FIFA returns in this year with more promises of refined gameplay and a wealth of modes to entertain football fans from all over the world. Once again powered by the Frostbite engine, FIFA 19 looks to improve on last years effort by refining its gameplay to rival Konami’s PES series that has been on top form over the last few years, especially where gameplay is concerned. The last 3 FIFA games have fallen short in many areas and hasn’t quite kept up with the quality that PES has been putting out. This year though EA Sports have promised a more balanced, finely tuned experience along with a beefier campaign that sees the Alex Hunter trilogy, The Journey come to a close.
Let’s start with The Journey then and to start off, it is definitely a longer more filled out experience as not only do we see the conclusion of Alex’ story but we also get to experience the story of how his sisters career pans out and also how ‘The Williams’ fairs in getting his career back on track. With so much going on it’s easy to get lost in the brilliant characters and story telling that The Journey offers and it’s as good this years as it has been since it started 3 years ago. Again, it’s well written and well performed with every character giving a convincing performance in their roles. As always there are training scenarios to complete as well as the in match objectives that the story sets out in front of you. There is a little slow dip in the middle but all in all it offers an engaging and satisfying experience that I enjoyed immensely. There are some dialogue choices that has claims attached to it that it impacts the story, but it really doesn’t, not to the extent it will have you believe anyway. For anyone who has enjoyed The Journey so far, I think will enjoy this conclusion of Alex’ story.
As for the other game modes on offer, there hasn’t really been many changes. The career mode either as manager or as a player is pretty much as you were from last year with just a few tiny little optional additions that don’t really impact anything too much, but in all fairness the career modes in FIFA are pretty good as is and nothing can really be changed to improve them much more than what they have already. They’re enjoyable, addictive and offer a pretty substantial and lengthy experience that offline players will no doubt enjoy. The main changes to offline modes has come in the way of the ‘Play Now’ mode that sees a bunch of new ways to play. Included in this mode is the option of a last man standing scenario where a player from a team is taken out of the match when their team score a goal and as the stand out addition, it’s a whole lot of fun. There are other little Addison’s to the ‘Play Now’ mode including certain objectives that can be set, custom match types and playing in a cup final straight away. It’s added some freshness to a mode that seems to get overlooked but EA Sports have added some great things to it this year.
Gameplay this year in FIFA 19 has been improved in certain areas that it fell short on last year and the year before. Passing isn’t as stiff as it has been before and the shooting has been drastically improved with power shots and finesse shots feeling more finely tuned and both now have advantages of using them in certain situations. The shooting feels a lot more in the players’ control and timing is key, especially when drilling a 30 yard screamer. How you execute this depends on how brave you’re feeling as there is an extra little mechanic that enables the player to press the shoot button again, the second time being just as the player kicks the ball. Time this right and it puts more power and accuracy to the shot, increasing the chances of scoring and putting the goalie under extra pressure. Get your timing wrong however and you’ll have to go searching for the ball in row Z. It’s a neat little addition and adds a new dynamic to the shooting mechanics. The ball plays a bigger part this year as well with more of a realistic physic that mimics real life football. Timing shots or passes with the flight, spin or position of the ball will determine how accurate these are pulled off and makes things all the more satisfying when executed accurately.
There are some small things that unfortunately don’t work as well as they probably should and can be a slight hindrance at times. Corners still seem to have trigger points with specific areas that are not defendable against the attacking opponents which only happens at a certain point and position. This I’m sure can be updated in the future as a similar thing happened last year and EA Sports corrected it with an update. Standing Tackles feel sluggish this year and aren’t impactful enough at times even when winning the ball and the AI can be a little sporadic in its movement at times too, almost stopping in their tracks half way through a run causing some passes to go astray. These are very little annoyances and don’t impact things too much or are as regular as they have been in past games though. Overall FIFA 19 plays the best a FIFA game has for a very long time, it’s responsive and plays a really good game of football. With the fine tuning to passing, crossing and shooting this year, FIFA 19 offers some brilliant moments and it’s gameplay is really good overall.
Where FIFA always prevails though is in its broadcast quality presentation and licenses. Making its return to the series in a long time is the UEFA Champions League and a welcome return it is too with EA Sports capturing the essence of the competition brilliantly. Stadiums, team licenses, updated club kits and player likenesses are all fantastic as they always are and look more detailed than they ever have. Animations have been overhauled this year too and players move a lot more naturally than they have in the past and it all looks smooth and fluid, also showing some real emotion in players faces with more purpose when taking shots or shouting at the referee, more so than ever before in the series. It does fall short though in some of the player likenesses and this lets FIFA down almost every year with a fair few of the players still looking the same in the game as they did 6 years ago. Some players haven’t had an update applied to their likeness despite their real life counterparts looking more aged or with different hairstyles etc which is still a little disappointing. Despite this though FIFA 19 still looks great and captures the excitement of the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A to name but a few with incredible authenticity.
Audio is also fantastic as it always is this year and with an added commentary team for the Champions League games and a nice cameo from a football commentating legend in The Journey, FIFA 19 sounds better than ever. Crowds come to life in more ways than one this year too with more crowd animations and chants than there have ever been. Each club have their fan chants recreated brilliantly and it really adds to the already fantastic atmosphere. Ultimate Team returns this year too and despite those nasty microtransactions that are present in every EA Sports title, I have always stated that while I don’t agree with them, FIFA has always done a good job of making these as non intrusive as possible and it’s the same this year. Yes, they’re there but EA Sports have added even more ways, more accessible ways to earn gold, silver or bronze packs with things like Squad Battles, Squad Building Challenges and the new online mode called Rivals. There is certainly plenty of opportunities to earn these rewards in these modes and there really isn’t any need to spend any more money if you really don’t want to. Ultimate Team is packed out massively this year so if you’re in to this mode then you won’t be disappointed with what it has to offer.
In terms of its online multiplayer, FIFA has always been a solid performer in this department but this year I have so far encountered a few issues. While most of the time it’s solid while playing online I did suffer the dreaded slow down/speed up scenario on a few occasions which caused me to lose a goal or two in a few of the matches. This didn’t happen in every match but it was certainly frustrating when it did occur. I am sure this is something that EA Sports will rectify going forward as their server maintenance happens regularly and I am confident it will be sorted. Apart from those little instances though FIFA is still great fun online and despite the little hiccups it was pretty consistent in its connection overall. Matchmaking is quick and pretty seamless regardless of which mode you’re going online with as it offers a whole host of different competitive online modes to get your teeth in to. Overall FIFA 19 is the best game in the series for a few years and while it still has its little issues EA Sports have addressed a lot of past games criticisms as it plays great, looks great and has a wealth of content that is sure to keep players busy for a very long time. EA Sports, they’re back in the game.