The beautiful game is back in full session and kicks off with the much-anticipated release of FIFA 20. This year’s edition of the gargantuan soccer franchise is better than ever thanks to the introduction of Volta, a reboot of sorts for the fan-favorite FIFA Street series. It’s not just Volta, either as FIFA 20 makes small strides in reinvigorating both Career Mode and Ultimate Team as well. It’s not a complete reinvention of the formula as it plays similarly to FIFA 19 but it’s a more complete package with some tweaks and additions that make it one of the best installments the series has seen in quite some time.
FIFA 20 Review | We’re on the ball
There is little to differentiate between FIFA 20 and FIFA 19 but 20 does feel slower than its predecessor. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. Player movement on the ball seems more realistic and natural, with less reliance on pure speed than before. Players move as they do when you watch matches live, especially when you’re playing as one of the various partner teams.
Although it’s nothing new, it’s still great fun to see players such as Raheem Sterling, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo move as they do in real life. But this time around, they hold onto the ball a little better and stick to defenders more aggressively. The way players glide around players is a joy to play, using strength as well as pace, rather than just the latter. It’s not just wingers that can win you games anymore either as players like Eriksen and De Bruyne, who primarily ply their trade down the middle of the pitch, are also quite useful.
This is due to the new strafe dribbling and improved tricks. A flick of the right stick allows you to perform skill moves, which have been given a timely upgrade considering the addition of Volta. It’s easier to perform tricks than it was in 19, but it’s not totally unrealistic and overpowered, which it easily could have been.
It’s not all good news, however. The decrease in speed has made it so attacking is more sluggish and a touch less dynamic than in previous games. Passes are more likely to miss their target, too, but this could be considered more realistic than it was in FIFA 19. You can still ping the ball around at speed, but it is a little slower than you might like, meaning you need to adjust to a more methodical attacking approach. At least the shooting feels as great as ever, with plenty of different, viable finishing techniques available.
FIFA 20 Review | Set piece refresh
While the player movement feels a little slower and more realistic in FIFA 20 when compared to 19, its set pieces have seen the most drastic change. Corners have remained the same, but free kicks and penalties have been upgraded.
When taking a free kick, you can manually add swerve, dip or even a knuckle shot effect to your shot. After you place the free kick with the game’s precise aiming mechanic, you can add any of the above with the right stick. It works rather well and is useful when it comes to tricking your opponent and finding the top right or left. Penalties have been altered in a similar way, too, but those are still a bit of a lottery.
While attacking play in FIFA 20 is a little slow, it has helped out the defending side of the game. Tackling has improved over the last game as sliding tackles carry a bite to them, but they are easy enough to time. Standing tackles are solid, too, with your player able to receive the ball off of all but the strongest players with the technique.
Sadly, however, teammate A.I. can be frustrating during both attacking and defensive plays. Your A.I.-controlled teammates are quite slow to respond to loose balls or spilled saves from your goalkeeper, which can lead to tap ins for the opposition. In attacking situations, meanwhile, your teammates will often frustrate you as they won’t make the run. You can edit things such as the number of runs your teammates will make, but it still isn’t enough; they should be booking it more often. At least the referees are relatively fair.
FIFA 20 Review | More authentic than ever
Despite the few negatives, FIFA 20 still plays a good game of football. It won’t be the best you’ll ever play, but it is fun and addictive, no matter the mode you choose to play. FIFA 20 also looks as good as it plays and is the most authentic-looking football experience in a FIFA game yet. The lighting appears to have been given an upgrade over the previous installment. No matter the time of day, type of weather, or stadium (of which there are around 90 licensed grounds, all recreated in eye-watering detail), FIFA 20 looks absolutely wonderful.
Almost everything in FIFA 20 is fully-licensed and the number of quality player likenesses and fully-licensed teams and stadiums add to the game’s remarkable presentation. While certain teams such as Juventus (or Piemonte Calcio as they’re known here) have been lost to PES, the number of licenses in FIFA 20 is impressive and, as ever, adds tremendously to the experience. Whether you’re playing as League newbies Salford, LA Galaxy, or Real Madrid, FIFA 20 looks and sounds authentic. The number of real-life chants and rivalries adds even more authenticity in an already impressive sim.
FIFA 20 Review | Managing expectations
You’ll feel more like a manager in the FIFA 20 Career Mode than ever, too. Seemingly taking cues from Football Manager, there is a lot more to do as the manager in Career Mode, which has otherwise remained the same as previous installments. You’ll take part in pre and post-match interviews (as you have done before), but this time, what you say matters.
Your created manager avatar (which is created with an impressive avatar creation tool) stands in front of the advertising boards as you choose from a selection of responses to each question. Depending on the answer you give, particular players or the team as a whole can improve in terms of morale and happiness. The happier your team is, the better they will play.
You’ll also talk to players and they will come to you with different requests and worries and, like the post-game interviews, your choices matter. Everything you say and do in Career Mode effects morale, happiness, and even player ratings. These additions may not seem like much but they are small improvements that make Career Mode the best it has ever been.
FIFA 20 Review | Ultimate seasonal changes
Career Mode isn’t the only mode that has seen improvements, either. Ultimate Team in FIFA 20 is also the series’ best. Nothing too revolutionary has been changed in terms of gameplay, but the new battle pass-esque Seasons is a fantastic addition to an already impressive mode as it adds an addictive RPG layer.
You’ll work towards leveling up throughout each season in an effort to earn some quality rewards that go beyond Player Packs and Coins. You’ll get some awesome new customization options to make your team more your own, as well as some clever new football designs. You’ll get even more addicted to Ultimate Team than you ever have been thanks to the new Seasons. And it’s free, which is perhaps the best thing about it.
Unfortunately, Ultimate Team is still geared around wanting you to pay real-world money for its loot box-esque Player Packs and such. Thanks to the introduction of the Seasons, however, you can more easily ignore the microtransactions than ever before. There are plenty of ways in which you can get hold of the best players in Ultimate Team without the need to hand money over.
Sadly, Pro Clubs hasn’t been changed quite so dramatically. Aside from a few general tweaks and additions (such as plenty of new Traits to unlock) and the impressive new avatar creation tool, it’s largely the same experience as it was last year. Having a mode return untouched is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does stick out, given the improvements to other areas of the game.
FIFA 20 Review | High VOLTAge football
Volta is one of those drastic improvements and is a great gift for fans who have been pleading for a new FIFA Street game for years. This mode is a massive and exciting addition to the FIFA formula that helps it stave off stagnation. Volta is huge, too. It’s not just three, four, and five-a-side matches between your favorite teams but a story mode as well. It is a forgettable tale, yet it is still fun to play through, as well as its online-oriented Volta League and Volta Tour offerings.
Volta is all about tricks, skill, and showmanship. It’s ludicrously fun stuff and a breath of fresh air for the series. Pulling off countless tricks, jumping off the walls, and scoring crazy goals is as fun as it sounds in both online and offline modes. Volta could have easily been a standalone release in its own right, but it is good that it isn’t. It’s a surprisingly fully-fledged and spectacularly fun mode that is a little different from the FIFA Street titles, but a welcome return for those looking for some small-sided football in FIFA.
While the gameplay in FIFA 20 isn’t a massive upgrade over FIFA 19, it is a superior title and one of the best football games you’ll play. The fresh lick of paint to Career Mode and Ultimate Team have made already excellent modes even better and the sheer volume of licensed teams, stadiums, and more makes for an impressively authentic experience, too. Volta is also a fantastic addition and the jewel in FIFA 20’s crown because of its exciting, bold approach that elevates the experience wonderfully. It’s a big soccer game that excels in many different areas, making it easy to lose many hours in its gluttony of modes. Given its quantity and quality, FIFA 20 is the ultimate soccer game and represents the best of what EA’s sports games have to offer.