The gameplay is enjoyable and I will still do my long running career modes because what’s there is still fun, even if I’ve played it so many times before and wished there was just more to do. I yearn for EA to surprise us one year and say “Hey, we didn’t really change FUT up much but we did all this cool sh*t with career mode!” and they spend an hour talking about those changes while those of us who love single player modes shed tears of joy. Sadly, that is just not going to happen. FUT is a massive cash cow, one that EA lives off of every year and knows that the whales out there will buy the game and pump thousands of dollars into the mode each year, not caring that it all resets the next. EA, I’m not one of those people, and I’m joining the masses of gamers, writers, YouTubers, etc who have had it with this model. I want to love your game, I really do! But it’s time to call you out: Your changes to everything besides FUT are marginal at best and do not condone charging everyone $60.
This was the way I closed out the review of FIFA 19 last year. I was not happy with the product and, in retrospect, that score that I gave was a little generous as I kept playing the game over the months that followed the review. FIFA had basically burned me one too many times and I was hoping and praying for massive changes. So here we are, one year later and FIFA 20 is here. I had read some documentation about big changes to career mode and a new mode based on the old FIFA Street games. With cautious optimism, I decided to rip open the scab that last year's game had left and give it one more swing.
I'm happy to say that my cautious optimism was rewarded as FIFA 20 may not be perfect, but it feels fresh and fun again.
Gameplay is still there, and it feels more technically sound.
Starting up my first match, I thought the AI was broken right off the bat. Kicking the ball backwards to my waiting player, nobody else on the pitch moved except for a slow walk. I sat there for a solid five seconds wondering if the game had frozen or was glitching, but the AI has now been improved to adjust to the player and not just go through standard algorithms that are pre-determined based on difficulty. The game is going to adjust to the player's movement and tactics instead, and that's welcome.
In the last couple of versions, pacey players ruled everything. Getting a pair of fast fullbacks that can cross the ball in repeatedly was the easiest path to victory, so EA addressed this by adjusting the default pace and reaction of defenders to counter these strategies. They still work, but not nearly as much as goals really feel like they have to be earned. Pace is still a big factor, but those who will be rewarded are those who can time through balls perfectly. You're not going to see Harry "I'm as agile as a coffee table" Maguire chasing down Heung-Min Son like he has a hidden phantom gear this time around. If the timing is perfect and the defenders are not fast, players are going to get in on goal and be rewarded for having skilled, pacey players at the top of their attack. It's rewarding because those runs are based upon making tactics work and not just idle passing. Unlocking defenses is harder this time around, but not impossible.
The tactics that can be set on the fly haven't changed from last year to this year, and I think that's fine. Those did not need any tweaking, though I will say that I noticed pressing is a lot harder to break and the AI is smarter about pressing triggers. The in-depth tactics have been tweaked a bit as players can set everything up with their defensive and attacking formations right down to how many players are in the box on a set piece. If you're a more attacking player, you can truly make things a living hell for defenses but can be punished rather quickly on the counter. The balance that has been missing the last couple of years is there it seems.
Free kicks and penalty kicks have been revamped, and while I'm a huge fan of the new mechanics for free kicks, I think the changes for penalties were a bit too much. Free kicks are no longer a crap shoot based upon the player's skill and direction of the sticks. The right analog stick controls what the ball does and the stats of the player determine how much the ball moves. Curves, power shots and knuckleballs are all possible. It's easy to learn but hard to master. Penalty kicks, on the other hand, got a little complicated. A cursor now has to be placed where the player wants the ball to go, hold it in that position and then use the timing bar to ensure it goes in the right spot. It's not easy, though I only had a couple cracks at it. I still prefer the old system, though.
Rejoice, Career mode fans! Changes are here!
I cannot overstate how happy I am that EA announced a few months ago some big changes to career mode. After what felt like years, EA finally reached out to the community and asked them what needed the biggest overhaul. It didn't take long to figure out that career mode players had been unhappy with the franchise for quite some time, and I'm included in that group. EA revamped the single player mode in some good, sensible ways by adding customization options to make players and managers feel like they've truly added a unique character into the career mode.
The character editor is deeper than its ever been in the FIFA series. Players now have nine base models to choose from with everything being a customizable option: complexion, face, eyes, hair, accessories, etc. While we've had some of these options in the past, it's never been available to this degree.
Player morale matters more than ever in career mode for managers. The quick hit press conferences are now in-depth affairs that have their own cutscenes and RPG-style responses that will affect individual player and team morale. Answering in positive or motivating ways will boost morale, while being overly harsh will bring down morale and affect the chemistry of the squad overall. You will always get the option to do the post-match presser no matter the result, but pre-match pressers are reserved for cup ties and larger matches.
The pressers aren't the only part that will affect morale. Transfer season always brings chaos, whether you're buying, selling or loaning players to improve your squad. In past versions, marking a player for transfer would lower his morale but that's about it. Now, marking a player as available for transfer or loan will trigger a player chat. In my experience with the game, most players were unhappy about being transfer listed but you could boost their morale by being honest with them and saying that you can't guarantee playing time or that it might be the best move. Loan listed players, especially those below a rating of 70 on bigger clubs, will be very happy because it means they can secure a loan to a lower league player and get more playing time. Also, players actually accept loans on a regular basis in this version. Last year, this version was completely broken and most players refused the move because it was always to a lower league.
A huge change that affects gameplay is the dynamic scaling for player potential. Youth players had a set range that was their ceiling in older versions, but this year that number range will scale based upon training, how much playing time they get early in their career and how well they do. This is a huge incentive to play youth players, especially for those who are trying to take a lower league side up to the top division in their respective league and could mean grooming more superstars.
The interface hasn't changed much beyond that, but given what's been added into the game, I can give it a pass this year. The graphics are easier to read and there are league-specific splash screens for each competition now.
Say hello to VOLTA FOOTBALL.
FIFA Street was an incredibly fun game way back in the day. The concept was simple: Take the best players and put them on smaller courts to play street football. With the growing popularity of Futsal, EA opted to bring this back for FIFA 20. It is fun, challenging and almost unforgiving.
VOLTA replaces The Journey as the story-based game mode in the series, telling the story of a group of street football players trying to earn their way into the world championships. Yes, your created player is involved in the story and you'll learn about your teammates along the way, but the gameplay is what shines here. Players who think they are good at skill moves will get to put themselves to the test because while the main FIFA game is about team, VOLTA puts an emphasis on individual skill. The game modes vary based upon how many players on each team, from 3v3 rush to professional futsal, there's a challenge for almost anyone. VOLTA is also a fantastic mode to truly hone your skills for the big show, so to speak. Those skill moves carry over to the main game, as they should.
I won't get into this mode too much as I could potentially spoil the storyline but the mode is very fun but brutal at the beginning since your skill level starts in the 60s. My advice is not to push ahead far into the story to start. Do some pick-up matches, build your player up on the skill tree, and get better at the skill moves.
Ultimate Team has been updated as well, as expected.
It should comes as no surprise that Ultimate Team got some love again. This time, the biggest change is to individual objectives and earning loan players or permanent players based upon the difficulty level. Sure, the standard opening of packs and auction house is available, but EA seems more willing to give players chances to earn good players that allows them to pick up coins that can be used on those packs without spending real money.
FUT has a level up system now, based upon the completion of the challenges and objectives. As players level up their squad, more rewards become available such as coin boosters, skill cards, and unlockables.
A nice touch in FUT is the ability to add customized Tifo to your stadium of choice ahead of matches. Do you want a gigantic cutout of Zinedine Zidane lifted up by your supporters to terrify your opponents? Go for it! It's an option, along with many others. The FUT experience is getting better overall, even if you don't spend money and try to earn players the hard way. Yes, you're behind the eight ball in that aspect, but at least there are options unlike other sports games.
Pro Clubs gets some minor tweaks but not much else.
I feel bad for pro clubs players. Most of the changes this year are just minor tweaks to improve the experience, such as getting rid of the annoying stamina bug for the player who controlled multiple players in the game. Some positions have been added back in such as LF/RF, LW/RW, and LWB/RWB. Outside of these tweaks? There isn't much to report here. Maybe next year, Pro Clubs...
So what's the verdict?
I was very critical of FIFA last year. The UEFA Champions League branding was basically used as a fresh coat of paint on a dilapidated house and that was unacceptable. EA, for now, seems to have learned their lesson and listened to all of their players and not just those who spend money in Ultimate Team. The changes in career mode are a great start, but there are still some things left unaddressed: Contract negotiations in player career, more control over the franchise budget and pricing for tickets like the old franchise modes, and taking the customization further than this version. The gameplay is good and fun, but still a solid challenge on higher difficulties. Last year, I said flat out you should skip the game if you had FIFA 18. This year? It's worth the pickup, especially if you skipped last year.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Sean is a 15 year veteran of gaming and technology writing with an unhealthy obsession for Final Fantasy, soccer, and chocolate.View Profile