A few weeks before the release of PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X / S, FIFA 21 will be launched on the current consoles. It should be clear that no innovative fireworks will be set off. Once again, there are small changes to the game play and the modes that should bring in some freshness.
At the beginning of August we played a relatively extensive beta that already presented all the major and minor innovations, including agile dribbling, creative runs and improved positional play. The last point in particular turned out to be a bit too strong for us.
In fact, the final version of FIFA 21 screws down the effectiveness of these runs a bit. But they still have a noticeable impact on the game – and that’s good. Now you can trust the AI to bring the scorer on the right track. If that is not in your sense, briefly wiggle the right stick and stop the sprint. This is a bit tricky and unfamiliar at the beginning, but after a few tries it works out well. The decisive factor for the frequency and effectiveness of these runs, however, are the player’s values, so do not expect any miracles from your beloved third division clippers.
The same applies to agile dribbling, which is carried out with R1 or RB and the left stick. Edgy clearers prefer to do without it, otherwise the ball is guaranteed to bounce. Athletes with delicate feet like Messi and Neymar, however, make their opponents dizzy. The principle is simple: hold down the button and move the stick, whereupon the guys move the ball back and forth with their feet. In connection with the right stick, you can do some fine tricks with it.
A game with pitfalls
Another innovation is to send the player off with a shoulder button and then use the right stick to determine where his journey should go. The same applies here: At first, the wingman, for example, runs straight towards the main stand, later you direct him precisely into the free space between two defenders. Otherwise, FIFA 21 torches the usual lavish offensive spectacle: With all sorts of tricks, passes, crosses and shots on goal you ensure that the cherry gets into the mesh in an elegant and effective way. On the offensive, things are going off again at FIFA 21. A real football teacher would rightly ask: And what about defensive stability?
Once again, an aggressive approach makes little sense: the referees whistle quickly and happily hand out cards. Football butchers with a penchant for blood clashes definitely don’t play long. Accompanying defense, the delivery of pass paths and blocks are the best ways to get to the play equipment.
If your opponent comes from the category Barcelona, Manchester City or Bayern Munich, Messi, De Bruyne, Lewandowski and their colleagues play from the world class difficulty level with breathtaking speed and precision. With some actions you ask yourself whether this is still football or artistic gymnastics. Some dribbles or spins don’t seem to be animated properly at all, they are so hectic. Without a patient defense, these colleagues will play two knots in the legs.
Unfortunately, the best intentions are doomed if your athletes don’t want to be the way you want them to. Occasionally they are only ready to move themselves or the playground equipment after careful consideration – the result is fat gaps in the defense or missed great opportunities in the penalty area. Some inserts just seem awkward, for example when a technically talented striker stumbles over the ball practically free-standing or a tall midfielder fails to head despite several attempts.
But the opposing CPU also has its “special” moments. It has long been known that even modestly talented teams suddenly play the finest short passing game. This year they also discovered their love for the lifted pass. Even passes over a few meters are often carried out this way. Just as often, the computer beats 50-meter things from its own half in the direction of its attackers – some of them arrive, most sail to the upper tier. Goalkeepers who are generally good on the line also tend to thunder the ball into the stands without pressure. Elsewhere, they calmly pass the ball to the central defender, even though three of your players are in the penalty area.
Even more curious is the defenders’ obvious desire to hand the ball in their own sixteen. After activating the option, we experienced four whistles in our favor within five consecutive games. Unfortunately, the same bug always occurred: After the referee intervened, all the players stood motionless on the pitch for around 30 seconds before the penalty was finally taken. And no, there is no video evidence in FIFA 21.
But the absurdities don’t end there. Bouncing balls, for example, after a block or a goalkeeping action, regularly land in the foot of an opponent. Free balls that two athletes fight over are a rarity. In general, in many games you get the impression that winning the ball is only possible shortly before your own sixteen. Even the most obvious pass routes in midfield cannot be blocked because switching to the required player in time does not work.
Party in front, business in the back
The game play of FIFA 21 remains true to the series: While the offensive swirls vigorously, the defensive goes sleepy and stiff to the point. As a result, the games are divided: If you are attacking, you have control and can create beautiful moves. In contrast, the defensive hunt for the ball is reminiscent of a crazy dance for which the jury of “Let’s Dance” would not award a single point. What is presented is further removed from the processes in real football than winning the Champions League.
Whether this is beautiful or horrible depends on your point of view. If football is largely about attacking and scoring goals for you, you are still in the right place with the EA spectacle. The defense is a necessary evil to get the ball and to attack again. If, on the other hand, you are an advocate of a controlled and variable defense, the limited and lethargic process will likely cause you to go into screaming fits.
This is the street, brother!
Then you are ready for “presented battles”. Another new mode is hidden behind this somewhat stupid title. You play against other teams in different formations and on different places. Every victory earns you points that fill a bar. If you have collected enough, you can meet with special teams.
At the time of the test, we first competed against Liverpool and with the win we earned a Reds jersey. After the point bar was full again, we faced a group of PSG star Mbappé. After the win, we were able to accept the exceptional young striker into our team and from then on use him in every game. More legends are added as the game progresses, but only one of them can be placed on the active team.
You increase your team after wins, namely with an actor from the opposing team. People from the same region harmonize better together, and if you then choose the right line-up, you have a good basis for success in the squares of Milan, Paris or Sydney.