For the past few years FIFA has always been the superior title among football games for one reason – licensing. No one has been better than EA Sports when it comes to having all the player faces, kits and branding down pat, despite Konami’s PES being the better offering when it comes to gameplay.
There is something different about FIFA 20, the latest iteration in the franchise. I’m not saying that it is streaks ahead of PES 2020, but this is the first time in a long time that EA Sports has been able to the on-pitch gameplay as solid as what’s happening off-pitch.
Old is new again
When turn on FIFA 20 for the first time, you’ll be introduced to the new game mode – Volta.
If you’re a FIFA veteran you’ll likely have played FIFA Street, which Volta is very much like. The feeling of the gameplay should also be familiar if you tried out The Journey story campaign in FIFA 19, which featured a few three-on-three match ups to break up the monotony of skills games and training.
Having given Volta a try, which replaces The Journey in FIFA 20, there isn’t much new on offer here. At least when it comes to gameplay. The smaller pitch and urban backdrops serve as a nice change of pace, and certainly puts your dribbling and trickery to the test, but we’ve seen this in part last year, and definitely experienced it in FIFA Street.
What Volta does nicely though, is bring character customisation to the fore. The options for changing the appearance of your character are more detailed and nuanced than ever, and from that perspective, EA Sports has done a good job.
Other than that though, there isn’t much longevity on offer from Volta to make players step away from FIFA Ultimate Team or Career Mode.
Building your career
The other element of FIFA 20 to get a significant overhaul is the Career Mode, which is still our favourite aspect of the franchise.
Here the big change is customisation too. You can choose from a template of nine different coaches – four female, five male. Now you’re no longer penned in from choosing between a bunch of old guys as was the case in FIFA 19 and 18 before it.
There is also an enhanced level of customisation, with abilities to choose different skin tones and complexions, as well as the attire that your coach will be wearing on the sidelines, in meetings and press conferences too. This can also be edited anytime from within Career Mode should a particular look get a little stale.
Another important element to Career Mode is your interactions with players and the media. You’re able to sit in on press conferences pre post-match, which is something that you had to do win The Journey as you played as Alex Hunter.
The way you answer questions in those meetings will also affect the morale of players and the team. On top of this you’ll have more personal interactions with players, as they query your selections, ask for more playing time or a move away from the club. As such, man management will play a key part of Career Mode in FIFA 20.
These changes are indeed welcome for Career Mode, which was beginning to feel a tad templated.
On the pitch
Now for the most important element, the action on the pitch. Here quit a bit has been improved upon. A lot of that has to do with the mechanics of the ball and shooting.
Now different types of passes result in the ball behaving in unique ways, much like it does in real life.
This too effects how a player handles possession. Fire a pass into them when they are 10 metres away, and the ball may ricochet out of control, or deliver an under-powered cross and the striker will need to adjust the way the shoot. Added to this is timing, which too plays a significant factor in whether your shot finds the top corner or becomes a souvenir for someone in the crowd.
Along with making the mechanics of the ball more realistic, defending has been enhanced too. Defenders are more dynamic and do not stand statically to be easily run past or dribbled by.
Another element that has been refined for FIFA 20 is speed. In last year’s game speed was levelled slightly, and not made the weapon it should be. In this year’s iteration speed works best on the counter and in space. You wont be able to use speed in traffic or when you’re cutting in from a flank to get a shot away, but if you can in behind the defensive line, it is applied to great effect.
FIFA 20 gets a lot of things right. Licensing is pretty much sorted here, with a notable exception being Juventus or Piementio Calcio as it is called in-game, but then again we always knew licensing is something the franchise excelled at.
The important elements that have improved are gameplay, which is not something you could say about previous FIFA games. The UI has also received a new lick of paint, and the Career Mode has received timely additions that fans have been wanting for years.
Is this a perfect football game? No, but FIFA 20 is definitely the best all-round football game of this year.