With limited competition coming from Pro Evolution Soccer, the FIFA series has been able to stagnate in recent years. New installments largely focused on minor improvements rather than wholesale changes. That is still very much the case with FIFA 19, but there has been more of a shakeup than you might have expected.
Over the last decade or so, EA has focused on making the FIFA series look as realistic as possible. Every iteration has aimed at trying to replicate the sport as closely as possible. The developer has taken a different approach with this game. They’ve finally realized that the reason people love soccer is because it is entertaining. Accordingly, EA has opted to bring the fun with FIFA 19.
The main way that this is manifested comes with the newly-introduced House Rules system. After selecting a match from the kick off menu, you have the chance to add modifiers such as headers and volleys or long range. In total, there are five different options to choose from and they drastically change the way the game is played. Those two examples force players to mix up how they score goals, as only those from outside the penalty area or hit without touching the floor will count.
Things get even more interesting with some of the other house rules. Survival adds an interesting dynamic by removing a player from the scoring team every time there is a goal. It helps to even the teams out and stops better players from running away with games, as they just won’t have the manpower on the pitch to show utilize their quality.
The final modifier is simply named No Rules, and it is exactly what you would expect. There is no referee and absolutely anything goes. Getting rid of the laws of the game might not sound like a great idea, but it is genuinely a blast. Being able to wipe out your friend’s players without any punishment is great fun.
Another very welcome addition is that FIFA 19 keeps track of players, giving stats on how many matches each user profile has played and how they have fared against each other. While this is far from groundbreaking, it is a nice touch. Those who often play against the same people on the same console will always know exactly who has the bragging rights. It is just another example of how EA has really set about to emphasize the things that made the FIFA series so popular in the first place.
Ultimate Team has been the most prominent game mode in FIFA since it was first introduced almost 10 years ago. It has become something of a cash cow for EA. It should as no surprise then that it is one of the areas where further improvements have been made. These have largely come in the form of improvements to the user interface. It is now easier to navigate to all of the areas, a useful addition considering how many menus there are in this mode.
It also seems the developers have listened to some concerns about the gambling-like aspect of Ultimate Team. They now show odds when you buy a pack, letting you know how likely you are to get certain types of cards for the money you are spending. The tiny percentages on display might well put more people off splashing their income on the virtual cards.
Other Game Modes
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the other game modes. Career mode is definitely beginning to show some cracks. Even the inclusion of the Champions League does little to paper over them.
Pro Clubs is in a similar position. This is largely due to the fact that EA has simply put its resources elsewhere, leaving this game modes to stagnate.
Meanwhile, The Journey brings back Alex Hunter and his sister Kim, concluding his story. Despite the impressive acting and cinematic cutscenes, everything feels very cliché. Unless you feel particularly invested in this story, you can really give it a miss.
In terms of the actual football, FIFA 19 feels smoother than its most recent predecessors. Passing is crisp and players can clatter into each other in a way not previously possible thanks to the new physics. This has also contributed to more believable animations for the players as they travel around the pitch. A more expanded tactical system also helps to give you more control of the action and how games ebb and flow.
Perhaps the biggest change in gameplay is with a new mechanic known as timed finishing. If you can correctly time a second press of the shoot button just as your player’s foot connects with the ball, it will be a far more powerful and accurate shot. Mess this up, though, and you can expect to hit some poor spectator in the crowd. This inclusion will likely cause some controversy among fans but does add a welcome element of risk and reward to proceedings.
With games that release annually, it usually boils down to whether there have been enough changes and improvements to justify shelling out your money yet again. FIFA 19 is easily the best entry in this series in some time. Even little details like degrading grass as matches progress or the player’s shirts becoming dirty show how much effort EA has put into making it look and feel as great as possible.