For the past three years the FIFA series has been going backwards in terms of gameplay and overall experience. In my opinion, FIFA 20 marks the lowest point that the FIFA series has ever reached. The addition of the Volta game mode should be celebrated. However, it seems like it is the catalyst in making the gameplay as unrealistic and clumsy as ever.
Initially as you begin to play FIFA 20, the first impression that you get is the unnatural feel to how the players move around the pitch. All of the players run in strange directions, almost as if they are floating around on an air hockey table. The jostling and physical contact between players has gotten clumsier than previous years, and some of the collision detection is nigh-on non-existent. This has resulted in obstruction fouls almost becoming a thing of the past.
The collision between players results in some of the strangest physics you will see in any game. This has actually been a long running issue for the FIFA series, but in FIFA 20 it has really come to the fore. Here is a playlist of videos to show examples of these kind of glitches:
In the first video, Connor Goldson tries to use his physicality to win the ball but randomly clips into someone on the way there, as if he has no spatial awareness. He then continues to make the challenge for the ball, which is anaemic at best. The Rangers defender goes on to defy physics by staying on his feet, even when his whole-body weight is leaning to the side on one leg.
In the second video of the playlist, Andy King just randomly falls onto his backside. He makes zero contact with anyone, and it wasn’t a slip of the feet either!
EA Sports has also introduced a new freekick and penalty taking system, which quite frankly has made the experience of taking these set pieces much worse than ever before. The new freekick system is carried out in several stages. The first is aiming at the area of the goal you want the ball to go, and second is the power. Then you have to move the right analogue stick in a certain way to dictate what type of curvature you want on the ball, and lastly, pressing shoot again to get “perfect timing” on your shot. In theory, this sounds great. However, in execution it is clunky, cumbersome and extremely frustrating.
The new penalty technique has resulted in the aiming mechanic to be much too sensitive, and most people will end up just opting to go down the middle, making guessing for the goalkeepers a lot easier in the process. EA Sports are guilty of seriously overthinking set-pieces and are trying to be too clever here.
The aforementioned Volta football mode also doubles up as this year’s story mode as well. The story follows your avatar named Revvy (even though they give you the option to type in your own name, this gets ignored for “Revvy”), who joins a Volta team who are trying to make it to the World Championships. The story isn’t deep at all and is actually really bland. There are some really forced conflicts between characters, just for the sake of drama. It is less interactive than “The Journey” was because there are no personality choices to make. The story mode is forgettable, and ends up being an absolute chore due to the frustrating Volta gameplay.
The Volta gameplay is like the previously mentioned “air hockey table” feel of the main game, but only ramped up to 100. It makes the Volta matches erratic, chaotic and ultimately mind-numbing. EA Sports do deserve credit for introducing a new game mode. Indoor football (and street football) have been on the FIFA fans’ wish-list for quite some time (21 years to be exact). However, this credit goes right back out of the window when the obnoxious
surprise mechanics microtransactions are discovered.
After a few hours of Volta gameplay, it becomes apparent that its primary objective is to make even more money for EA Sports through the purchase of “Volta Coins”. These “coins” are then used to customise “Revvy” with clothing and hairstyles. During the playtime of this review, the EA servers were down, and after attempting to continue playing the Volta story, it could not be accessed because FIFA 20 was at the time “currently offline”. This would not have been the case if there were no timed-exclusive microtransactions involved within the mode.
What makes these microtransactions obnoxious is the time limited nature of them. EA call these “drops”. In other words: you have four or five days to either earn or buy enough Volta Coins to purchase that piece of clothing you desperately want. This is just a progression from ‘The Journey’s’ customisation, but taken to the next level.
There were also some really strange glitches during the Volta gameplay. During goal celebrations, there is this weird graphical glitch that results in some awful blurring of characters on the screen. It’s like the motion blur dial has been cranked up to full. There are also instances of celebrations that has the character models and the surrounding walls clash, resulting in some strange looking celebrations. The biggest Volta glitch culprit is having two instances of the Syd character. Every opposing team I played against in the story mode had their own Syd. How this never got caught at the testing stage is beyond belief.
Career Mode has made the headlines since FIFA 20’s release, and for all the wrong reasons. Not only has this mode been pretty much neglected (again), but the quality has plummeted.
For years, EA has had “press conferences” in Career Mode in the form of a couple of canned answers in a menu. They have upgraded this to a small cut scene where you pick from typically three different answers. How you choose to answer questions affects individual players’ morale and overall team morale. The cut scenes themselves basically serve as window dressing and what we are left with is essentially the same old press conferences from years past. It seems like no matter what you say (which is never much to begin with), morale is either very good or content. It almost has no bearing on anything within the game and becomes quickly redundant.
Not only are the press conferences redundant, they also contain typing errors. Here are some examples below:
Another small improvement is the player conversations. You can now answer back to them if they approach you with a comment or complaint. Once again, just like the press conference answers, it seems almost impossible to fall out with a player. Almost anything you say results in their morale creeping up.
The morale system allows players attributes to improve by a few points, from match to match. This was actually in FIFA Career Mode years ago, but now re-introduced as a new feature.
The biggest improvement in Career Mode is the ability to further customise your manager’s appearance. Previous iterations of FIFA only allowed you to select a generic template for your manager, but now you can customise everything from their jawline to their clothing line. Although EA’s competitor has had this feature, it is nice to see FIFA have the same implemented.
Speaking of which, FIFA’s competitor (PES) has gotten the upper hand on them this year when it comes to certain licenses. Juventus is the biggest talking point, as they are now known in FIFA as Piemonte Calcio and now play in a generic stadium due to the exclusive nature of their deal with Konami. EA Sports also lost the rights to Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena; therefore, Bayern also play in a generic stadium much like Juventus and Barcelona.
From all of the glitches, buggy game play, stale game modes and absolutely boring story, FIFA 20 is the biggest regression in the series that I can ever recall. For the past three years, the FIFA series has been getting steadily worse in each iteration, and FIFA 20 has completed the hattrick. Hopefully they learn a thing or two from their competitors and improve the game play first and foremost. The fact that the game is $59.99 only adds insult to injury. With games nowadays becoming more like “live services” rather than stand alone titles, it would seem that FIFA would be the perfect series to implement this type of business model. Maybe it would make the bugs and lack of progress from year to year a bit easier to swallow. Either that, or take a few years off. But we all know that isn’t going to happen.
This review is based on a digital copy of FIFA 20 for the PlayStation 4 Pro provided by EA Sports.