FIFA 20 on PlayStation 4
Looking back at the frustrating last few years, FIFA 20 is undeniably the biggest step forward the series has taken for a while, particularly in terms of new content.
With the addition of Volta, Seasons Objectives in Ultimate Team, and meaningful changes to Career Mode, there’s more than enough to bring back lapsed FIFA fans.
That being said, gameplay is always at the heart of FIFA and can make or break overall enjoyment.
The gameplay in 19 was frustrating. The changes made to counter players’ issues with 18 were great in theory, but the community quickly found new meta mechanics (we all remember green timed finesses) and EA Sports stopped trying to balance the game come January, leaving a mess of El Tornado crosses and back post headers. It just wasn’t fun.
For FIFA 20, the gameplay is the best it has been for years, and not just in terms of mechanics, but crucially in how fun the game is to play offline.
The AI is no longer as negative as it was in FIFA 18 and 19, at least on higher difficulties. While they still punt the ball out of play when under a little bit of pressure in their defensive third, they don’t sit with 10 men behind the ball and get a nose bleed when they finally venture into your half.
While high rated squads on high difficulties can be tough to beat, playing against the AI feels more balanced and should make it more fun throughout the year to come.
In terms of how offline gameplay feels generally, it’s slower than last year’s. I don’t think slow is necessarily a bad thing at all, though, as long as the gameplay is good otherwise.
Online gameplay is predictably a little different. As usual, the chemistry boosts offered in Ultimate Team make the overall pace of play much faster, and defending is tough.
While pace, one-twos with CAMs, Strikers, and Wingers, and through balls, take us back to the pace abuse times of FIFAs 14-17, FIFA 20 is more balanced than previous years.
Aside from crossing being generally useless, which we’ll get to later, no overpowered, meta tactic has been figured out yet. Shots of various types from the edge of the box, from close range, or from tight angles, are all viable options.
So far, there’s nothing like the low driven shots of FIFA 17, the timed finesse shots of early last year, or the lobbed through balls of FIFA 13. Matches are more varied than in previous years, which will hopefully keep players engaged for longer.
FIFA 20 is also more of a passers’ game than in previous years. There’s a significant amount of error to passes that are attempted at 180 degrees, but simple passes feel crisp and satisfying.
That is likely down to the significant changes that have been made to defending. Holding down the contain button (X on PS4) to follow a defenders position and pressure them into giving up the ball is no longer as effective.
Now, holding that sees your defender stay a meter or two away from the player, giving attackers more space while promoting the use of manual defending.
However, manual defending still isn’t as rewarding as it should be, with good tackles still seeing the ball pop back to attackers and rebounds being a far too common way of scoring.
Against the AI, though, I often found it difficult to get near the attackers, but that’s likely down to AI just being better at playing football this year.
Defensive positioning and intercepting is vital in FIFA 20, so trying to defend the penalty box while attackers find space could become the norm and there’s a lot of benefit to using the Drop Back defensive technique.
Those defensive changes also mean that what you look for in attacking players changes. While pace is key, as I mentioned, high agility stats are arguably more important.
Since defending often relies on player inputs, or at least more than before, having players who can escape the press quickly is helpful. Drag backs, body feints, ball rolls, and heel to heel flicks are all great skill moves, and they’re only improved by players with high agility.
Also, it’s helpful to know that the Ronaldo chop skill move has been downgraded from a four star skill move to a three star, and is arguably even better than before.
Also, now that you can’t chain skill moves to essentially make you unstoppable, some thought has to go into when are where on the pitch you use them. There’ll be no more Kylian Mbappe La Croqueta-ing the length of the pitch to score a tap in.
It’s also more noticeable than in previous years that good players have more of an impact. Those with technical stats (passing, shooting, dribbling) in the mid 80s or higher really have an impact on matches.
Not all aspects of gameplay are improved though. Just as EA Sports tend to when attempting to balance the game, they’ve been rather heavy handed with addressing some overpowered FIFA 19 mechanics.
First of all, heading is now useless. Whether that be trying to score, clearing corners, or attempting short-headed passes in the midfield, headers can go anywhere. They tend to be quite vertical, with you having to anticipate where the ball will land to retain possession.
It does mean that mistakes are frequent in the midfield when the ball is in the air, goal kicks are inconsistent and risky, and crosses aren’t generally a reliable tactic.
Also, EA Sports has clearly attempted to address the ‘kick-off glitch’ complaints. Now, rather than it feeling like a counter-attack from kick off, just two attacking players even move up the field when restarting play. It does the job of stopping kick off goals, but it may be overdoing it slightly.
Don’t expect to be free of the usual FIFA issues too. Goalkeepers are still unreliable (absolutely mad at times), I’ve had horrible button delay more than once online, and outfield players will make strange mistakes on the ball, so be prepared for some frustration to remain.
In terms of modes, Volta is the big new thing that FIFA 20 is shouting about, but it’s not blown me away.
The basic gameplay feels good, with passing and blocking being very responsive, and manual shooting adding some thought to the competition, but it’s totally lacking the fun factor that street football should have and FIFA Street before it had.
Skills aren’t really promoted, which is disappointing. Just passing the ball around and walking the ball into the net is a far better approach than attempting skills and you need so much space to pull most of them off.
The AI players don’t really attempt them either, so you’re at a disadvantage if you do.
As you’d expect, the presentation is superb and the locations are very well-designed, but there’s too much that takes away from the atmosphere.
More off-putting than anything else, though, is the actual story part of story mode. The characters are horrible caricatures of football fanatics, the writing is so awkward that I repeatedly told characters to stop talking, and the story is too serious for a mode that’s supposed to be about fun and the flair of the sport.
It’s all about arguing and poor attempts at banter, and throws rivalry, melodrama, and emotional moments at you right from the start, before you even know the characters’ names, let alone by the time Volta has earned your interest in them.
Over the last three years we had The Journey, which was equally cringeworthy yet the gameplay was repetitive, so Volta is at least a step forward from that.
But without co-op online play and no need to learn all the skill moves, I’m expecting it to be a mode that people try for a few weeks and it becomes a ghost town soon after. I hope I’m wrong though and a community brings the passion to the mode that it’s currently missing.
The other substantial new feature is Ultimate Team’s Seasons Objectives. As they are, they include a few too many filler stadium decoration items that everyone will skip past when playing, but it’s a big step forward for the mode.
With something small to complete every day and greater objectives to work towards over the course of a 50 day season, it’s a grinder’s paradise.
FIFA 19 Ultimate Team suffered from giving players no reason to play for long stretches of the year, but the new Objectives should counter that, as long as they’re treated well throughout the game cycle.
Fewer cosmetic items, more unique special player cards to earn, and frequently updating objectives could keep people coming back every few hours to see what’s going on.
The changes that have been made to the Squad Management and SBC completion menus are a step backward too, so hopefully, they’re reverted or improved soon.
As for the two other main modes, Career and Pro Clubs, the latter hasn’t received much of an update, which is disappointing, but Career Mode finally has, adding some much needed complexity to the mode. Career does have a lot of frustrating bugs though that EA Sports are looking into.
Not all of FIFA 20’s new features work. Volta doesn’t have the personality to make a lasting impression and defending hasn’t received the overhaul it needs but Ultimate Team and Career Mode have been made more engaging and gameplay is more balanced than it has been for a long, long time.
Score: 3.5/5 – Fair
- Playing against the AI is significantly more fun.
- Seasons Objectives are a great addition to Ultimate Team.
- Career Mode has finally received some updates.
- Volta is better than The Journey.
- Pace and agility focused gameplay is well balanced.
- Volta doesn’t promote the use of skills and the story is painfully awkward.
- While manual defending is promoted, it’s still not very rewarding.
- Too many rebound goals and heading is now useless.
- Pro Clubs has been ignored once again.
It’s not perfect, but it’s the biggest step forward for the series for a few years. It might be the best one to pick up if you haven’t played FIFA in a while.
FIFA 20 is out now PS4, PC, Xbox One, and Switch (Legacy Edition).
Once again, FIFA 20 is an EA Sports title.
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