Football has changed in real life, but the fans are still in the stadium for the latest in long-running EA series, FIFA.
Fans still can’t attend top level games in the UK and although it seems to be making for some high scores and unusual results, we’d all much rather be there in person.
EA’s gargantuan series FIFA hasn’t changed, though. And I mean that quite literally.
Anyone who has played FIFA 20 (or FIFA 19, for that matter) will struggle to see much difference in what is another copy and paste job.
On one hand it could be argued how do you improve on such high standards?
And, in fairness, we probably won’t truly see major advancements in the likes of the FIFA games until next autumn’s iteration, when EA truly has a long run at making the most of the new power at its disposal with the next gen PS5 and XBox Series S machines.
'Only small nuanced improvements'
There are small, nuanced improvements to gameplay in FIFA 21 that fan boys and girls would pick up on and benefit from, but there are no big new features or additions to this year’s game to speak of.
As I say, though, all of this must be counter-balanced by the fact FIFA is the benchmark of football games and remains so. It’s like with anything - when you’re at the top you are there to be shot at, and it is also hard to find room for improvement; particularly when the tech you are working with has reached the end of its development lifespan.
The crowning achievement in FIFA 21, for me anyway, is undoubtedly the pace of the game and match action. So often my biggest bug bear, EA seems to have hit a sweet spot this year and play runs not only smoothly but your key pace players genuinely have an advantage at long last.
So for me now (as a West Ham fan who refuses to play with anyone except the mighty Hammers) if I go to run someone with Michail Antonio then, nine times out of 10, I’m winning that race.
Likewise, if I’m Mark Noble trying to track Salah or Mane, I’m in a whole world of trouble.
You could argue that pacing really was the only major issue that needed fixing in FIFA. And EA has done just that.
But for those expecting more for their money then I’m afraid that really is about it in terms of improvements.
New features and tweaks
There are a lot more goals this time around. And that is because attacking feels fun, natural and very fluid - especially if you have pace in the team. Much of that is down to the new Agile Dribbling which gives you more control over attacks and team structures.
Defending is just how I like it - tough to get to grips with but really satisfying to try and master. And that has made for lots of goals, especially early on, as well as the fact goalkeeper AI seems to have been downgraded from Allison to Adrian.
Career Mode has received some tweaks and additions while Volta - to me at least - is still an irrelevance I can’t see surviving in FIFA 22. Co-op is, however, a welcome addition to Ultimate Team that has been well received in gaming circles.
Overall, FIFA 21 is an excellent game, which has been much improved by some minor tweaks. Some would argue that could have been achieved through a DLC patch rather than having to shell out for a whole new game which, beyond that, offers little else that is new or exciting.
But, as I keep saying, it’s tough to improve when you have a complete package like FIFA offers. And all eyes will be on next year’s offering with a full run at development specifically for PS5 and XBSS.