FIFA 20 review (multi)

Like clockwork, EA has put out their new FIFA a few weeks after Konami’s PES 2020 (yeah I’m dropping the eFootball part). It’s out for all consoles as well as PC, and introduces Volta as its big new game mode.

I’ve been playing FIFA so long that I remember the days where it was an isometric scroller for 16-bit consoles. It pioneered TV-like graphics the 3D visuals in the 3DO version, which came to PC and consoles not long after. Since then, we’ve had a steady stream of releases and spin-offs – but presentation and style are certainly a common feature in all things FIFA. This year is no exception.

Volta is a testament to this, as a new take on the kind of street football that EA first introduced with FIFA Street. Despite what you’d think on a surface level, Volta isn’t just for those who are supremely skilled in small spaces, pulling off tricks and sending opponents in the wrong direction with clever moves and passes. It features simplified controls that make Volta an accessible mode even for beginners – and I assume it also holds a lot of appeal to those not too interested in the tactics and formations that come with the full-sized experience.

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Volta can be played in a variety of ways, ranging from 3v3 to 5v5 and goalkeeperless (“Rush”) variations for the 3v3 and 4v4 modes. You can also play a more rule-oriented version of the real sport of futsal, and can play on courts with or without walls. For those who never played anything like this before – walls enable you to bounce passes off the wall and use it as a teammate when passing defenders, whereas in an arena without walls the ball just goes out of bounds.

The new mode is extremely feature-rich, with multiple gameplay modes including online league play and a story mode to replace “The Journey”, which ran for three years and ended with FIFA 19. There is also a lot of character customization through behavior as well as gear – the latter of which makes me think we’ll see some microtransactions somewhere along the way for Volta. Whatever the case may be, Volta is a lot of fun to play and makes me wonder why FIFA Street wasn’t merged with the main FIFA series sooner.

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Moving to the ‘actual’ football portion of FIFA 20, things feel far more familiar. Changes are more subtle once you enter a full sized stadium, and (perhaps to juxtapose the trickery and skills in Volta) feel geared towards adding more realism. The defensive game has been improved, and it’s a change that I welcome with open arms. In previous FIFA I’d see so many players just dribbling while turning, spinning and doing all kinds of unrealistic stuff – and a lot of that gets punished more frequently this time around. It’s definitely not gone, but defenders feel much stronger at picking the ball off – and getting familiar with defensive controls and timing yourself also is worthwhile.

On the other end, the new dribbling moves that have been introduced give you more options to slide past a defender, but the moves feel more realistic this time around. You can control the ball, lure in a defender and then blast past him using your superior speed, for instance. In other words, time to channel your inner Thierry Henry.

Speaking of legends of the game, FIFA 20 adds even more Icons, but unfortunately they’re mostly locked away behind the game’s FIFA Ultimate Team mode. For me, the experience of playing with these old (sometimes childhood) favorites is something I’d like to just casually experience in a friendly game as well – mostly for the novelty of it. Locking them up behind a wall of challenges, lootboxes and online play (I prefer local multiplayer) feels like a bit of a waste.

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The FUT mode has been expanded for FIFA 20 though, with more options and objectives to help you unlock everything the game has to offer. Next to these more directed options, the game now also features a hub for friendly games – which is also one of the places within FUT where you can play (together) in offline games against the AI. These friendlies can also be played with custom rules, including some that give temporary random boosts to the team controlling the ball or emphasize possession. Friendlies don’t count towards your ranking though – you’ll have to take the game online for that.

Subtle enhancements have also been included in the career mode, my favorite of which being how a player’s skill level is affected over multiple seasons, rather than just through individual events. For example, if you build a squad with 18 amazing players but have to consistently bench the same five players for an entire year, their stats will likely drop ahead of subsequent seasons. It’s one of the challenges that clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona deal with every year, so it’s nice to see this introduced in a game like FIFA.

The audiovisual presentation of FIFA 20 is as strong as ever. Player models look great, the animations are excellent (especially with the more realistic dribbling moves that have been introduced) and the commentary is superior to that in PES 2020. I still adore the new camera style in Konami’s game though, and wouldn’t mind seeing something similar in FIFA in the future. Volta’s the big new thing and very much worth it if you enjoyed FIFA Street back in the day. If you didn’t but still pick up FIFA every year, then you’ll be glad to know the experience is as good (if not better) as you remember it.

Score: 8.3/10

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