New and final season of the FIFA saga in the current generation of consoles, with some important news but a very continuous base and an increasingly arcade touch.
FIFA 21 happens a bit like the transfer market of Barça this year. The base of the game is still very similar to what we met in the previous installment, with some changes that try to rejuvenate the experience, with promised revolutions that at the last minute are not fulfilled and with the feeling that, in general, the game -like the Koeman’s squad – it is not better than what we had nor does it seem to take the step forward that was claimed last year. They also seem similar in that in January both will need a patch.
The saga has been navigating this generation of console in the most absolute domain at the product level, and also standing out in the playable until PES, in the last two seasons, took a turn at the level of mechanics, match rhythm and realism. A generation has come to an end that started with a FIFA 14 broken with the centers and bugeados finishes, a runner like FIFA 15 and then surely the best delivery of all and the most balanced, FIFA 16. In the following years each one will find reasons to choose one or more another, with a gameplay that has been impregnated with FUT more than desired at the playable level. Even a FIFA 20 that was a solid proposal that, yes, began to ask for certain structural changes that have not arrived. Maybe in the next gen.
The season begins
The first thing we find is a base very similar to what we knew if we have been playing FIFA 20 until these days, with a game rhythm perhaps a little more leisurely. We are interested in starting with the defense because it is the least thing that has changed in the title. Tactical defense continues to be the basic layout of the game, with tackles, hard tackles, L2 to control and now push with a shoulder bump and the X button (PS4) to keep track of the marking. Unfortunately, marking with a support partner is totally useless, as the CPU-controlled player covers too much space with respect to who has the ball. This, which was lowered in effectiveness because users complained that defending with the CPU was too simple, now loses meaning, as was the case in FIFA 21. The balance between the two realities has not been found.
In general, the defense responds well to the ball, but has a lot more problems when it comes to running backwards. We are not facing a situation of rough players who seem to get stuck when a ball passes over them, as happened for example in FIFA 15, but their reaction is somewhat slower than attackers. And we notice especially in passes into space and high passes in depth, which again have much greater prominence than before.
The sensations after hours and hours of play, is that in FIFA 20 it had been achieved that the reaction of the defenders in the race was good, capable of recovering the lost ground with respect to the player who escaped with the ball. Here this is no longer the case. The wingers march faster and laterals with a high rhythm have a hard time catching them, more than a year ago.
Many more offensive options
In this sense, the high pass in depth has gained in precision, allowing these plays to leave us with a great advantage. The forwards have won in offensive options and intelligence, and that unbalances the balance. Now the attackers slow down to avoid falling offside, they move more realistically between the lines and all this makes a simple pumped pass can be much more successful. It is not that the defense has worsened – or if it has, it is little – but that the forwards are much more skilled. The result is that wing sprinting and space races dominate the game even more.
And it is a somewhat contradictory sensation: on the one hand, the new AI in attack is quite a celebration, with much more realistic and credible movements. But on the other hand, there is an attack-defense imbalance that we have already talked about in previous installments and that is accentuated here more than in FIFA 20. As far as shots are concerned, the crusaders are not as effective and in general, you see something more balanced although it is true that depending on which attacks within the area, the goal comes easily. Again there are touch-ups in the centers, with a great variety that is appreciated and that goes from a powerful center to a pumped one, one flat or another tight, which offer us a good variety of options … to which we can take advantage of because the auctions have improved.
The three novelties: personalized unmarkings, spikes and quick dribbles
We cannot talk about defensive options without stopping to review the three great novelties of the game and how they affect what happens on the field. The first and most obvious change is in the fast dribbles, which are used by holding down R1 / RB and moving the left stick. This means that the players -all- can step on the ball quickly, make an Iniesta-style croquette or move it from one side to the other and then go out in a subtle or explosive way in one direction. What we did years ago with L2 + R2 and that was corrected, but officially and much faster and easier in execution. The result? A destruction for the defenders in good hands and with good players.
Not all players are capable of performing movements at the same speed, but the truth is that it is an addition that makes the short dribble tremendously effective. Not just to get dizzy and go to the side. Also to break in a span of playing field to defenders within the area, to stop suddenly and change direction to look for a shot or to hold the ball like a shotgun against two defenders and filter a pass into space taking advantage of the confusion. It’s easier to dribble and go head-to-head, and that in modes like FUT or in five-star team matches can throw the scales off balance. Because again, attack has solutions over defense.
The other big news is the three dynamic unchecks, which we already talked about in the beta a few weeks ago. The first is the break uncheck: with L1 we started unchecking a player controlled by the CPU. Now, if after pressing it we mark a direction with the right stick, it will be unmarked towards that side. The other is the unmarking behind the wall, which has the same function: we give the wall, we mark the direction with the analog and who started the move will be unmarked to that space. They are novelties to take into account, simple and that give us much more variety to look for holes since before, pressing only L1, it was limited to going up and the wall unmarking was always forward.
We have been able to make plays moving behind the receiving player, mark off-markings diagonally or in parallel to take advantage of the fact that the rival defense was shrinking space and several other situations, for example when we have the rival blocked in their area, which now offer us new possibilities. Less convincing is player blocking, the third type of unchecking
If we press both sticks at the same time, the player who has the ball will be marked with a diamond on his head, and when we give the ball, we will continue to control him while the player with the ball will be in the hands of the CPU. On paper, as happened in the FIFA 15 years ago, the idea is to be able to have control of the clearance and support without the ball. At the moment of truth, it is a system that needs to be rethought in some way. The main problem is that when the CPU receives the ball it is extremely mediocre in its actions. Sea is left moving slowly, without hint of wanting to keep the ball if pressured or doing anything to prevent it.
It is clear that if the CPU behaved like a World Class player or more, we would have the problem of CPU marking in defense of years ago, but from one extreme to that they do not react at all to rival pressure, it makes it a mechanic little effective. Perhaps assigning certain actions according to each player (a dribble or overflow in the most skilled, being able to cover with the body with the DCM) would be the solution. But with what there is, it is a system that only serves to block a player, open the ball on the wing and look for the finishing zone if the end has only gone deep. And do it fast, because if a defender hits the controlled player with the CPU, he will lose it.
Finally, the manual auctions. Finishing head in FIFA 20 was a torture for the general public. The spike mechanic meant that an excessive percentage of the time the spike was loose or bitten. Not now. The shots are much more powerful and the fact of being manual allows us to aim very well, with practice, where to send the ball. It’s very satisfying to finish off in this game than in the previous one and we feel like we have a lot more control than before.
Goalkeepers, collisions and others
It is also due to the physics of the ball. He moves well at ground level, the centers do not look like beach balls and the shots have a credible trajectory, but the ball is a bit more crazy. We do not know if due to the fact of having new unchecks that cause different collisions, if due to the agile dribbling or the simple dribbling with the left stick – more precise – but the ball sometimes has unrealistic physics. But in general, the new movements cause strange clearances and dead balls, unexpected starts … You could say that the randomness has increased, and that on paper is good and in PES they have years of advantage in this sense, but the variety comes at the cost unrealistic bouncing situations.
The goalkeepers also contribute their grain of sand, winning in certain animations of stops and in some exits in the centers, but leaving some dead balls that will make us despair on more than one occasion in certain cross shots. In general, quite similar to last year, although now in plays of reaching the baseline and passing back, something that is still very effective, from time to time they take out some outstanding point-blank hand.
In general, at the playable level, the matches seem somewhat more arcade than in FIFA 20, and that is due to several reasons. First, for the offensive tools that make us have more advantage over the defense. Continuing by passes to the hole by high, which have gained in effectiveness. All this makes transitions faster and the long game and on the wings win whole. It is something that we noticed in Seasons, in front of the CPU and of course it is in a FUT where the arcade essence was already much more established and now it is accentuated. Even against the CPU, which maintains a dominant AI starting from world class and where we continue to miss more variety of playstyles at high levels. Very similar to FIFA 20 and with the sliders as an adjustment to give a more real touch to their behavior, since we continue to see how Osasuna (with all due respect) touch us and make us dizzy with precise passes without hardly failing, when it would be much more realistic that they were well locked in and going against the perfection if we had a Barça or Madrid.
The career mode is renewed
The great novelty in modalities is in the career mode, where there are several changes to take into account. Starting with the approach to the weekly calendar, where we can assign workouts, breaks and other elements. Active training for players allows us to improve core characteristics and even change their positions, although it is something that can be done lightly. An example: Dest, winger, we were able to make him become a right winger in just 4 weeks, without even starting the season. It is important to note that we have a new factor to consider: ease. If the players train they will be well physically, but if they do not play they will have little fluency. And vice versa, because playing tires you but you are more connected in games. Managing this balance has its grace, especially because with the fatigue in the final stretch of matches it shows a lot in the precision of the players.
The new game simulation system, where we can see in a schematic way how the confrontations are going, being able to make changes, touch tactical elements and, if we want, pressing the square to enter just at the moment of the game in which it is. And go out to simulate again whenever we want. All seasoned with a refined transfer system (and the ability to play competitions and official licenses.
This mode is accompanied by a large number of licenses, including the major European leagues, the main European competitions, the Libertadores and dozens of other clubs and competitions. His only moles, the absence of Roma and Juventus in Serie A, which are in PES. In return, Inter and Milan are exclusively. A lesser evil for an aspect where FIFA dominates with an iron fist. Here you can check all the licenses. There is no lack of training mode and challenges, the variants of Kick-Off matches with all kinds of proposals as we already saw in FIFA 20.
To all this is added the Volta mode, which was released last year and returns with the same characteristics. A story mode to improve our character, endless cosmetic elements and the ability to compete online. Note, in this case, that the increase in speed and matches in Volta are even more crazy than before, so if it already seemed to us that the game was something more arcade in this year, in this mode even more so.
FUT reigns in the online
FUT is once again the king of online FIFA 21, with the modalities known to all. Friendly matches with the CPU or friends (with Kick-Off rules if we want), Squad Battles with challenges of all kinds, the challenges of squad creations, Division Rivals to compete by moving up divisions and earn rewards and, finally, FUT Champions to those who want to compete at the highest level. New icons have been added and the player development system has been changed, removing physical forms and training consumables. There are a lot of additions, from co-op in some disciplines to customizing the stadium, new events and more. The problem? It still depends a lot on micropayments. Although the idea is to offer more rewards, and when we position ourselves in Rivals they give us a good amount of coins, the reality is that the system invites a huge investment of hours to have first-rate teams … Or go to the cashier. And this, which is not new, has not been balanced enough as one might expect. The best, a server in Spain that allows you to watch games with 6ms or less. Those who have been the most 15ms matches so far.
The rest of the online modalities maintain the essence of the latest deliveries with the online cooperative, the seasons with divisions or a Pro Clubs that continues with the skill trees that we already had. AI-controlled players are finally allowed to customize, preset tactics, and other minor details. Unfortunately, at least as seen in our hours of Reviews, that unrealistic gameplay is maintained where certain players with extremely improved statistics are tremendously superior to the rest, with agility / dribbling and speed as great dominators.
An engine that no longer gives more of itself
FIFA 20 was crying out for a new graphics engine that would give a new look to those dead stadiums, those animations and those collisions. FIFA 21 maintains the same line at a visual level, so the title is already out of date from the beginning. It is true that some multiplayer facial recreations have been improved, and that there are new animations, as well as more agile movements, but in general, the title has been without relevant advances. Let’s hope that the new generation will serve to renew itself in a remarkable way in this section, which has been maintaining the same base for years.
The same thing happens at the sound level, with Manolo Lama and Paco González reusing a large number of the same old comments and Antoñito Ruiz appearing from time to time. In Career mode we have the participation of Nira Juanco announcing events from other matches, but at least in our experience it is too testimonial. Although there are 6 Champions League games with goals, maybe it appears once per part … Whenever before, Lama, after giving way, the court to continue narrating the game. The ambient sound remains convincing with the fields overflowing, something unthinkable today, yes.
FIFA 21 maintains the base of the previous installment, but has several changes that make it a somewhat more arcade title. The new agile dribbles and the great effectiveness of the high passes in depth unbalance the balance against a defense that no longer regains position as before. Other additions, such as personalized unchecks, are more than interesting due to the variants that they propose, although the player blocking – controlling the one who does not have the ball – needs to be rethought to be really useful. The rest, little real progress compared to the previous installment, with a graphic engine that no longer gives more of itself, the same modalities of yesteryear with some changes (the most relevant, in career mode and servers in FUT) and the feeling Although they have wanted to tweak playable elements, not all the modifications have been for the better.
- Unbeatable in terms and licenses
- The new unchecks and manual auctions are a nice addition
- Some changes to the career mode that allow us to better manage the physical state of the team
- Playable has gotten worse in some facets
- Agile dribbles, as they are, need to be rethought; and player lock, get better
- A graphics engine that does not give more of itself
It meets the expectations of what a good game is, has quality and does not have serious flaws, although it is missing elements that could have taken it to higher heights.