FIFA 21 review: A timely improvement all round
FIFA 21 is a game that does not disappoint
The first week after the release of a new FIFA game is often dominated by complaints, I've found in recent years. Nobody likes change, not at first, at least.
But slowly, we adapt to the tweaks in the gameplay, invest hours and hours in the game and grow to love it. With FIFA 21, I've skipped that first phase and have fallen head over heals with the virtual experience that has filled so much of the leisure time in my life.
The changes are small but significant. Ahead of the release, improved off the ball runs were a big part of the game's marketing campaign. Thank God.
In past versions of the game, it was easy to grow frustrated with the lack of intelligent movement from supposedly intelligent players, who seemingly preferred to run in straight lines into offside positions. Not anymore. You feel more rewarded for your creativity. You can both see and execute the pass thanks to the improved running, and thus create more goalscoring opportunities.
Aside from that, there is a much more fluid feel to the mechanics of the dribbling and one on one defending. Every year this aspect seems to get more and more fluid, and you wonder just how realistic they can make it before it becomes physically impossible and Paul Pogba jumps out the TV screen to dab in front of you, but they keep finding new ways.
On FIFA 21, going shoulder to shoulder doesn't mean risking taking out an opponent. You don't even need to press a button to engage in a battle. The level of nuance that has been put into the art of muscling an opponent off the ball without committing a foul is seriously impressive and makes the game a hugely more enjoyable experience.
But that doesn't mean defenders have been given an unfair advantage. Quite the opposite, the ability to jockey along with the ball before exploding past the defender using L1 and R2, as well as the agile dribbling feature, allow you to score more beautiful and therefore satisfying goals.
For me, that does unfortunately mean 14-year-old American kids who play every hour of the day learning every skill move in the book will destroy me on seasons, but I was one of them once. So swings and roundabouts.
The overarching feeling when playing the new FIFA is that it feels new and familiar at the same time. EA have put their focus into improving all the right aspects of the game, at long last.