FIFA 21 review for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. With the PS5 and Xbox Series X looming around the corner, EA has unsurprisingly opted to make FIFA 21 more of an incremental update rather than a fully-fledged overhaul of its annual series. As the final FIFA game to launch with a focus on PS4 and Xbox One, EA hasn’t added any major new features this time around, but a slew of adjustments and improvements add up to make the best and most complete FIFA yet.
FIFA 21 brings with it another plentiful offering of modes and things to do, from its deep Career Mode through to the bank-busting Ultimate Team. Volta also makes a return this year, although unlike its introduction in FIFA 20 as a direct replacement of the series’ single-player ‘The Journey’ story mode, its brief 3-hour campaign instead serves as an extended tutorial of sorts to those unfamiliar with the street football mode.
A good defense is the best offense
While EA has brought back the classics for another victory lap, key changes have been made to its interpretation of the beautiful game, most notably with defending. FIFA 21 presents a more hands-on approach to interceptions and challenges, with AI teammates now refusing to do most of the legwork when it comes to winning the ball. Pressing R1/RB is no longer a surefire way to get an AI defender to close down an opponent, and holding Circle/B can now result in some dangerous fouls rather than automatically pulling an opponent off the ball. The player is given much more control over how their defenders regain possession, which
It takes some time to get used to this new approach, and in particularly imbalanced matches, it can be a frustrating struggle to regain possession as rival teams handily pass the ball around you. This is especially noticeable given that EA has honed in on representing each players’ individual strengths and weaknesses, meaning that certain less accomplished interceptors can be left floundering when you’re not in possession. However, once I got used to this system, shutting down attacks became much more satisfying than hanging back and hoping my AI teammates would do the dirty work for me.
The defensive improvements also contribute greatly to FIFA 21‘s more exciting attacking play. In previous FIFA entries, you’d routinely see the same goals being scored past goalkeepers, whereas this time around goals can be scored from more-or-less any angle. Slick crosses can routinely result in absurd overhead kicks and powerful headers into the back of the net, while long shots are more prevalent and teams can more adequately work their way into the box with efficient build-up play.
A stadium fit for an Ultimate Team
These crucial changes to FIFA 21‘s gameplay are complemented by improvements to its core modes, with Ultimate Team, Career Mode, and Pro Clubs in particular providing extensive replayability. This year, Ultimate Team has introduced a co-op mode that allows you and a friend to team up to take on rival teams, open packs, and complete objectives. The basics of Ultimate Team remain the same — it still regrettably favors those who plug copious amounts of money into buying high-value players — but brand new customization options spice things up considerably.
Now, stadiums can be dramatically altered to suit your tastes, with everything from the color of your seating through to your crowd’s chants being alterable via different cards. There are also more unique alterations that can be made, such as changing your club’s logo to be a photo of a squirrel. Considering how much time the average FIFA player already puts into Ultimate Team, these fun additions ensure that there’s plenty more to do this time around.
Career Mode and Pro Clubs improvements
Career Mode is the best it ever has been, with its new Interactive Match Simulation allowing players to jump in and out of the action in a game on the fly. This hurries up seasons considerably while also ensuring that you can still remain hands-on with your team, allowing you to skip through low-risk friendlies yet still jump in if your team winds up on the losing end of a match. The fluidity with which you can switch between simulating a match and playing it is impressive, ensuring you don’t need to make a firm decision between playing a match or leaving it up to the whim of your AI players.
Player development has also received a big new addition by allowing you to alter your players’ positions, retraining them to fill a gap in your team. It’s up to you if you want to turn a midfielder into a striker or a right-back into a winger, though the results can either prove to be helpful or disastrous depending on the player. There are no limitations here, with EA allowing you to play out your career as you choose, even if that involves trying to transform Ronaldo into a goalkeeper.
Pro Clubs has also introduced a long-requested feature, finally allowing players to customize their AI teammates. This means that even if certain friends aren’t joining you in the game this year, you can still virtually recreate them and place them in your team, or simply create a band of Space Jam-esque monstrosities to take on opponents.
FIFA 21 Review | The final verdict
FIFA 21 may not contain any brand new modes or major new features, but by providing substantial changes to gameplay and introducing key improvements, it has easily positioned itself as the best FIFA yet. Combining challenging yet satisfying defending with ludicrous goal-scoring opportunities takes its on-the-pitch action to new levels, while additions to its Career, Ultimate Team, and Pro Clubs modes make this an essential purchase for football fans.