In the mode, players are tasked with building, managing, and controlling their street soccer crew and of course, be the very best like no one ever was. The world-tour journey to do so is taking on other teams in blazing-fast 3v3, 4v4, or 5v5 matches in various cities across the world, including Tokyo and Mexico City. That said, the actual story for the career side of the mode is lackluster, with its B-movie cheesy-like writing.

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But really, the story was never on my mind as I was enjoying all the other parts of the mode to the point that it’s all I wanted to play. What’s worth noting is the amount of customization found in this mode — from being able to create my character and unlocking a slew of character customization options to recruiting new players to join my crew — I had a field day with all of the opportunities given to me. And of course, I can’t forget to mention how the mode’s gameplay is addictive, especially after knowing how to pull off tricks entirely — like kicking the ball off the wall to pass it to another player who then makes a sweet goal in a flash. For the Volta League, the mode’s online side of things, I didn’t encounter any crucial issues aside from minor lagging.

Aside from the Volta mode, the other two significant modes are Career Mode and FUT 20 (FIFA 20‘s Ultimate Team) Mode. One mode has seen significant quality of life improvements, whereas the other mode currently is suffering from bugs and a case of deja vu. No need to guess which one is which, FUT 20 is the best Ultimate Team offering so far, whereas Career Mode struggles to find its footing. Before slide tackling into the Career Mode, I’ll shine a spotlight on FUT 20 first.

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EA has taken FIFA fan and press feedback to heart when it comes to Ultimate Team. Previous installments had EA under a lot of heat given that Ultimate Team leaned more towards being a micro-transaction, pay-to-win extensive experience. Overall, FUT 20 doesn’t follow the same footsteps as its predecessors to a tee, as it instead is more rewarding for all players. This is because of a brand-new system, Seasons, that have been added to the mode. With Seasons, it’s a system that’s similar to something along the lines of the Battle Pass system found in games like Apex Legends, in which you earn XP by completing specific tasks and the XP is then used towards a series of rewards.

Some of these rewards in FUT 20 are cosmetics, but some player cards can be earned as well. While there is this system, of course, like previous Ultimate Team installments, there is the option to purchase cards — which, to be honest, was what I expected. Still, I didn’t feel the dire need to buy any cards when playing FUT 20 — this could be because I was more so interested in focusing on the Volta mode — however, I can imagine that plenty of players will want to shell out money to make their Ultimate Team dreams come true. In short, microtransactions are indeed still a thing.

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FUT 20 could honestly be a whole separate game given how much there is to do in the mode. What’s new about FUT 20 is the option to play a friendly, no stats affected match against friends, online or offline. When I first started playing FUT 20, this option helped let me learn the ropes and have fun with friends of mine that I considered to be “FIFA pros.”  Another important thing to note is that there is a wide range of modes for players to enjoy, such as “Mystery Ball” in which the ball changes attributes during play like a significant change of speed. These modes reminded me of the fun, casual modes found in Rocket League — which is a good thing.

Career Mode in FIFA 20, however, feels like a step back rather than a step forward. While yes, there’s been new content added to the mode, unfortunately, the mode is littered with bugs, and the latest content didn’t “wow” me like I thought it would. What’s been added here is the ability to create and be your very own manager of a soccer team. Initially, I thought this was an exciting feature as I’ve always wondered what it’d be like a step into a soccer team manager role, but after only an hour, that’s when things started to get messy. For starters, the player morale system, that lets you chat with team members and the press, isn’t too in-depth at all, and many times, actually seemed broken.

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I say broken because post-game conference questions and answers became repetitive quickly. And then, there’s the morale system which sounds neat but doesn’t affect anything, like a player’s performance, along with how wonky AI team selection is since it chooses the weakest possible team set up for you, and other strange bugs and glitches. Even though the manager feature is new and seems like it’d be an excellent time, it sadly isn’t. It might be best to avoid Career Mode for the time being until all of its issues are addressed.

Thankfully, FIFA 20‘s gameplay is as solid and as smooth as ever thanks to the many tweaks made to it. Unlike FIFA 19‘s defensive gameplay that felt off all-around, FIFA 20‘s is much more precise and effective. Defenders, whether you control them or don’t, step in and intercept passes on a more frequent basis. When I first started playing, as a defender, I would quickly dart my way towards the player with the ball and try to tackle it, but doing so was all for naught as the ball carrier was able to dribble the ball away from me without a problem. Because of this, I learned that FIFA 20‘s defense gameplay is all about timing, being in the right position at the right time, and counter-attacking effectively and just. And just like in real soccer, playing smarter not harder is the way to go in FIFA 20, which made the game so much more enjoyable and less stressful.

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For offensive gameplay, it’s been given an excellent fine-tuning treatment as well. AI teammates aren’t brainless at all as they will make sure to try to stay open and will move around so you can pass to them and set-up a shot. Whereas previous FIFA installments made it so you can easily lob a huge pass forward without hardly any repercussions (my “FIFA pro” friends would do this to me all the time), in FIFA 20 that’s not really an option — instead, the focus is to strafe dribble, find and make different openings — predominately by passing the ball skillfully —  and capitalize on those moments to unleash a quick yet clean shot.

Unfortunately, sometimes set-up opportunities don’t go as planned mainly due to the defensive AI being just way too good; however, I liked that this would happen as it made playing a significant challenge. With FIFA 20‘s slow and steady paced gameplay, I was able to quickly get the hang of the game compared to previous FIFA games I’ve played.

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On the presentation side of FIFA 20, the game is the best looking FIFA game to date. Character models are as impressive as ever, and all of the soccer stadiums do come to life. Also good to note is that the soundtrack has a couple of good hits, and online play, for me at least, has been completely smooth.

FIFA 20 is, in many ways, a step forward and a step backward for the long-running series. While the new Volta Football mode brings a much-needed breath of fresh air, and the Ultimate Team mode in the game is ultimately the best offering in the series so far, other new content, especially in Career Mode, doesn’t quite reach its true potential as I would’ve liked. If you can look past how the game misses the mark in some areas, FIFA 20 is worth playing, and without a doubt, you’ll like playing Volta over and over again — just like I do.

Score:
7/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Brad Crespo

Editor-in-Chief - On a quest to play as many new games as possible while trying to finish an endless backlog.