FIFA 21 (Xbox One) Review

By Neil Flynn 14.11.2020

Review for FIFA 21 on Xbox One

FIFA 20 felt like it took some strides forward with new game options, such as the introduction of its subtle FIFA Street successor, VOLTA, and new added modes to the House Rules options, such as Mystery Ball. This year sees little of the obvious new modes to shout about and instead refines the existing plethora of game options on show.

The most notable, and important change to FIFA 21 from its predecessor, are the mazy runs that attackers can now make. Speed and zippy players have never been so important, as attacking is fast, fun and easy to pull off. EA have listed to the fans feedback of the low-scoring matches ending in boring 1-0's, although last year's iteration could not be guilted into the lack of attacking prowess, players were fast and effective in FIFA 20, instead it the fault of last-minute defenders and great goalkeeping that kept score lines low. It is abundantly clear from the moment that a match kicks off in FIFA 21 that there is an element of defensive mayhem and a system where attackers run riot. Attacking runs are far smarter as players demand the ball and intelligently put themselves into the best position through their pace and physique. Alternatively, a slower build up full of one touch passes can also result in a huge goal-fest, and this is due to the defensive, and goalkeeping AI being tweaked so far that players are now seeing the reverse issue from last year's entry. This parallel universe now has score sheets that could rival a Rugby game, especially for those who are dominant attackers.

Through-balls with pacey players down the middle has always been a personal preferred line of attack when playing FIFA. It feels even easier to pull off in FIFA 21 with sluggish defenders, and unfortunately weighting things towards attacking results in defending being even harder, meaning that jockeying and predicting the flight of the ball to intercept is the only option left to defend. Standing a firm back line and giving a yard or two can stop attackers firing off shots but even if this can be pulled off then don't expect any help from the CPU Defenders as they have terrible AI. Unfortunately, it gets worse, as the best goalkeepers in the world struggle to get a hand to most things, but who can blame them when 9 times out of 10 any attacker can hit a top-corner worldie without even using finesse or timed finishes!

Screenshot for FIFA 21 on Xbox One

Also, there have been some ludicrous tackles that have gone completely unpunished. So much so that an element of dirty offenses has become part and parcel of last ditch defending. Tackling the last man seems to have very few repercussions, even for blatant slide tackles from behind and then for some of the most innocuous fouls a yellow card can be presented. This is fairly frustrating but far from the biggest issue once it becomes part of your defensive repertoire.

VOLTA is back, and as much as it divided opinions last year this reviewer had a blast with it in both single player and multiplayer. Its fast and furious game play and fresh take on street football was much warranted as it is appreciated. This time the story mode, The Debut, is about a 4-hour single player story mode which doesn't go as far as before in terms of long-winded cheesy storylines and cutscenes but does reintroduce the same gameplay style to players. Challenges take place in worldwide locations, the same as last time, with legends of the game coming into the story to add additional flair and challenges to complete.

Career mode still hasn't had the jump that people want, nor were expecting. Transfers are still a huge bug-bear being mundane, drawn out affairs that casual players will get frustrated by. Similarly, with training mode, which is always something that is often neglected by this reviewer when trying to complete a season as its just more fun to bounce from match to match rather than working on training features which becomes easier to just set up and simulate. The most notable addition is the match simulation feature (aka - Football manager mode for FIFA) where a bouncing map of dots can be seen from a birds eye view but the best part is that players can take control at any point of the match and instantly jump in to take the reins of a game into your hands. This is a very fun feature and can help simulate a season with a lot more control of the actions on the pitch.

Ultimate Team largely remains the same, although it is amazing how one small tweak can help improve the enjoyment of the ever-popular mode. EA have removed the need for fitness cards, which were used previously to replenish player fitness and could become relatively tedious over time. Removing the need for fitness consumables means that money can be spent on new players or other items and players no longer need to be rotated out just for the sake of poor fitness. This also helps with pack bloat, as there is now no need to have footballers in the team just for the sake of compensating for poor fitness of others. The Pay-to-win strategy is still rife with a large number of online opponents, with those who have rare and legendary players in their team from the get-go, but it is totally feasible to grind out a good team from scratch by playing Division Rivals and Squad Battles to unlock new packs and earn in game currency to purchase players sensibly.

Screenshot for FIFA 21 on Xbox One

FIFA 21 may not fully yet utilise the next gen hardware of the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 but it still does look good and there are options to convert the Xbox One version up to the Xbox Series S/X versions. Nonetheless while the graphical engine, Frostbite, still manages to shine through it is a shame that there isn't a true next gen football game this year. Interestingly, the stalwarts of the commentary booth, Martin Tyler and Alan Smith have been removed and now replaced with the rather limited commentary from UEFA Champions League and Europa League commentators Derek Rae and Lee Dixon. It is not like they are bad commentators, but clearly have far fewer lines of dialogue compared to the previous pair, which can make for a repetitive audio experience.

Screenshot for FIFA 21 on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

The lack of changes in FIFA 21 overall, particularly compared to FIFA 20 is telling. The iconic pairing of Martin Tyler and Alan Smith have been removed from commentary, and for what it's worth they may as well have taken the goalkeepers with them. Modes have had tiny incremental touches added to them which amount to very little more than quality of life enhancements. However, it cannot be argued that FIFA 21 is still a fun arcade experience bursting with a plethora of different modes whether it be FUT, Career Mode, VOLTA or House Rules.FIFA 21 hasn't re-written the wheel but it is fun, fast attacking football and hopefully EA have big plans to shake up the franchise next year for its true next-gen console experience.

Developer

EA Vancouver

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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