"The iconic indoor mode from FIFA 98 is making a comeback? Great!" That was roughly the public reaction when EA Sports announced VOLTA Football last year. The game variant newly introduced in FIFA 20 should take you to the parking lots, soccer cages and small fields of the world and let you chain snappy tricks with spectacular finishes in the style of FIFA Street. However, this concept didn't really work, instead criticism from the community rained down: The integrated story mode was quite embarrassing, there were no online matches against friends and the gameplay somehow didn't match the flair of the intellectual role models. Just a few months after the release, it was difficult to find opponents for a game of VOLTA online.

The announcement that the indoor kick will celebrate a comeback this year was all the more surprising. Apparently EA Sports has not yet given up hope for its new mode and wants to breathe new life into it with an extensive overhaul. In the run-up to the release, we were able to see what exactly the developers had planned in an exclusive presentation. We also spent several hours in an associated demo and can now tell you: Is VOLTA in FIFA 21 (buy now for € 58.19) finally the big hit or still just a nice addition?

The Journey becomes The Debut

The first and most important innovation for the second year of VOLTA Football: The somewhat embarrassing story mode is a thing of the past, at least for the most part. Of course, the developers in FIFA 21 do not miss the opportunity to introduce you to the world of street and indoor football with a small cinematic interlude. This time it is called "The Debut" and, depending on the length of the match, only takes about two hours. During this time you can familiarize yourself with the gameplay, plan your own little football trip from Sao Paolo to Dubai and compete with superstars like Káká and Thierry Henry.

This is staged again with small cutscenes that are set to music, with classic VOLTA matches and nice little trick games. That didn't seem particularly groundbreaking in the roughly 20-minute intro that we were already allowed to try out. In return you get to see new locations like Milan, Paris and Sydney, build your rough team and collect small rewards that you can use later in other modes.

These recently include the so-called Featured Battles, a street version of the Squad Battles known from Ultimate Team. In weekly competitions you compete against AI-controlled teams from the community, collect points and unlock rewards. So far so known. There are still a few differences to the FUT counterpart: Instead of ascending in a ranking, you work through a kind of progress list every seven days, on which you can unlock four milestones. In our demo, for example, it was a game against Arsenal, for whose defeat we received a few Volta coins and a smart jacket.

FIFA 21: We played VOLTA mode! (1) (Source: EA Sports)

Build a team, look pretty

According to Jeff Antwi, Lead Producer of VOLTA Football, in FIFA 21 there should be a lot more emphasis on outfits with which you can flaunt your very own style. But the clothes were relatively the same to us. Whether you run across the pitch in Adidas sweatpants or a no-name jack, it didn't really change our gaming experience. Much more interesting are the "final bosses" that await you at the end of the progress bar. These are legends of the past like Zinedine Zidane or stars of the future like Kylian Mbappé, whom you can recruit for your own team after a victory.

Not much has changed in terms of team management. You can still hire players from defeated teams, try out different lineups and put together a starting XI that has as much chemistry as possible. Your own avatar can also be individually tinkered together and then continuously leveled up with earned Match XP. In FIFA 21 you still have the choice whether you prefer to play as a striker, midfielder or defender. With attributes from a skill tree, you can then adapt the character to your style of play.

And when you have grown a decent baller, then you can finally team up with other players! "Co-op was number one of the most requested features," Jeff Antwi told us in our presentation. And the calls from the community were heard. With the new Game Hub, Volta Squads, you have the freedom to choose how you want to experience the game mode. You can compete with up to three friends online, compete against random opponents in a one-on-one or even jump into spontaneous 5-on-5 lobbies that work like a pro-club game on a small scale. So that this remains always motivating, EA Sports is also introducing a league system: In VOLTA, you can expect eight leagues consisting of 5 ranks in which you play for rewards every week. Division Rivals sends its regards.

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So the basic structure is in place, what about the gameplay now? Here EA has again tweaked a few screws to provide players with the fastest and most entertaining football experience possible. The creators have added some new features to the foundations of the predecessor: The new skill system, in which you just have to hold down L1 or LB, works even more intuitively. Especially in tight situations it is now even easier to maintain control and to play off opponents with unusual tricks and nice leg shots – provided the timing is right. Because on the defensive side, too, they were not inactive. Players can now defend an open goal even smarter or block more intelligently. All in all, your teammates' AI has been tinkered a little, so that your colleagues now offer you more support and react faster.

It all sounds great on paper, but in practice VOLTA still didn't really want to ignite us. The street and hall kick somehow doesn't feel as satisfying as it once did FIFA Street, but more like a regular FIFA match – just on a smaller field and fewer players. The matches are not arcadic enough, tricks are hardly important. They are not included in the match evaluation of your avatar and are easily defended by the computer, especially on the higher levels of difficulty. In turn, he completely dispenses with special movements when setting up his own game, which completely contradicts the actual concept of the mode – combining football with little tricks.

In addition, VOLTA is still suffering from some problems that existed at the premiere in FIFA 20. For example, there are game modes, such as 5-on-5 or 4-on-4, in which you have to set up a keeper. However, we never succeeded in recruiting one for our team in the demo. You know that from last year, when there was a single goalkeeper with Sydney. And only because it was pressed on you in the context of the story. During a match you cannot make any changes to the line-up or formation of your team and the values ​​of your avatar can still only be reset all at once. The Pro Clubs mode does that much better, here you can select and deselect individual attributes and make your character much more flexible.

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