FIFA 20 review: Old is new again as EA Sports reach another landmark with franchise

FIFA 20: Customise your player's style and build them up in story mode

What was once FIFA Football, now just ‘FIFA’, has such an extended history that fans can recall some of the earlier features with delight.

While 1998’s Road to the World Cup had the infamous indoor football, 2005 had ‘that free kick’.

You know the one. Aim for the top corner, put the most top spin available on the ball and sit back and watch as Thierry Henry puts your team ahead with his sixth set-piece of the game.

I exaggerate, of course, but FIFA 20’s back to the future approach could pay dividends.

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After the trilogy series of ‘The Journey’, stretching back to 2017, which added new impetus into the FIFA series, the story finally reached its conclusion last year.

As a result, EA Sports have had to put their resources into its replacement - which ostensibly appears to be VOLTA Football.

You may recognise the mechanics. Street football in which exaggerated skill moves and appearance are rated more highly than statistics.

That’s right; it’s the reincarnation of 2005’s FIFA Street.

And speaking of 2005, that’s not the only inspiration which EA recruited from the mid-noughties.

Remember those pesky free-kicks? They are back. Sort of.

VOLTA Football brings the Street back

FIFA 20: VOLTA Football adds a refreshing feel

Let’s start with the flagship new mode of FIFA 20. VOLTA is available both in kick-off and as a standalone.

Much like The Journey did, it offers a story-led game which may help fill that particular void.

But really, it’s a refreshing change from the norm, which lets the player reimagine themselves in a cage or street scenario - with either ‘World’, ‘Story’ or ‘League’.

While there is a storyline to follow, and a narrative certainly can help, it’s all about the customisation of your player and the journey to make them the best they can be.

Flick the ball off the wall, rush back into goal and be the hero or just bait and embarrass your opponent.

Although it does not quite have the same satisfaction as taking Alex and Kim Hunter to the top - sorry Danny - it still performs well in its stead.

Complete with action replays, pick from anywhere between three and five-a-side (or ‘Professional Futsal’) and choose an arena to play and show up your friends.

Mystery Ball and King of the Hill are kick-off’s gems

And speaking of embarrassing your fellow FIFA gamers, the developers have built on the success of last year’s ‘House Rules’.

‘King of the Hill’ and ‘Mystery Ball’ are the two new options in question; with the latter truly living up to its name.

The basic concept is the possessor of the ball will obtain a skills boost. Each time play stops, the skill being boosted is changed. Oh, and so can the value of scoring.

It’s exactly the type of frenetic chaos that helped the likes of ‘No Rules’ be so successful on FIFA 19. It always keeps you interested, no matter how bad a player you are.

For example; when trialling the mode I found myself trailing 8-3 to a better-ranked team. I then scored 18 points without reply.

Each boost is noticeable and is an intriguing twist on the traditional kick-off options, but really, it weighs heavily on ‘all boost’.

The powerful full-stats boost has to be experienced, really, but it gives the phrase ‘men against boys’ a new meaning. Win that ball back and the game is yours to lose.

New free kicks and realistic ball physics

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One of the key improvements to gameplay is the advancement of the physics engine.

In recent years, FIFA has felt more and more authentic to play but this new update takes a deeper plunge.

From players’ reactions to receiving the ball to the ball deviating off the pitch, there are a number of new ways in which the gameplay has changed.

The boast of a ‘Football Intelligence’ approach can be brilliantly experienced in-game, with players reacting to the game situation as it unfolds.

‘Composed finishing’ and ‘controlled tackling’ are also two spearheads of the revamped gaming experience but it was the new set-piece system which piqued my interest.

Knuckleballs, whip and spin are all available as styles to take your free-kick - with the added ability to pick your spot in a very similar fashion to 2005.

But it’s not that easy, for sure. For one thing, the target indicator will always move with the analog stick, while trying to balance that and remember to pick a free-kick style is no simple task.

The end result, though, is immensely satisfying. Choose your option and watch as that free-kick dips or swerves ferociously to fool the goalkeeper.

There is no Thierry Henry this time, unfortunately.

Keep on doing your thing, FIFA Ultimate Team

Or, at least, not without his ICON card.

Ultimate Team’s main two add-ons, season objectives and FUT friendlies, add another element to one of the most addictive modes on any game.

As always, build your team from scratch with cards collected through online packs - achieved through either purchasable FIFA Coins or earned in-game coins.

The eminently fun game is accompanied by the satisfaction of putting together a combination of players that work in a uniquely successful way.

With season objectives, get rewarded for your efforts with a series of time-restricted tasks which can help you build a stronger team.

And although most of the mode feels familiar, the addition of friendlies can help hone your skills - against either the AI, fellow off-network competitors or online.

In an additional extra, you can opt for FIFA’s kick-off house rules in all of those, injecting a bit more spice to the friendlies.

But mostly, it feels extremely similar to previous experiences - which is not at all a bad thing. You know the saying; If it ain’t broke...

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Career mode tweaked again

And finally the timeless classic, which EA Sports generally don’t dramatically overhaul.

Manage a team or play as an individual and work your way through the career of a professional.

While the new game boasts increased customisation and press conferences, it’s more the change in morale system and dynamic player potential flexibility which will impact gameplay.

Keeping a player’s morale high is key - it is felt in-game and can ultimately be the difference between a successful or unsuccessful season.

Nonetheless, it’s still an enjoyable way to continue the FIFA experience, particularly if you are restricted to offline modes only.

And really, when it comes down to it, FIFA has produced the goods again. With an eclectic mix of styles and game modes, it will undoubtedly keep you entertained for hours (or weeks, and possibly months) on end.

Pre-order FIFA 20

FIFA 20 | £49.99 - £69.99 | Shop here

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