FIFA 21 is a game that knows the next generation is here. This year’s installment of the annual soccer franchise has been used to fine tune various elements on the pitch as a new era is set to begin. 

There’s nothing earth shattering about what you’ll experience, but it’s not a game that’s going to turn away those who decide to pick it up. It just may leave you a bit underwhelmed when you aren’t in a match.

Gameplay

Where FIFA 21 shines is with it’s gameplay. There’s not a single “back of the box” new feature that you can point to with the game. Rather, it’s a collection of smaller changes and improvements that pull the whole experience together.

Players no longer have the speed of Hermes no matter who they are. Now, players feel accurate to their attributes on the field. The faster players will blow by the slower defenders whereas the best defensive players will be able to use their positioning to keep the ball in front of them. 

Ball control feels responsive, passing feels authentic, and shooting never leaves me scratching my head. Overall, there’s just a nice and smooth pace to the action both as a whole and individually on the field that pulls it back ahead of its main competitor — Pro Evolution Soccer — for the first time in a few years. 

While I’m sure there are players that have their problems with how the game feels, I’ve found myself enjoying it more and more with each game I play. 

Game Modes

The modes of FIFA 21 have seen little attention as we hit the end of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 era. 

All the ones you’ve come to expect are here with Career, Volta, Pro Clubs, Ultimate Team, and more returning. None of the aforementioned modes make you jump out of your seat in excitement. However, most are still fun in their own right. 

Career mode is pretty much the same as what it’s been with the addition of a new interactive match sim option. This new feature allows you to now watch a match play out on a 2D pitch a la Football Manager. It adds a nice wrinkle for those who love the off-field depth FIFA 21 offers but don’t always want to play out the games ourselves. That said, you can jump into the action if you want at any time rather than having to back out and start over. 

Training and player development also saw small improvements in the form of allowing you to train players in groups as opposed to assigning a player to a specific training one at a time. The mode’s interface also makes it easy to find what you are looking for and keep track of everything you need for your organization. 

Volta returns after an impressive debut last year, and is pretty much the same thing as a year ago. The gameplay improvements make their way into the mode, but there’s nothing here that takes it to the next level over last year. Even the player customization can use some work as the options, while plentiful, aren’t all that impressive. 

Volta is also where you’ll find the game’s single-player story mode, The Debut. It’s nothing to write home as you find yourself facing various amateur Volta squads with the goal of reaching the Dubai Streets and Icons Championship. It’s your typical EA Sports story that is just the company’s way of getting the most out of the Frostbite Engine in its sports titles. All in all it’s a forgettable, monotonous experience.  

Ultimate Team remains the same mode it has where those who spend hundreds of dollars on players and card packs get a distinct advantage over those who don’t have the means — or are smart enough not — to spend. It remains reliant on microtransactions to enjoy, and is better off left alone even with the addition of co-op play.

Presentation

As you’d expect, FIFA 21’s presentation is near the top for sports games. The television-style broadcasts set a nice tone of the match at hand while the commentary flows in a way that’s only matched right now by the NBA 2K franchise. 

While the graphics don’t see much of an improvement from last year, they still look good. Player models look great, and the lighting of each authentic stadium adds to the feeling, at times, that you’re watching a live broadcast.

From an animations standpoint, there’s still slight instances of clipping and collision issues, but it’s nothing that the common player will ever really notice.

Verdict

FIFA 21 is a fun soccer experience on the field. It’s a great swan song on the current generation when it comes to the gameplay, and hasn’t felt this good on the pitch in a long time. The problem is — unlike UFC 4 and NHL 21 where a next-gen version isn’t coming this year — because the next-gen version of the game is right around the corner, much wasn’t done about the off-field features to make it feel like a brand new game. 

Enough has been done to keep players interested until the next-gen consoles arrive, but unless you’ve skipped the last couple releases, there’s nothing that screams must-buy this year.


***NOTE: A copy of FIFA 21 for PS4 was provided for the purposes of this review***

  • 9/10
    Gameplay - 9/10
  • 6/10
    Game Modes - 6/10
  • 8/10
    Presentation - 8/10
  • 7/10
    Longevity - 7/10
Overall
7.5/10

Summary

Enough has been done to keep players interested until the next-gen consoles arrive, but unless you’ve skipped the last couple releases, there’s nothing that screams must-buy this year.