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Few things are certain in life other than death, taxes and FIFA players complaining about the latest instalment at launch.
After all, when you’ve spent an entire year learning the deepest minutiae about the previous game’s mechanics, even the slightest of tweaks can throw off your timing, planning and the general feel of the game.
FIFA 20 is no exception, once again making just enough changes to require another period of adjustment before it all starts to click again. This year, the main difference is the return of a greater emphasis on player speed, something that had been considerably downgraded in the last few entries.
No longer will 85-speed wingers struggle to get past a 60-speed defender: now the differences between player agility are less subtle. Add to that the new strafe dribble move – which lets players shimmy to the side to avoid oncoming tackles – and the increased consistency during 1-on-1s with the keeper, and it’s clear that offensive play has undergone quite an overhaul this year.
EA is keen to stress that the defensive side of things has been improved as well to make up for this, but these improvements are far less noticeable: anyone who mastered the initially tricky defending in FIFA 19 should be able to adapt to FIFA 20’s defending without too much trouble.
It’s off the pitch where this year’s biggest new offerings lie, most notably with the new Volta mode. Volta is EA’s new brand for street football and brings with it a new story mode that’s short enough to not outstay its welcome – you should have it finished in about six hours. Volta is such a comprehensive mode that EA could have easily released it on its own as a new FIFA Street game instead, so the fact it’s included as part of a main FIFA title is a nice touch.
Outside of Volta, it should come as no surprise that FIFA’s most popular (and most lucrative) mode is the one that’s been given the most attention. Ultimate Team’s squad-building remains as compelling as ever. Interestingly, while EA could be considered one of the forerunners of the loot crate phenomenon, this year it appears to be the one taking inspiration from another game: specifically, Fortnite.
“The addition of House Rules to FUT friendlies – as well as the fact that some of your objectives in the season include playing friendly games – sparks huge life into a game type that nobody who played FUT really bothered with before.”
Much like Epic’s title, FUT now has seasons that last a number of weeks before ending. While a season is ongoing, players can earn XP by playing certain game types and performing various tasks, and hitting certain XP targets will unlock rewards, ranging from new players and coin bonuses to exclusive customisation rewards (including stadium themes and tifos, which are new this year).
It may not be original, but it’s a compelling way to ensure players keep wanting to play: it’s oddly satisfying every time you reach a new level. At this early stage in the first season, though, it remains to be seen how realistic the prospect of getting all the rewards is. At the moment if you collect all the available XP you’ll be nowhere near the last reward, so presumably more challenges will be added over the course of the season.
Also new to FUT is the House Rules that were added to the local friendlies in last year’s game. The new House Rules are hugely enjoyable, particularly the Mystery Ball mode: each time the ball goes out of play a new random power-up is applied to it – extreme speed, great dribbling, pinpoint pass accuracy, awesome shot power or all four – as well as a goal value of up to 3.
We’ve developed a fondness for King of the Hill, where you have to stand in certain zones on the pitch to build up a counter that determines how many points your next goal is worth. King of the Hill is notable for its complete lack of rules: there are few better feelings in the game than ruthlessly slicing through a player in the box with a devastating slide tackle just before they score a 3-pointer, and completely getting away with it.
The addition of House Rules to FUT friendlies – as well as the fact that some of your objectives in the season include playing friendly games – sparks huge life into a game type that nobody who played FUT really bothered with before. Add to this the fact that friendlies don’t affect player fitness or contracts (meaning you can happily play with those legendary loan players you get but are too scared to use) but still earn you coins, and what was once a waste of time is now one of the most entertaining parts of FUT.
“The Career mode has once again been broadly overlooked, with the ability to create a female manager and the addition of press conferences the only real changes of note.”
However, for those who aren’t interested in street football or Ultimate Team, FIFA 20 sadly doesn’t have a huge amount to offer. The Career mode has once again been broadly overlooked, with the ability to create a female manager and the addition of press conferences and one-on-one chats with players the only real changes of note.
Women’s football, meanwhile, remains tucked away in the options and continues to offer just friendlies and a single tournament. We’d hoped the Women’s World Cup this year might have encouraged EA to refresh things a little: this is the fourth year that women’s football has featured in FIFA, and save for the addition of a couple of teams like Scotland, it’s pretty much flatlined.
With the addition of Volta to the already numerous modes on offer, FIFA 20 may finally be the FIFA game where it’s impossible to play everything. Volta offers a fresh new way of playing the game, but the new reward-based Seasons in Ultimate Team means players invested in that will find it difficult to justify spending time playing Volta that could be spent in FUT earning more XP for their next reward.
As long as you aren’t the type who needs to see and do everything, and are content with the idea of picking one or two modes and focusing most of your attention on those, FIFA 20 remains as high quality as ever.
EA has delivered another worthwhile FIFA package, but while Street Football and FUT seasons breathe new life into some areas, others remain stagnant and barely improved.
- Street football is a welcome and generous addition
- FUT seasons offers more reasons to keep playing
- House Rules in FUT are hilarious
- Career mode fans are barely catered for yet again
- Microtransactions still run rife