The world’s most successful football game and EA’s cash cow FIFA has returned for another year with what seemed to be just another update on their previous version of FIFA. However, some clear improvements in gameplay have emerged, and some highly-requested updates in FIFA career mode seemed to have satisfied even the football aficionados. But was it enough to surpass the annual critic’s surmise?
Let’s get the ball rolling with the gameplay of the game. Firstly, there are a few meagre changes I’ve personally noticed whilst playing the game, the most worrying one is that scoring goals seem to be much easier. Some have praised this improvement but for me scoring seven goals against Liverpool whilst playing with a mid-table team seems realistic now, seemed a bit too far fetched in the game when I did it. Of course, these minor changes did bring in more bugs into the game which could have destroyed the enjoyability of playing FIFA online or against the CPU on Ultimate difficulty. Luckily, whilst the overall experience feels a little unfinished and buggy it is nevertheless much better than what we had in FIFA 20.
Moving towards career mode, we have been finally given back the simulate match experience we wanted. EA reimplemented this feature from the classic game of *checks note* FIFA 07. Yet, it still really fails to give us full control we want when it comes to skipping and fast-forwarding. The game does, fortunately, let you jump in and out from the match, and simulate the rest of the match for those who want to score five sweaty goals in ten minutes and let the game decide what happens next.
Another positive of the career mode is scouting. Yes, it’s somewhat improved this year. Now we can finally scout in more countries like Lithuania, or even Estonia. We have also been given the option to develop players further which is something every career mode player has requested since the dawn of time. To make things more fun, at the start of each save you can also decide if you want to give your club a financial boost. This can go up to £500 million, meaning you can take a League 2 club like Bolton straight back into the Premier League, like the old days when FIFA 07 existed.
Player career mode doesn’t seem to have changed much, but with the simulate match choices, we are presented with an easier route to progression and a much quicker one at that. In terms of realism, the pro career mode still seems to confuse player ratings, as my pro player, who was rated 70 would not get chosen over a player rated 58 — even when I’m scoring hattricks each game I’m selected.
Now to the negatives of the career mode. The most urgent feature that needs adding is statistics. I understand we have the basic standings, career stats, but the lack of depth in those stats is just embarrassing. Why can’t we have more historical stats and records shown as a challenge for career mode players? Pushing further, the board gives us lacklustre challenges that don’t elevate the game but abate the improvements it brought back.
Adding to this, job searching is still dead— there was no attempt to fix that. Maybe this was all part of EA’s realism attempt? International jobs still suck too, sadly. The game doesn’t need a lot to fix some of these things, especially the job search. Just make positions open throughout the whole season, from pre to postseason. And, maybe give a chance to leave the team right at the end of it, like the old FIFA games used to have? Perhaps EA could bring this notalgic feature back into FIFA 22.
In conclusion, the game struggles to wow us but has managed to repair some of the significant issues that made the game unendurable last year. The bringing back of simulation mode in career mode and training sessions has brought about a feeling of nostalgia. A feeling we have been craving for at these times of difficulty and uncertainty. FIFA 21 is a positive note in the FIFA franchise and thus deserves at least some approval from its players.