Game Reviews

FIFA 20 Review

Not a huge year for sweeping changes

by William Schwartz

There have been a lot of changes to FIFA in recent years… at least that’s what EA’s been telling us on the yearly.  No, there really have been some pretty large improvements to the way that players control the ways that they play off of each other more realistically.  Though these last few installments have seen EA trying to wrangle with these newer, more realistic controls and the results have been mixed.  The FIFA games have still felt great, but it’s clear that there’s some fine-tuning to be done.  With FIFA 20, this is yet another year where things seem like they are in-flux when it comes to the feel of the game, while offering many game modes for fans to sink their teeth into.

Volta in itself is a pretty deep mode and a nice change of pace

The core modes that you’ve come to expect from FIFA games are here in FIFA 20, but with it comes a brand new Street football mode called Volta, and within that mode itself you’ve got plenty to chew on as well.  Volta is somewhere between the realistic traditional pitch-based matches of FIFA and something out of the EA Street series.  Controls have been made a little easier on offensive players across the board to make this a more enjoyable, arcade-like experience.  While the addition of Volta does make FIFA 20 standout from FIFA 19, it doesn’t necessarily feel like a game changer, or something that’ll drag you kicking and screaming away from the fan-favorite Ultimate Team or Career Modes.  It’s a nice addition and a fully-fleshed out experience, but it’s mileage will vary on the player.

fifa-volta-screenshot

Volta itself has multiple parts to it.  Basically this mode is taking over for The Journey.  The good news is that it’s a fairly short story mode that is essentially an underdog story.  At this point, it feels like a boilerplate story mode when it comes to sports games.  Once it’s over (5-6 hours), you’ll be able to participate in the Volta League or the Volta Tour.  Here you’re playing these street matches against other players and squads online.  These modes will all introduce different types of Volta Football to the player.  There are 5v5, 4v4, and 3v3 matches and they all play somewhat differently to one another.  Some matches have walls involved in the game.  Some matches don’t have goal keepers and defensive players fall back to block shots on goal with their bodies.  Volta is somewhat enjoyable and a change of pace, but as we said above it’s probably going to be acquired taste.  If you do get into it, there’s plenty of customization that you can unlock when playing through this mode.

EA continues to shower Ultimate Team with love and affection

Like every sports game of the past 3-4 years, it feels like most of the love went into the Ultimate Team Mode.  EA’s bread and butter microtransaction playground hasn’t changed all that much.  A new system of Season Objectives have been added to the mode which functions similarly to something like a free Battle Pass.  Earn XP by completing different challenges within the mode and you’ll level up and earn card packs along the way.  There are some personalization options and rewards that do change up the customization systems of Ultimate Team as well, but it’s really small steps forward for Ultimate Team.  FUT still feels like it’s pay to win.  You can purchase cards which you can use online and that’s enough said on that.  This isn’t anything new, Ultimate Team has been like this for quite some time and it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere because people keep buying the card packs.

season-rewards

FUT is not a bad mode to dip your toes into before the grind sets in.  You’ll be given enough coins and loaners to have fun for a bit, before you realize the realities of the mode.  FUT isn’t all about grinding as they have added some quality of life features to the friendlies in FUT.  You can now play against friends, online or in single player with no consequences to your squad.  This is definitely a nice addition for those who want to use their squad for some “just for fun” matches.  That fun has some unique modifiers included in it as well.  This includes Mystery Ball, King of the Hill, Max Chemistry, and Swaps modes.  Each have unique impacts on the friendly match.

Career Mode improvements don’t feel like they improve the game much

Of course there are some other ways to play FIFA 20.  If you want to avoid all of this you can stick to the offline Career Modes for player and GM.  You can play UEFA Champions League, Tournaments, and more.  Career in itself continues to be a robust offering even if it is beginning to feel somewhat neglected at this point.  Despite the inclusion of press conferences and other story-lite features , it all just feels a little canned.  Supposedly these conferences and events throughout your career are shaped by the data that’s accumulated while playing the game, in real time, to give you numerous potential scenarios depending on your playstyle, it feels pretty boilerplate.  There aren’t that many new things you’ll notice in the Career Modes for FIFA 20, other than some smaller things like the environments or backdrops for negotiations and the league user interface.

fifa-20-default-camera

Still, on the pitch is where it matters most and in the full length games, regardless of which mode you’re playing (aside from Volta), the on the field action is still the best on the market.  FIFA has not lost its crown with FIFA 20.  While there are other places to play football, this is still the best and most robust offering for fans.  The aforementioned improvements to the way that players interact with each other on the pitch is still impressive, maybe more than ever in FIFA 20.  Games flow more realistically.  AI reacts both when on offense and on defense in realistic manners.  The days of FIFA being a cheese factory are probably limited as timeless oldies like dribbling up one side of the pitch over and over again, repeatedly crossing for goals just doesn’t work anymore.  It’s more about setting up big moments and finishing them with great strikes.  Playing and beating your defender with Strafe Dribbling or figuring out the disturbingly realistic (sometimes) *new ball physics system.

That’s already been a selling point for the game in the last couple of iterations.  We’ve been inching closer and closer to more realistic football for quite some time, but this year we see a game that starts to push even further into realism and away from the fun arcadey nature of the franchise’s roots.  Both have their appeal, but this year if you want a more arcade style approach it’s going to be Volta, where the proper matches will feel a little bit slower and realistic.

The Verdict

FIFA 20 is another lateral year for the franchise.  In terms of visuals and presentation you’re not going to see huge leaps and bounds.  On the gameplay front, you’re going to have a more defensive focused experience that continues to dial up the realism in terms of AI intelligence and physics.  In terms of modes, Volta is a pretty big thing for the franchise.  It feels like you’re playing an entirely different brand of football in the mode, giving you a reprieve from any of the other core modes.  Just how much you enjoy this aspect of FIFA 20 will likely make you feel one way about the game, or another.

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FIFA 20

  • Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch
  • Published By: EA Sports
  • Developed By: EA Vancouver
  • Genre: Sports
  • US Release Date: September 27th, 2019
  • Reviewed On: Xbox One
  • Quote: "FIFA 20 makes marginal improvements to an already successful formula in its core modes and offers something exciting in Volta."
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