The annual release of football’s best-ever-selling gaming franchise has become an integral part of football supporters’ lives. Indeed, the unrivaled FIFA series has captured the imagination of fans around the globe since it landed on shelves back on the 15th of December 1993. The latest installment, FIFA 21, is the 28th edition of the series but perhaps rivals the 2006 version for the most damning reviews.
The common denominator as far as the complaints go is that fans have seen and played this game before. The frustration of the gaming community is best summed up by this review of FIFA 2021, which describes it rather unflatteringly as being ‘FIFA 20 but with a lick of paint.’ FIFA 20, of course, was hardly a hit with fans but, still, it comfortably topped the UK charts.
Basically, gamers have been there and done that. In the eyes of many, the groundbreaking edge that FIFA had seems to have disappeared, with punters being served up the same gameplay and features for the second year in a row. Whilst this may all be true, it’s clear to see why.
— EA SPORTS FIFA (@EASPORTSFIFA) October 27, 2020
With the introduction of the next-generation consoles, FIFA 21 was probably the last game to be released that was created with the PS4 in mind. There was a gap of just five weeks between FIFA 21 being released and the PS5 coming to market and the results obviously show. In many respects, FIFA 21 was a holding pattern until the PS5 was released, with the expectation being that gamers will see notable differences in gameplay and graphics come the release of FIFA 22 in the early autumn of this year.
With that being said, there are a few new gameplay features that have perhaps been lost in all the noise surrounding the repetitiveness of this latest edition that do deserve praise. Chiefly, the ability to take control of a game that is being simulated in a Football Manager style. This feature can be found in Career Mode and does scratch an itch that the FIFA community has wanted to address for a while. Indeed, the ability to get hands-on and potentially intervene for the better when you are losing a match is an impressive addition to the FIFA franchise.
The creators also deserved credit for listening to fans from around the world and honoring promises to them. This is a game that is ultimately for football fans and perhaps less for hardcore gamers. There’s no better example of that than when FIFA 21 was released without the stadium of newly-promoted Premier League side Leeds United.
Elland Road will be the only Premier League ground not in FIFA 21.
…And Leeds United fans aren’t happy about it.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) September 24, 2020
Needless to say, the Leeds fans were devastated after waiting 16 years for their stadium to be included in this iconic game. Subsequently, EA sports got hold of Leeds United and promised their fans that it would be included in the next downloadable update. As good as their word, in February 2021, it was finally added and Leeds fans could eventually enjoy the honor of having their stadium included.
On a side note, it’s been a season of highs for the West Yorkshire side after their promotion from the Championship. Despite being just four points off a European qualification place, Leeds have been priced at 50/1 in the latest football betting markets to finish in the top six. Strangely, those odds don’t do justice to the trailblazing season that the Whites have had, which has involved capturing a new legion of global fans. Needless to say, EA Sports’ public pledge to Leeds has also paid off for the company, with the football club receiving an unprecedented amount of worldwide coverage this season.
So for all the criticism that has been leveled at EA sports and FIFA 21 this season, perhaps the 28th installment of the franchise isn’t as bad as many have made it out to be. With that said, FIFA 22 should signal the start of the most exciting chapter in the game’s near 30-year history