FIFA 20 (Xbox One) Review

By Neil Flynn 21.04.2020

Review for FIFA 20 on Xbox One

Annual franchises have to work hard to reinvent the wheel, especially developers which have been producing the same game for well over 25 years now. The paradox is that changing too much alienates those who fear change, and then there are those who claim that FIFA is merely nothing more than a reskin and rehash from its previous iteration. Often accused of this, EA Sports Vancouver has taken it upon itself in recent years to add something new to the tried and tested formula. How does FIFA 20 differ?

How far has the FIFA formula come in the past few decades? It depends on when your first FIFA experience was - this critic's was FIFA 97. Try revisiting those games of yore and the nostalgic bliss will be undone. A mode that has always stuck to footballing brain of your truly, was the addition of indoor matches, played on a hard-wooden surface akin to a basketball court. It was a different experience to the core mode that FIFA offered back then. That is why FIFA 20's Volta mode really does stand out.

Yes, FIFA Street did something that changed the footballing formula in the '00s but this was a separate title altogether. Volta in itself has been really fleshed out to be the focal point of change in FIFA 20, in addition to changes to the standard 11-on-11 gameplay that the series is famous for. What does Volta do to change things up? For starters, it has mixed gender matches (for the first time in a FIFA game), a number of RPG-esque mechanics, and a number of tweaks to match ups which mix the House Rules games with Volta. Not to mention that Volta also has a fully voiced story mode, although not quite to the same heights that The Journey has previously achieved.

The plot follows the standard linear "nobody to superstar" arc, which is somewhat a shame, considering the number of story options that were present in the The Journey's multiple branching paths. The annoying element about this is that matches need to be won, and if they are lost then they have to be restarted from the start, and it could be even more painful when there are multiple matches to be played consecutively. The story mode comes with a whole host of RPG-esque mechanics such a skill tree, clothes shopping, and building a budding party of players.

Screenshot for FIFA 20 on Xbox One

Additional to the story are Tour and League modes. League mode is the online competitive space, to compete against other players and their squads to climb the ranks and reach the top division. Meanwhile, Volta Tour pits players against random CPU squads. The beauty of this mode is the ability to choose from a number of the worldwide locations and match types. From the small walled pitches of Lagos, or the halls in Mexico City, each features its own special atmosphere, while also diversifying the style of games being played by mixing up pitch types. The funny thing is that these small pitches have often bombastic consequences as the ball ping-pongs everywhere. This is mechanically detached from FIFA's standard gameplay loop, instead, taking shots need to be far more subtle, otherwise that ball will go nowhere near the back of the goal.

Further customisation comes with the number of players on the pitch, from allowing teams of six in Futsal, right down to 3-vs-3, all on small urban-style street pitches. The confined spaces on pitches mean that sheer pace won't see players storm through, instead well-timed skill moves need to be executed to dumbfound players and to sneak around them. This is the ultimate showmanship and arrogance that certain friends love to illustrate when they school you on FIFA. Again, customisation means that each match feels slightly different. Futsal, 4v4 and 5v5 feature goal keepers, and the 'Rush' varieties (3v3 rush and 4v4 rush) do not, which can mean that defending against a cruel computer opponent can be game-breakingly hard. It is right up there in the rage-quit territory when defenders are so hopeless that they all begin to look a little bit like Phil Jones.

Outside of Volta, the next best addition to FIFA 20 are the additional House Rules matches which were first introduced in FIFA 19. King of the Hill is a possession-based mode where players need to hold the ball in an isolated part of the pitch for a small amount of time to charge the goal meter. Once the meter has been charged the team with possession needs to make a mad-dash for goal to attempt to score before the meter drops back to zero. This can be fun against the CPU, but playing against a human opponent can reduce this to a very boring defensive-fest, and there is little opportunity to counter attack, as the attacking player will need to stop and charge their meter.

The real joy comes with Mystery Ball, which is local multiplayer bliss. Mystery Ball focuses itself on 5 different ball types: Passing, Shooting, Speed, Dribbling and All-Star. These perks are then applied to the ball, increasing the stats of any one of them at any time, with All-Star being the ultimate granddaddy of them all. Each ball also comes tied to a number of goals that will go on the score-board if it goes in, ranging from one to three goals. Any time the ball goes out of play, a new will activate. This means that competent players could get score lines to replicate a basketball match rather than a football match. Speed Boost sees players like Raheem Sterling and Wilfred Zaha dialled up to 11, as they become faster than glorified Olympic track sprinters, and shooting boost can almost guarantee a goal from anywhere in the 25-yard region. This is pure fun, and something you'd expect in a debug or cheat mode during the '90s - definitely a very welcome addition to the pack.

Screenshot for FIFA 20 on Xbox One

Fundamentally it is the changes on the pitch that matter to most. In the traditional modes, FIFA 20 opts for faster gameplay, faster players, and zippier play styles. EA do seem to flips on whether it wants to play a faster game or add finesse to shooting. One minute the central core gameplay is to robustly defend and play the ball strategically, and then the following year it's all reversed to a previous iteration. This is fine in principle, as without this the fervent fanbase complains of too many similarities from the previous year. FIFA 19's timed-finishes were flawed - a great idea in principle, but far too impractical to execute, especially in the heat of the moment, introducing a severe disadvantage and unbalanced experience for the casual player. Not only are timed finishes back in FIFA 20, but now a newly introduced set-up touch has been added to the repertoire. Executed by rolling the ball into space and then taking a thunderous shot, but again, very difficult to perform when approaching it from the casual player perspective, particularly when it is far too slow to actually get on to the ball and get a shot in the mix.

Far more emphasis has been added to player movement such as the introduction of strafe dribbling. This feels like it has been somewhat taken from PES 2020's style of gameplay, as it offers more options when on the ball - something that PES actually excels at over FIFA in this regard. Scoring from outside the box seems pretty unlikely, but then the same could be said in real-life, especially as FIFA is trying to emulate the real world. There is an element of excitement in a fantastically accomplished build-up to a goal, but sometimes that random audacious attempt from outside of the box can really change the match, something that is seldom in FIFA 20.

Refinements are also evident in FIFA Ultimate team, which has been built upon. FUT puts players in control of creating their very own football team from scratch and sending them out against the world. Menus have been adapted to be more user-friendly, but probably as EA wants people to spend not only a long time in this mode, but also wheelbarrows of real-world cash as well. FUT has fast developed the reputation of being a money-sucking vampire, and every year there seem to be complaints about this rather pay-to-win mentality, but yet, it goes from strength to strength, and becomes ever more popular. Perhaps it has become so engrained into the ecosystem that people who are invested in FIFA are now so used to pumping in the cash required to find a foothold in FUT, but there is still a great number of gamers who are against the ideology of: the more money that is pumped in, the more likely you are to win.

Screenshot for FIFA 20 on Xbox One

Even if people are happy with spending their hard-earned cash on this, EA does not actually reveal the odds of finding certain players in the player cards, meaning that getting the Lionel Messis and Cristiano Ronaldos of the world is an unknown probability. It is quite literally a money-grabbing mode that should have no place in gaming, alas, developers are still allowed to put such modes in and get away with it. EA isn't alone here, but this is probably the most mainstream example of such exploitative measures in place. It is a shame, as FUT can be quite fun, cultivating and customising a team and club really does evolve the standard FIFA formula to be something different. PES' My Club is perhaps far more generous with its model, but this is no competition to FUT, not in its current incarnation.

FIFA's standard Career Mode has been incredibly neglected over the last few years with very few incremental changes. The newer changes this year include player and team morale based on their own performances, and the manager interaction at press conferences or team selection. Buying players has also become so over-complicated that it is off-putting to even want to negotiate new contracts. Otherwise career mode remains largely unchanged from FIFA 19, and while it does work, it is a far cry from the evolution that players have been clamouring for.

Graphically FIFA does still shine, the presentation of pre-match build ups, real world sponsors, and the various different presentation style from each league is miles beyond what PES does. Yes, FIFA has gobbled up practically every licence there is, leaving PES to only gloat over having the Euro 2020 tournament rights and exclusivity on Juventus. This is something that players have come to expect from the FIFA franchise. The realism of players sometimes looks better on FIFA, and others much more defined on PES, particularly those on licensed teams. Stadiums feel alive, and player animations are silky and fluid. There is no doubt that EA has continued to work with players to hone in on being as close to the real thing as possible.

It is also a testament that FIFA continuously looks to getting new music into their games. The genre is a bit skewed compared to the FIFAs of past, and lacks diversity, although this does fit a bit more with Volta's vibe of being a bit more "street." Commentary is provided by stalwarts Martin Tyler and Alan Smith, with UEFA Champions League commentary, among other match types, being provided by Derek Rae and Lee Dixon. The commentary is a far cry better than other sports games, and perhaps is taken for granted by a number of FIFA players who rarely stray outside of this franchise to recognise how fluid it does feel in comparison to something like the WWE 2K series. Unfortunately, old commentary does still slip in, after all Martin Tyler started banging on about the "upcoming FIFA World Cup in Brazil" in one match, a World Cup that took place in 2014!

Screenshot for FIFA 20 on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

For all the scathing comments about FUT's predatory and disgusting practices, it cannot be denied that FIFA 20 is still a great game. If micro-transactions are a concern then, avoid them - it is pretty easy to do with the sheer number of available options, which are next to none in this genre, with Volta and House Rules being incredibly fun additions to FIFA's on-going repertoire of modes. The subtle evolution of player skill moves might be inaccessible to the casual player, but the experts that can take advantage of these changes will definitely be able to test their skills. FIFA 20 is an evolution to the series, which has surprised with its diversity of options, and should only continue to grow as the decade goes on.

Developer

EA

Publisher

EA

Genre

Sport

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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