It’s that time of the year again: FIFA 21 is on the horizon! Another year, another FIFA game to criticize—I mean—look forward to and see how it holds up in front of its predecessors. Jokes aside, the FIFA series is that one annual iteration in the gaming industry that has to hold up to the highest level of expectations and it looks like this could be the year for EA Sports and the FIFA Community. Let’s take a closer look at FIFA Ultimate Team, Career Mode, Pro Clubs and VOLTA of possibly the best FIFA game I’ve seen in years.
FIFA 21 Gameplay
The word Gameplay crops up in literally every iteration of FIFA with EASports redesigning or improving (sometimes ruining) the core mechanics of their system. This year is no different. What does seem to be different this time is that the studio has actually done their homework and fixed many of the past errors (yes, headers, we are looking at you). Coupled with fresh new additions to gameplay, we might be looking at some tasty football this season. FIFA 21 brings, for the first time, Player Personality and Positional Personality; something players have been craving for a long time. These features will finally help players control their team the way they want, like their real-life counterparts.
Adding to that, Agile Dribbling and Creative Runs hopes to improve attacking and player movement while Smooth Encounters will help defend better with fewer clumsy incidents. There is also a shiny trinket introduced in the name of “Competitor Mode” which will allow players to compete against an esports-level AI in case Ultimate Difficulty is, you know, too easy. The FIFA 21 Gameplay Pitch Notes explain everything in detail.
FIFA Ultimate Team
No mention of a FIFA title is complete without mentioning FIFA Ultimate Team, affectionately known as FUT. Genuinely speaking, FUT 21 might just be the best version of FUT yet. The game mode has been the central focus of EA for a few years and is responsible for the majority of its revenue as well as the player crowd. And this year, with the addition of Custom Stadiums and Co-op FUT, the game mode can only get bigger. You can find all of the pizzazz in the FIFA 21 FUT Pitch Notes, where all of the new mechanics are explained in depth. The FIFA 21 FUT trailer surely got everyone excited.
EA Net Revenue from Ultimate Team
FY 2020: $1.49bn
FY 2019: $1.37bn
FY 2018: $1.18bn
FY 2017: $775m
FY 2016: $660m
FY 2015: $587m
— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) May 20, 2020
This also brings to light a major issue with the series. The prioritization of FUT and ignoring of literally every other mode in the game. While this makes complete sense from a business stand-point as seen in the tweet above, it leaves the passionate fans of Career Mode and Pro Clubs disappointed. With the current gambling legislation movement increasing in magnitude and a potential ban on loot boxes (and FUT Packs), we may finally see the attention divert to these modes.
The underrated gem of FIFA history, Career Mode has been at a stagnant stage for the longest of times (the only major additions coming in FIFA 16). Interestingly, the last time players got a Career Mode trailer was also for FIFA 16. The Career Mode Trailer announcement got everyone hyped up, without a doubt! Being a Career Mode fan myself I, too, jumped on the hype train.
Thankfully, the trailer didn’t disappoint us. Well, not me at least. The features announced gathered mixed reactions but there was an overall positivity surrounding the news. The Interactive Match Sim, while an older feature from the FIFA Titles of the last decade, is back with some nice improvements. Similarly, the old Transfer mechanics have made a return too. I still don’t understand why they had been removed in the first place. A discrete observation that I was able to make was that EA has implemented certain mechanics and features from the Football Manager series, most notably Match Sharpness, Player Development features, and Active Training. Let’s hope this is a sign of good things to come. The FIFA 21 Career Mode Pitch Notes document the entire reveal.
The Pro Clubs game mode is like a child who is loved by everyone except their parents. It’s sad but true and unsurprisingly, Pro Clubs still did not get the deserved attention and that left the community fuming. All that has been added to Pro Clubs this year are AI player customization and Multiple Tactics customizations, something which was present in FUT since FIFA 18.
The announcement was made with the FIFA 21 Pro Clubs Pitch Notes and that was it. It seems very unlikely that EA will make any major improvements to the game mode this year. We can only keep our fingers crossed for the next iteration. Sadly, Pro Clubs continues to be ignored year after year.
VOLTA has been EA’s focus project for the last 2 years. It received a lukewarm response when launched in FIFA 20. Players found it too boring or monotonous and VOLTA ended up being a gimmick rather than a major game mode. But things might just change this year. EA has finally brought multiplayer to VOLTA and a bunch of new stadiums to go with it. The Paris court looks rather spicy!
Significant changes have been made to the core mechanics itself. Better dribbling, higher defending awareness, and fancy new tricks will help improve the overall experience. Not to mention, after the kinda boring Story Mode in FIFA 20, we will have a new story titled The Debut featuring none other than the legend himself: Kaka! All details can be found in the FIFA 21 VOLTA Pitch Notes.
Say what you will about the series, FIFA always manages to perform well every year and this year will be no different. Couple that with the arrival of next-gen consoles, it will be one of the most successful titles in recent years. A bonus for console users is the availability of Dual Entitlement. So current-gen console players will be receiving the next-gen version on their new consoles for free. It is also interesting to note that FIFA 21 will have 2 versions; a current-gen one and a next-gen one. Sadly, PC players will not be receiving the next-gen version. We can only wait now and find out how the game performs compared to past editions.