Having ignored PES this year, the only option for the football lover is the fully licensed offering from EA. Luckily, over the last few years the gameplay has mirrored the more realistic Konami series. There are hundreds of pieces that list the new features and review the traditional modes but the real question is how does this play?
FIFA 21 can be summed up in one Premier League match this season. Aston Villa 7 — Liverpool 2, or if I’m not being biased Manchester United 1 — Spurs 6. The crazy start to the Premier League season plays out pretty much like games of FIFA can. The main reason for this is that the game finally respects the pace players have. If you break with a forward, the defence are no longer going to unrealistically catch you and hunt you down. This results in more chances and more breakaway goals. If you watched Villa and Liverpool, you will think FIFA 21 is the most realistic game of football ever made.
Crossing the ball is now a lethal weapon as auto-aim has been disabled. In last year’s game you would throw a cross into the box and it would be floated into the same position every time. Now, when you get the chance the cross is whipped in and it’s up to you to aim where it is going. It takes some getting used to but aim it with the correct pace, and they become a vicious tool against any opponent.
It’s not just pace and crossing that make this a goal fest, the goalkeepers contribute to this as well. They are a bit useless when left as the last line of defence. They can still pull off saves and the better ones can hoover up most corners but the ball doesn’t stick to them any more. A shot is likely to be spilled leading to the mother of all goalmouth scrambles. Every keeper is going through a crisis of confidence like Jordan Pickford. It leads to more and more goals and can make the game feel a little less like a simulation of the sport you love or does it?
You see people wrongly believe that FIFA is a simulation of the game you may have actually played. It is far from it, FIFA instead is a simulation of the modern day footballing product we consume. This means, lightning fast forwards, awful refereeing decisions and above all drama in spades. If you remember the game you played or watched at a lower level, goals were always a hard thing to come by. The most common score in football is 2-1, but you will be hard-pressed to see it in FIFA and if this season is anything to go by it is even harder to find in the Premier League.
Modern defenders don’t defend any more, they all try to play like prime Beckenbauer and run the game from their own six-yard box. Modern midfielders don’t tackle, they simply press and press and nick the ball away and of course modern forwards are athletes who have forgotten the nuances of scoring goals. You only need to have a look on the Ultimate team marketplace to see which players are the most coveted. Defenders with pace, midfielders with pace and forwards with pace. A team of Usain Bolt’s would work wonders in FIFA and increasingly this is also the case in modern football.
While we bemoan the loss of the traditional characters and traits in football, FIFA as a game series has embraced them. Players like Pirlo, Maldini, Bergkamp, Barton, Shearer and others were recognisable for their unique abilities. Now the cookie cutter of modern football has left us with players who aren’t necessarily the best and most skilful, yet are athletes with enough pace and fitness to negate the need for tactics and proper talent. So while PES still has a modicum of the amateur game, FIFA has gone from strength to strength by offering you a simulation of what you see on TV rather than what you play.
FIFA 21 is a good game, it is right in the uncanny valley of football games that are so close to what you watch on tv that if your team loses you may want to put it aside for a week, yet it still is a poor substitute for attending or participating in a match. PES was the closest you came to that but for this generation of consoles FIFA is king.