FIFA 21 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Justin Prinsloo 29.10.2020

Review for FIFA 21 on PlayStation 4

Another year, another FIFA game. Industry heavyweight EA has more sporting euphoria to capitalise on than usual this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen stadiums and sports halls across the globe serve as little more than monuments to past glory. Jumping into a sports sim now, where virtual crowds once again pack these glorious feats of structural engineering, feels more like escapism than ever. FIFA 21 embraces this trend by scratching an itch for arcade sporting action as it has for over two decades, with an added incentive to deliver the goods.

Innovation in FIFA titles has dragged to a near-standstill in recent years. With the next generation of consoles releasing imminently, EA could be forgiven for holding off on massive changes until they have superior hardware to work with and, for the most part, they have. Funnily enough, however, FIFA 21 feels more refreshed than the series has in years despite the disappointing lack of graphical improvement. In this regard FIFA 21 is very much a swan song for the current gen, with the franchise likely holding out for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S before sweeping visual adjustments are made. Still, there are enough new bells and whistles to keep FIFA fans sated for the duration of the coming year.

Screenshot for FIFA 21 on PlayStation 4

In a word, the gameplay clicks so much better than it previously has. Pacy players are rapid without feeling overpowered and the AI has been tweaked to feel more realistic both in attack and defence. The agile dribbling system - the effectiveness of which is determined by each player's ball control and dribbling stats - makes possession of the ball feel snappier and more responsive in the middle of the park. The new 'creative runs' mechanic, which sees an AI-controlled player on your own team make a run in the direction the right stick is flicked, further contributes to attacking momentum. In tandem these improvements to the gameplay when in possession of the ball make it easier than ever to score, and that's okay. Both sides have these advantages at their disposal, advantages which often contribute to some high scoring games. Realism has been pushed to the side in favour of arcade-like fun and FIFA 21 is better for it.

Of all the new additions, the most apparent are the changes made to Career Mode, which has seen a much-requested and frankly long-overdue overhaul. When managing a team, the 'interactive match sim' provides a real-time map of the ongoing game. You can make gameplay tweaks as it ticks along or jump in to provide a human touch to the proceedings of each match. It's literally a game-changer and something Career Mode has been sorely missing.

Screenshot for FIFA 21 on PlayStation 4

There's also the introduction of 'match sharpness' for each individual squad member which must be balanced alongside fitness and morale to get the most out of them. This is done through weekly training whereby batches of players can be drilled at the same time. For finer development of promising youngsters into global superstars, new 'development plans' allow you to take firmer control of what attributes of theirs are being boosted, or even train them to play in new positions.

While a promising first step in a new direction, these novel Career Mode tools haven't been implemented in the best way, resulting in convoluted menus and UI. There are too many menu options that essentially lead to the same place, belying a desperate need for an interface overhaul across the board. The menus are janky, slow, and outdated, and have been for years.

Screenshot for FIFA 21 on PlayStation 4

Volta Football also makes a return but feels more like a stopgap to plug a hole in the available modes. That's not to say it hasn't been improved; it benefits tremendously from the changes made to the core gameplay which make it feel more like FIFA Street than ever before. This can be a delightful distraction when playing with friends. It's difficult to pin down the mode's shortcomings but what it boils down to ultimately is a lack of substance. While collecting clothing items and accessories for your squad and recruiting new players from beaten teams can be addictive, there's not much to sustain long-term interest aside from the Featured Battles which award legendary players for your squad once a week. The Debut, Volta's bonafide 'story' mode, serves as a passable intro to Volta but the characters and story are shallow and nauseating, even more so than The Journey was.

Then, there's FIFA Ultimate Team. All that really needs to be said is that it's still rife with loot boxes and encouragements to buy into the pay-to-win agenda. As such it definitely won't be for everybody, even with the addition of being able to now play co-op with friends and the ability to edit your team's stadium with minor cosmetic embellishments. FUT stands as a testament to the darker tendencies of EA and normally this would put a dampener on the year's virtual football proceedings. Thankfully, there's enough content elsewhere in FIFA 21 to provide an added incentive to stay away from the thinly-veiled casino of Ultimate Team.

Screenshot for FIFA 21 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

FIFA 21 provides enough new content and changes to set itself apart from FIFA 20 but ultimately this feels like an entry that plays it safe. This is totally understandable; the new console generation is just around the corner and will allow EA to take this series to the next level. Truly, it needs exactly that - the graphics and presentation are in dire need of an overhaul. Nevertheless, the bolstered Career Mode and gameplay balances contribute to this being a decent swan song for the current generation of football simulators.

Developer

EA Sports

Publisher

EA

Genre

Sport

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

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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