FIFA 19, the latest version of the long running series, is essentially in a league of its own. Yes, Pro Evolution Soccer exists but, at this point, no one is really converting from one side to another. However, despite that, perhaps FIFA’s greatest strength is that it clearly has been paying attention to the license-deficient series, taking some of its greatest attributes and applying it to the blockbuster series.
So how does the game hold up? We look at 3 good things and 3 bad about the soccer game to see if it’s worth purchasing.
Good: Gameplay Is Subtly Improved
It goes without saying that gameplay is everything, especially for a game expected to last you a full year. And, this year, the biggest change comes from a change of pace — namely a much slower pace. The game is still a blend of the arcade and realistic — albeit with a newfound love of bicycle kicks.
While you can still play FIFA the usual way, the general pace of the players is much slower than last year — something that might annoy if you’re accustomed to loading your team with speedsters and running down the wings.
There’s also the addition of tactics that finally comes close to PES levels. If you’re so inclined, you can tinker with depth, width and playing style in a way that’s extremely reminiscent of the Konami rival game, adding another layer of depth for advanced players.
The addition of the UEFA Champions & Europa Leagues are also another welcome addition, showcasing why FIFA’s presentation is amongst the best ever in the world of sports games — the result is a game that feels truly immersive in a way that rival titles don’t manage.
Good: Kick-Off Mode Offers Variety
FIFA’s short-burst style format has always been ideal for communal gaming. Unlike, say, NBA 2K, where purists will want 12 minute quarters to ape a realistic scoreline, the same can be achieved in 12 minutes of FIFA, making it perfect for casual gaming.
Knowing this, EA sports added several new game modes within kick-off, which should add some spice after you’ve well and truly played every kind of regular match-up there is — a feat given the mountain of officially licensed teams in this edition.
Good: FUT Mode improved, explained
Ultimate Team mode has been under intense scrutiny from fervent watchers of microtransactions, even going so far as to be banned in the Netherlands and Belgium under gambling laws.
The result of this crackdown has had a knock-on effect on the mode itself — for the better. The rules of the mode are clearly explained this year, enticing fans of the game who maybe previously stayed away.
There’s also now a pack probability option that clearly shows the likelihood of you receiving a great player. Fans of the mode will enjoy that the game also shows exactly how chemistry affects your team, in stark contrast to last year’s slightly muddier version. All of this makes for a highly enjoyable version of Ultimate Team that’ll keep fans happy and may convert skeptics.
Bad: New Year, Same Career Mode
While plenty of changes have been made to other areas of the game, Career mode is basically untouched this year. Small cosmetic changes aside, the only change of note in this year’s mode is the addition of the UEFA European cups.
Other than that, it is entirely the same mode as last year, which is disappointing for those who enjoyed it as a respite from the microtransaction-heavy FUT. Our review copy also had a copy of career mode bugs — such as not being able to edit gameplans — that we assume will be patched come full release.
Bad: The Journey is a Slog
The Journey is back and, while there are some great moments — scoring Jim Hunter’s 100th career goal in ‘60s style presentation shows what this mode could be – the rest falls slightly flat. Having had a continuing storyline for the last three years has helped in terms of attachment to the characters, but the rest of the mode — namely the endless training sessions — makes the game a grind.
The addition of two returning characters to the mode makes for a slight change, but the overall drudge of cutscene/training/game means that it might be difficult for players to finish the mode this time around.
Bad: Not much visual improvement
We pointed out that the gameplay had subtly improved because the visuals hadn’t taken much of a leap. While we don’t expect huge leaps in a yearly game, there isn’t really much visual difference between this and FIFA 18. While it’s not a deal breaker, it is something that jumps out immediately when there’s been clear strides made elsewhere.
FIFA 19 is an in-between upgrade. Nothing huge has been added, but there’s been a wealth of subtle upgrades — ranging from gameplay to license addition to the continually immersive presentation. While the game isn’t the huge leap previous iterations have been, there’s enough there to keep keen fans entertained for another season.