FIFA 20 – finally delivering on the “simulation” promise?
Of all of Electronic Arts' cash grab games (just being honest), FIFA is probably the only game that is seemingly untouchable and beyond reproach by fans and onlookers alike. With very little else on offer in terms of licensed footballing fun in video game format, FIFA's yearly releases are followed by a frenzied rush as older iterations are discarded like used tissue. FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) is just as annoying as ever, but none of the people buying the game are complaining about the loot-box structure either. For a money hungry corporate like EA, FIFA is a gift that keeps on giving. So what's the new one like?
For one, it's closer to the tag of "footballing simulation" that has been latched on to FIFA ever since the heady days of the battle for dominance between them and Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) on the PlayStation 2. Pro Evo was called "arcade-y" and "unrealistic" at the time as reviewers, swayed by the polished, streamlined menus of FIFA, kept pushing EA's product down consumers' throats. Fast forward fifteen years and PES has almost disappeared from collective consciousness while FIFA has increasingly incorporated elements from that "unrealistic" Japanese game and labelled them as innovations (jockeying, tactical defending and timed finishing were all PES features back in the day). However, their inclusion in recent years with specific developments for 20 in areas like defending (game now favours manual control and focuses on interceptions rather than final tackling), passing (passes through semi-crowded areas are more likely to be intercepted) and set-pieces (you can add spin, determine strength and direction of your free-kicks and as penalties) make the game more realistic overall, if not more difficult. With FIFA 20, players are tasked with re-learning these elements, and the slightly increased difficulty makes for a more challenging and ultimately rewarding experience.
The biggest change comes not in granular gameplay dynamics but in an all new game mode: Volta. Volta is FIFA's way of bringing back and incorporating the much adored FIFA Street games, and places a group of street footballers right in the middle of a fairly engaging story mode (albeit with extremely annoying, obnoxious characters) while adding locations and gameplay to the Kick Off mode for some instant multiplayer fun. Volta is a fluid, fun experience that takes you beyond the repetitive 11-a-side matches of regulation football to put you in highly creative, extremely stylish and easily binged 3v3, 4v4, 4v4 rush and 5v5 scenarios. Volta adds another aspect of "simulation" gaming that FIFA sorely lacked in the past—similar to how Forza Motorsport makes you want to drive a Ford GT around a racetrack, an hour's worth of back to back Volta matches makes you want to call your mates and head to the futsal pitch.
Overall, FIFA 20 is as polished as ever—the music, the ambience and the general feeling of a licensed product (except for Juventus, who are now called Piemonte Calcio in game due to an exclusive rights deal signed with Pro Evo) makes the game a clear winner. As much of a winner as Manchester City, anyway. Just goes to show that if you throw enough cash at something, you'll win eventually.