The career mode has been one of the most popular game variants of soccer simulation since the childhood days of the FIFA series. To catapult one's own club of the heart out of the depths of the league system onto the Champions League throne is simply the dream of many hobby coaches. It is all the more regrettable that these have been criminally neglected in recent years. Although the career has been given nice little extras every now and then, last year, for example, a comprehensive character editor and interactive press conferences were introduced, but these changes were not really groundbreaking.

Nonetheless, players haven't given up hope yet. So could 2020 finally be the year when everything gets better? After all, has EA Sports already teased some improvements for the career mode? In the run-up to a presentation of FIFA 21 (buy now for € 58.19) listened, gathered all the information and the ultimate answer ready, whether you should strike for the release on October 9th or not.

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FIFA 21: New trailer introduces the changes in career mode

The biggest catch that developer EA Sports announced at the first FIFA Reveal in July is the introduction of an interactive game simulation. Or better: their return. Actually, the feature already existed in FIFA 07. But now it comes back in a slightly revised version and allows you to simulate an entire game in front of your eyes instead of just one result. It looks a bit like you're watching the radar – which is displayed at the bottom of the screen in normal games – and watching your players whiz across the field in the form of small colored dots. Even the stadium sound and commentators continue to run in the background, while you – virtually from the sidelines – track stamina, statistics and ratings or directly influence what is happening. You can change players at any time, change the formation and tactics or even jump into the game yourself!

This can be done within a few seconds and as often as you want. So you are completely free, for example, to only play the key moments of a game yourself and then switch back to the simulation. The interactive simulation offers you a good mix of quick sim and self-games that saves you a lot of time. The only downer: Unfortunately, the simulation cannot be accelerated, so that – depending on the number of interruptions – you need about two minutes and 35 seconds per game. But that is a perfectly acceptable average.

Develop your full potential!

The player development was also adjusted again after the dynamic potential introduced in FIFA 20 caused some problems and noname actors suddenly got a total of 99. From now on, the growth of a player is influenced by several factors: the playing time, the strength of the opponent and the grading after a match. In addition, in FIFA 21 you will in future have the option to shape your stars even more according to your wishes. With individually selectable development plans you can improve the values ​​of your super talents in a targeted manner or give them tuition in matters of special movements, weak feet or work rates. You can even now teach them to play in a new position. In principle, you have all the options, in theory even an attacker can be converted into a defender, but with such blatant re-education measures you have to put in a lot of work. And even then, success is not guaranteed.

But not only young, but also older players get some affection in FIFA 21. In the future, old stars will no longer fall so blatantly, but should also develop realistically in the advanced football age. Oldies are now not only active for much longer and only hang up their football boots at the age of 38, their playful quality also remains to a certain extent – provided they keep fit.

You just need more bite!

Of course, training plays an even more central role. Accordingly, EA introduces the Active Training System, which now focuses less on attributes and more on match preparation. In addition to endurance, FIFA 21 has recently also added the value bite, which shows how well your players are prepared for an upcoming game. The higher the value, the better the expected performance. You increase the bite by giving players minutes to play or by letting them play in the completely rebuilt training hub. The five slots known from FIFA 20, which you could assign to individual players, have been replaced by three slots in which entire groups of players train – for example your strikers, midfielders and defenders. The various exercises from the categories defensive, dribbling, passing, finishing and standards can either be played or simulated and all vary in terms of number of players and intensity. Accordingly, some units make the participants more exhausted, but at the same time more biting. This in turn results in attribute bonuses.

When training, however, it is important to always find a good balance between exertion and recovery phases. Otherwise your players will run out of breath at some point. To do this, you can put together your own team plans on a monthly and weekly basis in the activity management system and say, for example: Before every game you train, after every game you take a break. Or you really do clock every single day individually.

Speaking of planning: clogged calendars with sometimes multiple appointments on a single day should no longer exist in the future. At least that's what Alex Constantinescu, Senior Game Designer of Career Mode, explained to us. "We have the situation under control," he assured us when asked. In FIFA 21, there should always be at least two days between two games to give you enough time to prepare.

Not all wishes come true

The problem of the over-teams, who roll over their opponents like a steamroller and dominate leagues in the long run, was probably addressed. Barcelona, ​​Juventus and PSG no longer have 38 wins per season in FIFA 21, but much more even results. Thanks to minor mistakes and slips by the top teams, the tables are much more exciting. "Results feel a lot more realistic than they did in FIFA 20," said Constantinescu.

Unfortunately, the senior game designer also rejected a few wishes from career fans. Stadium, sponsor and staff management will not be celebrating a return this year. The feature is "on the long-term list", according to the EA team. The same applies to the option to slip into the skin of real managers and the implementation of the video assistant referee. The many big innovations and smaller details such as more tutorials, the return of the loan with a purchase clause, more realistic transfer negotiations, in which the AI ​​also suggests player swaps, and more extensive financial options definitely outweigh this.

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My opinion

That's good news for career fans!

Last year's changes to career mode didn't really knock me off my feet. An individually adaptable manager, press conferences and match interviews added value to the staging, but they didn't really give the game feel any more depth. With FIFA 21 I am now much more confident that there will actually be an innovation in terms of training and management. The return of the interactive simulation, the revision of the player development, viciousness and activity planning finally promise hobby coaches real entertainment again. Now we can only hope that the new features all work as advertised by the developer. And that EA Sports actually continues to work on the content that is on the "Long Term List". Then the future looks really bright for career mode!

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