Almost a quarter of a century has passed since the beginning of what would become the bestselling franchise in gaming history.
The game simply known as “FIFA” to most has seen vast improvements which have jumped out at you from year to year during the early iterations and subtle, yet appreciated advancements in recent years.
FIFA 19 is all about refining what was already one of the absolute best sports games available. Some improvements are subtle such as enhancements to the dribbling mechanics that were originally overhauled last year. This year there are more ways to trap, control and one-touch pass the ball than ever before, and it really shines on less-than-perfectly played balls.
Seeing players try to bring the ball under control with their head, chest and even upper parts of the leg really adds authenticity. With that being said, direct passes still felt a bit too “perfect” to me. I was able to complete ground passes to my teammates without problems, and, at times, it almost felt pre-determined that the ball was going to get to its destination no matter how far down the pitch my teammate was. The best way to pass into open spaces and avoid having the ball get “sucked in” by a teammate is still the through ball.
The shooting system has also been improved on with “Timed Finishing”. Using Timed Finishing promises to give the user more control on shots and headers on goal. After initially loading up on the shot, you can now press the shot button again and depending on the timing of the second press of the button, the ball will respond accordingly. In order to use this feature I highly recommend turning the “Trainer” interface on as it will add a meter above the player to give some visual representation on the timing of the shot.
All in all, gameplay on the pitch has been improved tremendously, giving hardcore fans of the franchise enough nuance to stay engaged while still not being too difficult for newbies to enjoy FIFA as well.
Of course there are also some not-so-subtle additions to FIFA 19 with one in particular jumping out upon booting up the game for the first time.
The game starts out with the iconic Champions League anthem playing while it loads you into the stadium for the Champions League final between Juventus and PSG. The presentation has always been incredible in FIFA and this year is no different. Player models look great and the presentation package and cut scenes look incredibly authentic to those on a real life TV broadcast.
When it comes to stadiums, La Liga received the biggest overhaul this year with 17 new stadiums, although the famous Camp Nou is notably missing due to Pro Evolution Soccer’s exclusive license with FC Barcelona. On the flip side, Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park makes a return in FIFA 19 as PES could no longer retain the License to the famous Bundesliga club. Additionally, Fulham’s Craven Cottage, Wolves’ Molineux Stadium and Cardiff City Stadium have been added for the recently promoted Clubs of the Premiere League as well as Tottenham’s brand new home to be completed later this year.
The stadiums look and feel absolutely great, and authentic fan chants and rituals really bring FIFA 19 to life. The commentary once again shines and really immerses you into believing you are watching a live TV Broadcast with interesting nuggets of information about the players on the pitch and their recent performances.
A Mode For Everyone
Game modes also received some love this year and EA added some unconventional ways to play the game. The biggest additions came to the previously stale “Kick Off” mode. Users are now able to create their own “House Rules” and play games without fouls, free kicks or cards as well as volley’s and header’s only. You are also able to jump right into a Champions League match with any team of choice at any stage of the competition. These added ways to play the game are certainly interesting, but the lack of online support may hinder the life cycle overall.
FIFA Ultimate Team or “FUT” received a few tweaks including new player reveal animations and a mode called “Division Rivals” which pegs you against online opponents with a similar skill level to compete against for weekly rewards. This is a nice addition for users like me who like FUT but only play casually and previously perhaps felt “left behind” by not having the newest and best cards available on their teams. It made it increasingly difficult playing versus online opponents later in the year who had much better teams. Division Rivals addresses this by matching you up against people with similar skill levels.
“The Journey” also makes a return as it concludes the trilogy of FIFA’s story mode introduced in FIFA 17.
I won’t spoil too much of the story, but the opening scene is worth playing alone as you are on the pitch in a retro 1960’s match controlling Jim Hunter, Alex Hunter’s grandfather who was a prolific striker in his day. The pitch and stadium look incredibly accurate and the presentation really immerses you into 1960’s football in England. At one point the commentator even mentions the implementation of a two yellow’s and a red card system at the 1970 FIFA World Cup.
I really enjoyed playing in this retro setting and I wished FIFA had classic and legendary teams from years past to play with complete with their era’s presentation similar to what NBA 2K12 did when they added the Hardwood classic teams and presentation overlays.
“The Journey” is not for everyone as it is a heavily scripted movie like game mode in which my decision making did not always seem to have a heavy impact on the final outcome. Overall I was happy that this mode is in the game though as it served as a nice change of pace and added yet another layer to the feature rich FIFA 19 experience.
Career mode is also back including pre-season tournaments to choose from with prize money and the addition of the Champions League license along with the UEFA Europa Cup really brings another level of authenticity to the offline only mode. The cinematic scenes are stunning and it even includes the group draw phase. You can take on the career of a player or a manager and you are even able to customize your manager’s look as well as take on press conferences and interact with the media in a multiple choice format. I still wish for an online career or league mode to play with and against my buddies but at this point I realize this ship has probably sailed.
All in all, FIFA 19 is once again the most complete Football game on the market today with tons of game modes and things to keep even the most hardcore football fanatics busy for hundreds of hours.
The gameplay on the pitch has once again improved incrementally this year although I would still give its rival PES 2019 the nod here. The presentation is some of the best in business, and the added Champions League branding just adds to an already beautiful presentation package. FIFA has something for everyone, and I highly recommend at the very least trying it out through one of EA’s services such as EA Access or Origin Access.
All in all FIFA 19 is once again the most complete soccer game on the market today with tons of game modes and things to keep even the most hardcore soccer fanatics busy for hundreds of hours.