We’ve had the pleasure of checking in with FIFA throughout the summer, and we were excited to get our hands on the finished product for the full review. That wait is over, and we’ve kicked the tires on the full version of FIFA 20 now for about a week, and so far, we like what we’ve seen. EA Sports has delivered a complete game, one that encompasses the sport of soccer/football from the street level to the upper echelons of the UEFA tournament and everything in between. There is a lot to do here for die-hard and casual fans alike, but the stand out this year is in the brand new VOLTA mode, which we’ll get to in a bit.
Let’s be clear though — like its genre contemporaries, FIFA 20 doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. The core gameplay is intact — with new animations and some new controls, called “football intelligence” — but at its heart, it’s still 11v11 soccer played on licensed pitches from around the world. The presentation is just as keen as ever, and while I didn’t personally play FIFA 19, the graphics jump from FIFA 18 is immediately clear. Playing on a big screen looks just like the real thing, and save for the player names floating above their heads and the control icons at their feet, FIFA 20 could fool the casual onlooker that they were watching a real game. It’s impressive.
New moves, like strafe dribbling, create better scoring opportunities, and players on the pitch are now reconfigured to match their real-life counterparts — they move, react, dribble, and score as expected. Ball mechanics have been adjusted to create better physics, and it’s noticeable from the very first kick-off. FIFA 20 demands that you take into account space, with passing affected the most, seeing as how the ball will no longer automatically find the open player. Your skill plays a bigger part of this year’s edition, for good or bad, and FIFA 20 almost pushes you to get better and to learn the ins and outs of the sport to truly succeed.
Where FIFA 20 shines this year is in its various game modes. FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) has been revamped, with new daily, weekly, seasonal, and milestone objectives to keep you engaged throughout the season. Every day brings a new challenge, and checking in to complete the objectives offers rewards, like FIFA coins and card packs, which can yield superstar players for your squad.
These superstar players can be earned — and earned early — giving your FUT team a competitive edge at launch. It’s never fun starting over with a handful of low-level players, but adding an Icon, like Zinedine Zidane or Didier Drogba, can turn the tide of a match. EA has done a great job tweaking the Ultimate Team modes in their many sports games this year (I’m completely obsessed with NHL 20‘s HUT mode), and the end result is a fun, addictive experience.
FUT Friendlies allows you to play with or against a friend, as well as with randoms online, all without detriment to your current FUT season. In many ways, this serves as practice for when you take your squad out into the world against other players. You can test new moves, lineups, and plays before it gets real. Also, it’s fun to play with and against friends without penalty to your standing. House rules can be adjusted, with some fun new game modes, like King of the Hill. You can even elect to use a mystery ball, which can see changes to the ball physics, making the game faster and frantic and more fun. The additions to FUT are welcome and set up the mode as something to come back to every day, week, and season to snag great rewards to make your team better.
The biggest addition to FIFA 20 comes with VOLTA, which is Portuguese for “the return,” marking the revival of street football for the series. The VOLTA mode has four sub-modes, including a story mode that allows you to take your created player into the competitive world of streetball. Matches are played on rooftops, playgrounds, in small gymnasiums, and even bigger arenas. Matches are 3v3 (no goalkeepers), 4v4, 5v5, and more, and games are fast-paced and intimate. In enclosed pitches, you can use the walls to angle passes to open teammates, giving FIFA 20 an arcade feel without sacrificing the realism of the game itself.
VOLTA characters (both male and female) can be fully customized, down to the tattoos on their bodies and an unlockable skill tree. The story mode features your player joining a street squad and taking the show on the road to compete in tournaments around the world. The cut scenes are fully rendered, with pretty solid voice acting. One complaint is that my created American player speaks with a British accent, which ruins the illusion that it’s me on the pitch. Why offer so many great player creations tools (there are sliders aplenty) while only offering one voice option?
In addition to VOLTA’s story mode, there are VOLTA World and VOLTA League modes. VOLTA World allows you to jump around the globe, playing in tournaments to earn skill points and prizes. You can even recruit a player from another team that you defeat. These squads are made up of other player-created teams that are controlled by AI. So, if a gamer in Brazil has a superstar on their VOLTA squad, you can recruit them to your side with a win. Honestly, I’ve spent the most time with this mode in because it amps up the fun and offers alluring rewards as you go on.
VOLTA league is an online multiplayer tournament where you play matches against real squads, again racking up rewards for how well you perform. VOLTA as a whole could have very easily been a standalone game in and of itself, and after a few hours of playing, you’ll see why. It’s incredibly deep, full of features, and above all else, fun to play. I’d even go so far to say that VOLTA is the most fun I’ve had while playing FIFA 20, and it’s the mode I go back to every time I boot it up.
FIFA 20 is stocked from top to bottom with exciting game modes, both new and returning, and it’s these modes that makes it worth playing. This is perhaps the biggest challenge with an annual sports title; how do you keep it fresh when the sport itself hasn’t changed? EA delivers with Ultimate Teams and modes like VOLTA and offers players something new, all while keeping the core game intact.
Soccer/football fans around the world clamor for realism in their sports games, and EA has delivered this year. The level of realism at play here, coupled with the extensive overhaul to tried-and-true game modes and the newly-included VOLTA, makes FIFA 20 a must-play for soccer fans. Better yet, it’s likely to bring new fans to the sport, which makes it all that more impressive.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. A review copy was provided to us by Electronic Arts.