Despite failures in past entries, FIFA 21 could be the best football game we’ve seen in a long time.
EA always has its critics, and they’re mostly deserved. Last year, VOLTA was a failure, and modes like career and pro clubs continuously get gimped in favour of the money-making Ultimate Team. Any FIFA 20 player will also attest to the horrendous meta gameplay that ruined any form of competitive play.
However, after I’ve spent 15 hours with FIFA 21, there’s plenty of great improvements across the board that would make any football fan happy. So far, it feels like a vast improvement on last year’s entry, with plenty of tweaks and additions that have me excited for the next era of virtual football.
1. Customisation and Personality
In other FIFA’s, customisation always fell by the wayside in Pro Clubs and Ultimate Team, with barely any ways to make your club truly feel like your own. Changing up your skill points for your created player, or shifting your squad around in FUT, was about all you could do besides bare bones TIFO, badge and kit options.
This has changed a lot in FIFA 21, especially in Ultimate Team and VOLTA football.
EA have made great strides in Ultimate Team with the new FUT Stadium, which every player unlocks straight away. This new stadium allows you to change a whole heap of things, including seat colours, pyrotechnics, TIFOs, and more. You also gain new options by playing in your stadium, which eventually can grow from a small local ground to a huge football coliseum. For the first time in FUT, you can really see the progress you’ve made beyond just your squad, and I hope they add something similar to Pro Clubs in the future.
On the other hand, EA seem to have really earmarked VOLTA as a mode that needed a huge boost. I’ll get into gameplay specifics later, but the customisation allowed in VOLTA so far is exactly what many fans have been clamouring for ever since it was announced.
From professional jerseys to street clothes, tattoos and hair braids, VOLTA 21 brings a huge breath of fresh air into FIFA. The collection really is huge and fun to play around with. There’s also a great sense of progression, as the game gives you VOLTA coins after every game, which along with specific objectives, allows you to get the gear you’ve always wanted.
VOLTA’s overall slick presentation and personality is a welcoming sight… but how’s the gameplay?
2. The Redemption of VOLTA Football
VOLTA in FIFA 20 was ultimately disappointing for most players, with the gameplay being a step back from older FIFA Street titles, and no way to team up with your mates being a truly confusing decision.
But after just a few games of VOLTA in FIFA 21, I’m happy to say that VOLTA is shaping up to be the go-to mode for groups of friends.
The gameplay of VOLTA is fluid, exciting and skilful with just a bit of street football luck thrown in. Chaining together skill moves and nutmegging your opponent, before smacking the ball against the fence to your teammate is just so, so fun.
The game feels really balanced, and I was having fun even with just the base 74 rated player that I was provided with, which speaks volumes to how much this mode has improved. Although, it may be difficult for new players who are not used to precise and fast-paced skill moves that are required in VOLTA. Defending these kinds of moves also feels rewarding, with timing and precision coming into play massively, especially against really skilled players.
Not being able to user control the goalkeeper and the horrific disconnection issues are the only disappointments so far, but they should be easily fixed in patch. Otherwise, this year’s VOLTA rendition is a refreshing and fun mode, that has potential to be an instant classic amongst the FIFA community.
3. Ultimate Team Gameplay
Last time around, Ultimate Team’s gameplay was a complete mess despite some of the good things surrounding the mode. The promos were extremely rewarding and engaging, with unique and powerful players being accessible to everyone, not just those who slap their entire pay-checks into packs. That’s just about where the good things ended for FUT 20, though.
The gameplay itself was riddled with issues that, even for a long time fan like myself, made it an absolute pain to play. On offense, even though the free kick system was improved, there was essentially one way to score: drag back and smack it near post. It was incredibly boring to play with and play against, and it made players with under 4-star weak foot almost unusable due to the meta strategy being the only way to stay competitive.
This one-dimensional play style is abolished in FUT 21, as the gameplay has been dramatically improved in many aspects.
For one, the passing and dribbling feels balanced and skill based. The ball doesn’t feel as if it magnetises to its target like in previous games, making your body position and momentum being huge factors into whether a pass is successful or not. Skill moves are also effective, yet at the same time satisfying to defend against. The CPU doesn’t automatically make your defence impassable, and you have to make sure you position your players in the right spots to not concede.
Another great change is the scoring. Finesse shots, long strikes, close range dribblers, and headers are all extremely viable ways to score. Knowing that there’s so many ways to score keeps the game engaging and exciting, as any sports game should. As a result, FUT 21 feels great to play overall.
Thank the football Gods that EA heard our complaints. Barring any last minute patches, FUT 21 is poised to become a beloved entry into the long-storied game mode.