There are only three things that are inevitable in this world: death, taxes and an annually new part of the FIFA series. In 2020 EA Sports did not miss the opportunity to bring another offshoot of their football simulation onto the market. And that is basically your right. It only becomes problematic if you look at the development of the series over the past few years: FIFA 21 is now the 25th title that the makers have fired out in a row – without a creative break in between and without including the special versions for the European or World Cup . With such a hit rate, fundamental changes to the game concept are of course extremely difficult. In order to adhere to the 12-month cycle, the game is being developed more than it is new. And accordingly, those responsible have been confronted with constant criticism for a long time: FIFA is the same every year, a season update at full price, or, to put it bluntly, rip-offs and fools!
The fact is: FIFA has traditionally found it difficult to innovate. That is of course a little in the nature of things, football remains football. The developers of Electronic Arts can't just reinvent the sport. The basic concept with 22 players, two goals and one ball is largely not shaken. On the other hand, there is also a lack of creative ideas, not only on, but also off the pitch: In terms of game modes, The Journey was the last big innovation in FIFA 17 to 19. Here, the story of the super talent Alex Hunter was told in a kind of story mode, including cutscenes and decision-making options. That was something different!
There is a standstill on the lawn
Currently there is only the VOLTA mode, which is based on FIFA Street, but has not really wanted to ignite so far. Last year the street kick had to struggle with a few teething troubles, this time EA Sports really messed it up. The story has been radically shortened, from a good six to just two hours. The production quality is also rather poor, as the creators have adopted large parts of the character models from other game modes: the street legends from last year, the icons from the Ultimate Team mode, player advisor Beatriz Villanova even from FIFA 19! This is followed by bugs and glitches far beyond "The Debut". In the meantime, there were no games online because opponents were found but no sessions could be created. The mode is doomed to die just a few weeks after its release.
Source: PC Games
On the pitch, too, things only look better to a limited extent. Sure, FIFA 21 (buy now € 47.90 /€ 56.99 ) doesn't play badly. The bolt is fun and looks chic too. This season, however, you can expect a few notable changes, actually only the Interactive Simulation and the Creative Runs. And if you take a closer look at them, it quickly becomes clear: They aren't that new either. The creative runs already existed in a similar form in FIFA 2004, then under the name "Off-the-Ball Control". FIFA 07 already offered the possibility of simulating a game and jumping into the action at any point in time. Back then, that was called visual simulation and, compared to today, could even be accelerated.
Old feature, sold new
This is a trend that continues through all areas of FIFA: The press conferences, player talks and interviews that were introduced last year? An old hat, as are the loans with an option to buy that were returned this year. And when in 2017 it was advertised that scores would now be displayed on the lawn and no longer via a belly band, many fans also had a déjà vu. EA Sports are simply masters at selling old features as new.
This is confirmed again by a look at the central gameplay innovations that the makers have focused on in recent years. In the trailer for FIFA 21, for example, it was agile dribbling. At FIFA 20, however, the focus was on sideways dribbling. In FIFA 19, the Active Touch System was highlighted and finally in FIFA 18, the revised dribbling. Four different, wonderful marketing terms that in the end always mean the same thing: Players should now supposedly handle the ball better. Instead of really thinking up new functions, it is better to look for new names for existing ones. Bravo!
Source: PC Games
Money makes the world go round
EA Sports is really only really innovative in the Ultimate Team mode. Why? Because the makers generated over 1.49 billion dollars last year. In 2018, in-game purchases across all Ultimate Team modes even made up 28 percent of total group sales! It is completely understandable that the creators want to keep their paying players happy and also want to provide them with new features in FIFA 21: Co-op mode, community events, live challenges, stadium expansion and over 100 icons – the other game variants then remain inevitably on the track. Despite improvements in details, there is a standstill in pro clubs, seasons or playing careers.
At most a decoupling from Ultimate Team could shake this fact. If the mode were to finance itself as a free-to-play title via microtransactions, there would be enough resources left to concentrate on the actual game. In all likelihood, however, this remains wishful thinking, as does the departure from the one-year cycle. Competitor Pro Evolution Soccer has limited itself to a season update this year, only to attack with a new engine in 2021. We cannot expect such steps from EA Sports. Despite all the criticism, FIFA is simply selling too well for that. But we shouldn't stop complaining. Because by tacitly accepting blatant flaws and a lack of innovations, FIFA will definitely not get any better!
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