It gets harder to write a FIFA review with each passing year.
Such is the iterative nature of an annualised series that a lot of what’s been written in the past can also be applied year-after-year. That’s not a bad thing, mind, as it’s almost always glowing praise. EA Sports Canada has got its ducks in a row with regards to how it improves upon FIFA’s mechanics and its suite of features just enough to make it a worthwhile investment for football fans the world over.
FIFA 19 Is As Polished As Ever
And naturally, this year is no exception – with some well-worn caveats, that is. Despite being as polished as ever, the driving force behind FIFA 19‘s success or failure naturally lies within its gameplay and despite some shifts it’s still something that very much requires work.
Top of EA Sports’ lists of changes this year is the game’s shooting, touting ‘Timed Finishing’ as something of particular note; a system whereby a tap of the shoot button is followed up with a second ‘timed’ hit that, if done correctly, can result in spectacular goals, but on the flip side, if done incorrectly can have the ball trickling 25 yards wide. It’s a more engaging and manual way of taking shots on.
And though a welcome change to proceedings, ‘Timed Finishing’ does feel a little half-baked, and never really feels like a viable challenge to competitor Pro Evolution Soccer’s near-flawless shooting mechanics. Moreover, finesse shooting feels decidedly overpowered in this iteration so it’s likely you’ll forgo the new timed mechanic in favour of that anyway.
Additionally, while comparing the two, the introduction of new ball trapping and touch techniques does go a long way to injecting a sense of tenacious unpredictability which has become a hallmark of developer Konami’s offering but it again falls short of the mark of being something truly transformative for the series.
FIFA 19 Gameplay Is Totally Familiar
In actuality, despite protestations by EA Sports Canada FIFA 19’s gameplay really isn’t that much different to that of last year’s entry and it’s a shame given the framework is there for a more defined revolution. There are new ways of changing tactics on the fly and pre-empting situations before they arise on the pitch but the fundamentals are sadly lacking where they matter most.
If you’re not typically online-inclined by way of ‘Seasons’ or its Ultimate Team counterpart and much prefer the competiveness and trash talk component of a good couch co-op tussle, FIFA 19 has also introduced a new selection of match day modifiers known as ‘House Rules’ that really help shake up your average 90-minute match.
FIFA 19 New Features
Akin to a custom rule set in first-person shooters like ‘Headshots Only’ House Rules allows you to play matches in scenarios such as going a man down every time you score a goal, no rules, (where fouls, offsides, or cards aren’t present) headers & volleys only, (a personal favourite) or even a parameter where goals outside the box count as two as opposed to one – it’s times like this you wish Juninho was still plying his trade in some obscure league just for that quality alone because he’s definitely still got it.
Though presumably a simple enough inclusion from a developmental perspective, House Rules really does provide a much welcome distraction from the regular kick-off mode, and harkens back to the halcyon playground days of playing games like ‘Red Ass’ and other such hardened variants of The Beautiful Game – sometimes it’s just better forgo tap-ins for some seriously speculative 30-yarders, regardless if they go in once in 100 attempts.
FIFA 19: The Journey Continues
The Journey – FIFA’s rags-to-riches campaign mode – also returns for its third season and provides a welcome, if a little tedious, distraction from the game’s main offerings. The beginning is of particular note as you play as Hunter’s grandfather in the game against Coventry where he scored his 100th goal – complete with a muddied rain-trodden pitch, hard tackles, and the iconic tones of a certain John Motson in the gantry.
That said, aside from some highlights, the mode does drag on a little and it’s no surprise that EA Sports has decided to can Hunter’s story after this year’s entry. It’s unclear, however, whether, the mode itself will continue with a different protagonist but in all honesty we’d rather attention was focused elsewhere next time.
With that being said, a criticism we’ve consistently leveled at FIFA is the lack of real development with ‘Career Mode’ and it’s much the same this year – it’s genuinely beggar belief that EA Sports’ has abandoned any substantial attempt at improving a mode that’s got such potential in favour of incremental updates to more favoured modes like Ultimate Team.
Though the developer obviously has the data to support which modes players interact with most, Career Mode is a staple for offline players and to see it neglected – despite the immense potential – for so long is a real shame and borderline unacceptable at this stage. You just have to look at the production values in The Journey to see what sort of avenues you could go down. Perhaps with the closure of Alex Hunter’s story this year we might get some attention directed at Career Mode going forward.
Of course, FIFA 19’s feather in the cap is the new Champions League licensing and that’s front and centre on the list of Career Mode improvements but it’s at best superficial not an actual shift in how everything plays out. Likewise, there hasn’t been any substantial change to FIFA’s flagship mode, Ultimate Team, aside from a new head-to-head ‘Division Rivals’ mode, but it’s not likely to matter to folk who have their feet wet in what’s become a phenomenon over the years.
For new entrants into the fray, and to be honest many others, FIFA 19 will feel like a complete package – a faithful representation of the sport we know and love, completes with unparalleled bells, whistles, and licensing and enough mode depth to satiate the masses. And to a degree it absolutely is that. But to those pining for something more revolutionary – namely more refined gameplay a la Pro Evolution Soccer and a better stab at mainstays like Career Mode – it looks like we’ll be waiting at least another year. And to be fair, we’ll still be playing this entry until then.