FIFA 21 Review

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As the footballing season has returned to action after a dramatic pause last year due to the global pandemic. It can only mean one thing; FIFA 21 is making its annual return and brings with it the promise of new features, upgraded gameplay, more refined graphics and of course, the cash cow that is the Ultimate Team game mode. 

Football video game rival PES have, this year, opted to release a ‘season update’ for their title which is essentially a slightly tweaked version of last year’s iteration. This choice was made by Konami due to the lack of development time caused by the Coronavirus outbreak. He admired that releasing a full annual release would have been unfair to its loyal fan base. However, it seems that EA has not had these same issues within their development team and have decided to release another annual title in spite of the worlds ongoing pandemic. So in this review we’ll see if this was a good decision or if EA is simply unwilling to miss an opportunity to make a quick buck. Here is our FIFA 21 review. 

FIFA 21 is Perfectly Balanced, As All Things Should Be 

Fifa game action screenshot

We begin with the core gameplay. Fifa has been trying to find balance for its gameplay between ridiculously attack-oriented and defensively dominated. However, over the last few years, it seems that there has been a tendency to flip flop between the two extremes with no real attempt to find a compromise. Thankfully though, this year seems to have bucked this trend with a happy medium finally being offered to players. No longer are goalkeepers unbeatable behemoths in between the sticks. No longer are paced strikers a guaranteed way to undo every defensive line. There is a real sense of tactical awareness within the game and a fairness to the proceedings. For perhaps the first time in recent memory. 

The general gameplay is much more slow and methodical, with set pieces, crossing, through balls and build up play being much more important than ever before. Defenses will now be harder to penetrate unless you bide your time and work the space to your advantage. However,  when you get things right and you do break through, you can bet that the goal you score will feel that much sweeter. Undoubtedly, this is the most refined gameplay FIFA has offered in years. It sheds the arcade style gameplay of its predecessors. 

FIFA 21 Looks Great but Not Better

The visuals for this game are still incredibly realistic, with each stadium, manager, player and licensed asset still being instantly recognizable and true to its inspiration. The only issue with this is that the visuals do nothing to improve upon last years iteration. The players don’t look any better, the weather effects aren’t any more impressive and the animations and physics are essentially the same too. So when compared to what was offered last year, you wouldn’t be wrong to feel a bit cheated. One thing we’ve come to expect from this franchise is a constant progression towards blurring the lines between real football and the virtual equivalent. However, on this occasion, FIFA fails to deliver on this front. 

Fifa game screenshot of man saying whats going on

Underwhelming Additions and Disappointing Omissions

FIFA 21 got a lot of fans excited when EA confirmed that there would be massive changes to the ‘career mode’. However, this excitement was sadly misplaced as these changes seem to be Underwhelming. This is a mode that has needed some love for the longest time and has been neglected in recent years for online modes. The mode offers new features such as advanced player development, new transfer options, upgraded simulation options and the ability to plan your schedule. On paper, these all seem great but in truth, they are rather dull and lifeless in practice. Even compared to PES Master League mode which has come under the same criticism; this mode still comes off second best. So if you were thinking of buying this one in the hope of an offline experience, we’d say hold off this year.  

It also seems that Alex Hunter’s story has come to an end as there is a notable absence of ‘The Journey’ mode this year. This only adds to the lack of single-player value for this title and showcases where the focus for this game lies. Where money can be made, which brings us on neatly to the online features and more particularly, to Ultimate Team. 

Money Talks 

There is no hiding the rather nefarious nature of Ultimate Team. It’s a mode that is synonymous with microtransactions, a pay to win structure and marketing that sees young children spend their parent’s money on in-game items with no assurance or guarantee that the items will be of equivalent value. It would be easy to lay into the game mode for this alone but putting aside the money-making process that EA has wedged into this mode, it is still a fun and addictive concept and is where most of this year’s innovation takes place.

The mode makes some key changes with the most apparent being the removal of training and fitness consumables. This means that you won’t be constantly managing your squad and rotating great players for lesser valued ones. You’ll be able to jump into games with less frustrating admin. 

On top of this, Ultimate team also introduces fun new features such as FUT stadium which allows you to create your own stadium complete with customer banners, extensions, unlockable chants and visual effects. It’s a nice feature that allows for a more personal touch when playing and means that you won’t be simply using an existing asset as your home ground, which is very much appreciated. 

Overall, Ultimate team is where the real meat of this game is. If you love this mode and this is the reason you buy FIFA every year, then you won’t be disappointed. There is more than enough to keep things fresh and interesting. However, if you prefer other modes such as Pro Clubs, Seasons or anything else for that matter, don’t expect much change.  

The Same Old Story

Fifa game screenshot of heart index finger and thumb.

Score: 6.5/10

Sadly, our FIFA 21 review isn’t a glowing one.

FIFA 21 falls into the same trap that its predecessors have done now for the best part of a decade. It promises the world and delivers just enough to scrape by, with this year being particularly light on new features. The gameplay has admittedly found its rhythm after a few years of inconsistency. Plus there are some good additions to the FUT mode that make it the vocal point for the series once again. However, the omission of ‘The Journey’, the failure to galvanize the single player aspects of the game and the almost identical visuals all culminate to serve up a game that is a parody of itself and yet we can guarantee that we will all still reluctantly buy this one because there is nothing better out there as an alternative. It’s the same old story again and we aren’t one bit surprised. 

Thanks for checking out our FIFA 21 Review.

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