FIFA 21 review: “Textbook finishes followed up with head-scratching own goals”

Despite the series’ esteemed history, the systematic dismantling of FIFA across social media has never been more popular. Mentions of FIFA 20 being unfun to play flooded Twitter and Insta throughout the game’s lifespan. In some areas, the relentless sniping and griping was justified: AI defending, the “drop back” instruction, heading’s near-total ineffectiveness. Mercifully, FIFA 21 does make some much-needed improvements. But as PS5 and Xbox Series X approach, current-gen delivers another case of textbook finishes followed up with head-scratching own-goals. 

Ultimatum Team

FIFA 21 review

(Image credit: EA Sports)

For the best part of the last decade, FIFA’s flagship mode has been Ultimate Team. The concept has stayed the same throughout; build your custom squad consisting of any players you like from most major leagues around the world and compete online. You obtain these players by either opening packs – mainly bought with real money because the grind to attain enough coins without financial investment is enough for a full-time job – or trading on the transfer market. Small iterations have come into play, like the removal of formation cards and introduction of squad building challenges, but for the most part, Ultimate Team is the same mode it’s always been.

The majority of Ultimate Team play is still focused on the packs you buy using in-game microtransactions, and the same gulfs can be found between different player styles – those who dedicate all their free time to making a profit in the transfer market, those who drop a staggering amount on these packs and can flip players for a profit due to sheer quantity, and the few who have gotten incredibly lucky from packs bought with coins earned in-game. The overwhelming majority of FIFA fans won’t experience the elation of seeing Prime Icon Ronaldo walk out with fanfare, but will see an 84-rated goalkeeper countless times.

FIFA 21 review

(Image credit: EA Sports)

With all that said, Ultimate Team has improved in certain areas too. The fitness mechanic has been removed entirely, meaning your players are always at full strength going into every match. Hoarding fitness cards like a squirrel with nuts or having a back-up “fitness team” are things of the past. Stadium customisation is here too; from goal songs and crowd chants to pyrotechnics and stadium paint colour, your home ground is now yours.


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