Fifa 20 – The Original Football

That’s a necessary evil of cramming 90 minutes of the real game into a digestible 10 minutes you can control with a gamepad. The problem is that FIFA 20’s quasi-football simply isn’t very enjoyable. You can use in-game currency to buy these packs, or do so using real money – but the chances of finding Messi, Ronaldo or Salah are … well, we don’t know, because EA doesn’t disclose unambiguous odds. There’s your first problem. I can remember times when almost every major series has had difficulty pinpointing the right tuning that differentiates the speedy and skilled from everyone else.EA Sports FIFA 20 brings two sides of The World’s Game to life — the prestige of the professional stage and an all-new authentic street football experience in EA Sports Volta. FIFA 20 innovates across the game, Football Intelligence unlocks an unprecedented platform for gameplay realism, FIFA Ultimate Team offers more ways to build your dream squad.

The general presentation, opening scenes of a match and commentary feel eerily similar. However, on the blow of the whistle and with kick-off taken, you’ll instantly notice little differences across the pitch.Your centre-forward might collapse backwards as they cushion a header down for your number 10 to get a shot off, for example, or a winger will lose balance as they attempt to keep the ball from going out of play and nod it into the path of an onrushing full-back. These are minor things, which on their own don’t seem like much, but when strung together as part of an attacking move, they just make things flow that bit more realistically.There are substantial new chunks of content in this year’s game, Volta football being the headline act on a bill including new House Rules for FUT and friendly matches, revamped set-pieces and a defending overhaul. And once again it’s all bundled into one of the slickest presentation packages in the medium, visually and audibly almost like-for-like with a Sky Sports broadcast on the pitch, and dripping with satisfying detail in every menu screen.Squad building challenges – in which you complete puzzles to earn superior cards – rely on skill rather than luck, and savvy use of the transfer market earns top players without spending a penny. A new XP system, where everything you do builds towards rewards such as Wilfried Zaha or Lucas Vázquez, also eliminates fortune from the equation.My biggest gripe has been some clipping between the players on the pitch during collisions, but I haven’t found an egregious fault in the physics.FIFA 20 swings the pendulum back the other way and puts much more emphasis on the other side of the ball. The way you defend has been overhauled and has never felt more crucial. You can no longer heedlessly charge at a defender, hold down the tackle button, and hope for the best. You’re punished for not thinking about defensive play to the same extent you would building an attack, due to the high level of risk-reward when going in for a challenge; time it well and you’ll likely take the ball cleanly and win possession.

EA Sports took some steps to address such issues last year, but this time around it really feels like players are as good as they can be. It’s the same with defenders: if you’re controlling a hulking centre-back, let’s say Harry Maguire, then you can really feel his strength.By double tapping the pass or through-ball button, you can lift the ball slightly off the ground, helping you to lob the ball gently over an outstretched leg or between defenders in crowded penalty boxes. It needs to be used in the right situation to be effective, and the slight elevation makes it harder for the receiver to control, but it can be a real help in tight spaces.Any right analog stick moves you’ve committed to muscle memory are deeply handy here, and in smaller pitches with fewer players the shot direction control’s fully manual, so you can take real pride in the (rare) ones that go in. The story won’t keep anyone up at night with its twists, nor convince anyone that this is how human beings talk to each other, but it’s a means to an end, and that end is a gratifyingly different flavour of football.Defending is difficult, and 0-0 draws as rare as a VAR-free Match Of The Day episode. There’s no attempt to match PES 2020’s cerebral passing game: Fifa 20 is all-action all the time. It won’t suit purists, but the just-one-more-game pull at 11pm when you have work/college/school the next day is gravity-strong.I’m not one of those sports gaming fans who hates the loot box concept. Developers aren’t forcing anyone to play the modes or to spend real money to improve their teams. I’m not a major spender in collector modes, but if I were it would be something I chalked up to as an expensive hobby.

Defenders are now much less automated when you’re in control of them and the standing tackle has a rangier strong tackle variant when you hold it, so in this sense FIFA 20 presents new scoring opportunities. But running through on goal because your online opponent ballsed up the special combination of jockeying, tracking, sprinting and tackling needed to press players now doesn’t make you feel very much like Killian Mbappe.Although player faces aren’t affected, it’s certainly curious to see Cristiano Ronaldo charging round in Sunday league garb. Still, one missing licence shouldn’t go down as a game-breaker. The new additions to Fifa 20 elevate it above “standard annual update” fare.Tottenham’s Son Heung-min feels like the live wire he rightly should, and if he gets past his man only the quickest defenders will be able to catch him. For those who don’t have time to master any skill moves, EA has also added Strafe Dribbling, which is activated by squeezing either L1 on its own or together with R1, depending on whether you want to fix the orientation of the player in possession.This change is something that might be toned down in future updates, however – we all know the game of FIFA you play on day one is rarely how the game ends up a few months down the line. And honestly, I’d welcome it.Like many non-sports games, FIFA offers a way to grab rewards within Ultimate Team that are solely based on the completion of certain challenges.EA has seemingly taken inspiration from the now-dormant PGA Tour golf series when it comes to taking direct free kicks, because now you first place a target where you want to aim, then add spin with the right stick as the taker approaches the ball. This technique opens up new possibilities and can produce some great-looking finishes. It’s initially difficult to get to grips with but I found myself enjoying it greatly, especially in comparison the simplistic ways they’ve worked in previous games.

You’ve got to take a number of things into account: wind, curl on the ball, and the quality of the kick-taker. I ballooned my first couple of free kicks and penalties far and wide. It took a good few hours to even hit the target.There’s now an Agile Jockey move, activated by holding both triggers when facing up to the player in possession, which allows defenders to move more nimbly when waiting for the chance to attempt a tackle. Perhaps more significantly, EA claims to have reduced the frequency of tackles that result in the ball just rebounding back to the attacker, although it still happens pretty regularly.It holds your attention, invites you to imagine being in possession of a full squad of black FUT cards, and gets you plotting your journey from here to there in microscopic detail thanks to new Season Objectives. It rewards your grind with various currencies, trinkets, customisation options and doodads, and makes you feel like you’re part of an online footballing microcosm. In that regard, it’s decades ahead of PES and its comparatively low-rent MyClub.There is a story attached to the single-player experience (more on that later), but the real appeal with this mode is the speed, pace and ease of play.