FIFA 21 – My Thoughts Pre-Release

Ultimately the main point of this article comes down to this:

“Will I be buying FIFA 21”

The answer is no. Not a permanent no, but I definitely will be waiting for a while before jumping in and buying it.

FIFA 20 was my first new FIFA since FIFA 17. Had I done my due diligence before insta-buying the deal for FIFA 20 I saw on eBay I would have noticed that since FIFA 16/17 the standard of EA’s footballing game has dropped tremendously. In all honesty, I don’t expect I would have bought it had I done a bit of research. I rather enjoyed FIFA 17!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not moaning or saying that “ThIs Is ThE wOrSt FIFA EvEr!?!” I enjoy the feel of it, the weight of the ball and the effect on the players. The on-pitch changes are noticeable enough simply because I hadn’t bought a FIFA since FIFA 17. However, what would put me off are the sheer amount of bugs in the game that are borderline game breaking. The sheer fact that the leagues each season are heavily weighted towards the best teams dominating and the worst teams barely scraping 10 points together. In most leagues there are tense battles for the top and tense battles to stay in. Some seasons yes you’ll see a dominant team, but to see consistently across the leagues near invincible seasons? Not great. I love a good relegation battle too, but instead of the Premier League’s infamous “40 point target” it’s now more get over 25 and you’ll probably be fine. Past FIFA’s were criticised because a team such as Liverpool would play it’s reserves against you and they’d suffer in the league. It’s funny though because whilst reserves never get played, there are majorly “big” teams in this modern era of football that are finishing in extremely poor places.

Now, it’s worth noting that you can turn FIFA’s gameplay into a somewhat more realistic and tuned version of what you’re after. Take me, I like realistic gameplay so I have sliders that lean the games more to that side. I therefore experience slower gameplay, more natural passing and build ups, with errors from players that feel natural. Now if I was into Ultimate Team, I’m stereotyping here but typically most games are extremely fast paced back and forth scoring lots of goals, or at least that’s the impression I get. The fact that there’s a meta whereby you stop this and just take control of the ball when you’re a goal or 2 up I think adds that it’s unnatural to try and control the game when needed.

To counter this, there are other bugs that simply cannot be controlled with sliders. Take for example the penalty shootouts. Sometimes the AI will reverse their order and have the worst players going first and they’ll all shoot to the same side no matter what. It really takes away when you’re trying to have a realistic experience.

I play other games too. Not just sports either and they all have glitches and bugs, especially on release. But most developers can implement fixes to these. You just don’t see that from EA very often. I do feel for them though (hear me out) people called out saying “Ultimate is too easy” and “Liverpool shouldn’t be relegated in the first season”. The latter I agree with more however it is worth noting, the season after Leicester won the Premier League, they finished 12th. Not exactly consistent at the top, it happens. So they put out fixes, made ultimate into the cheesy mode it is today and made it so that the top teams would consistently destroy the other teams whilst simming. You guys got what you wished for really. But now it seemed that this was too far?

Do I think FIFA 21 will be any different? Short answer, unlikely. I won’t be pre-ordering, and anyone who has researched into this and doesn’t have another reason to purchase FIFA 21 e.g. they make a living producing up to date FIFA content should consider the following. The last 3 FIFA’s have been the lowest customer rated FIFA’s and have dropped each year. That doesn’t happen by chance or just because gamers get salty, it takes a lot to break records and do it year after year for 3 years. These figures are taken directly from metacritic.com. I’ll list all of the FIFA’s “user scores” since FIFA 12 as when you look around Reddit you’ll see that FIFA 12 or FIFA 13 is a consistent basis of the “last good FIFA” some people say FIFA 15 is good too but the more data the better (I’m using the Playstation scores simply because they have, on average, much more scores than the Xbox, this isn’t as true for the earlier versions however the scores are usually similar).

FIFA 12 – 7.2 (350 ratings)
FIFA 13 – 6.7 (400 ratings)
FIFA 14 – 6.3 (700 ratings)
FIFA 15 – 5.5 (1050 ratings)
FIFA 16 – 4.4 (1000 ratings)
FIFA 17 – 4.9 (850 ratings)
FIFA 18 – 3.4 (1000 ratings)
FIFA 19 – 1.9 (1100 ratings)
FIFA 20 – 1.1 (3100 ratings)
FIFA 21 – ??? Will we hit less than 1?

Seeing all that written out is pretty crazy. If I’d looked at this when buying FIFA 17 I might have been put off buying until I saw it outperform FIFA 16 and then possibly buy it. I did further research and looked back to see if I could find when the last time we had reached anywhere near this level before. I found:

FIFA 11 – 8.1 (250 ratings)
FIFA 10 – 7.6 (225 ratings) (got a Metacritic “Must Play” award)
FIFA 09 – 7.5 (100 ratings)
FIFA 08 – 7.1 (50 ratings)
FIFA 07 – 7.8 (68 ratings)

I think this shows that it isn’t a case that this genre gets a bad rep. Maybe 10 years ago we weren’t as fussy? Or less people could easily give their opinions on reviews? The numbers do show a clear increase in the number of scores being given. But maybe people feel the need to score now. Some people don’t feel the need to give raving scores but when a game seriously lets them down they feel it’s necessary to put that score out there. I even checked and the old games haven’t been flooded with reviews in recent times. There are plenty of reviews of people talking very fondly about the games in 2006 and 2007 in a genuine manner. But what alternative do we have? We could try PES which is what some people in the community and previous FIFA pro’s have done, but what are their reviews like? For this I focused on the Playstation community as there are typically much more reviews for that game than the Xbox. E.g. FIFA 20 900 votes to 100.

PES 2020 – 7.7 (900 ratings)
PES 2019 – 6.4 (350 ratings)
PES 2018 – 7.2 (350 ratings)
PES 2017 – 7.3 (600 ratings)
PES 2016 – 7.2 (700 ratings)

Should I carry on? For me it’s clear, we and we see how FIFA 21 goes. If it’s shocking, doesn’t live up to expectation, big bugs, bad user scores, I’m sorry but you have to consider holding yourself accountable and refusing to buy it. Maybe it’s nostalgia that causes us to cling to FIFA? Maybe PES just seems too different from what we’re used to? But seriously, if it looks like FIFA is letting us down again, take some positive steps in your life (god that sounds deep) and try PES for a year. I mean really try it, I mean get as into the career mode as much as you can. Try the online, look up all that you’d look up in FIFA to improve. Help out the PES community, get involved. This coming from a guy who has only ever owned one PES game in his life, PES 06 I think? At the time FIFA just blew it out of the water as they had the infamous “Liverpool Red” or “Manchester Blue”. But now, it’s better it seems. Look go on YouTube and see what everyone is saying and you’ll see why you seriously must consider alternatives now.

As far as this website goes and its posts. I will endeavour to finish the Lille career mode on FIFA 20. Once that’s done I think it will be a good time to review how FIFA 21 has gone. It does look like it will have some promising features. I just hope they’ve fixed what they need to fix and have kept it playable.

If you’ve got some spare time I have gone into further detail below:

I did carry on. See below PES Scores:

PES 2015 – 7.1 (400 ratings)
PES 2014 – 4.0 (300 ratings) – not to provide an excuse but it seems that they had a new game engine that clearly didn’t work well on the first release – judging by the reviews
PES 2013 – 6.9 (150 ratings)
PES 2012 – 8.3 (17 ratings)
PES 2011 – 6.9 (96 ratings)
PES 2010 – 8.0 (17 ratings)
PES 2009 – 7.6 (82 ratings)
PES 2008 – 7.7 (46 ratings)
PES 2007 – 8.9 (49 ratings)

Does that help prove things to you? Remember, the world operates in cycles, something shines for a while and then falls, PES was previously the king of these games, FIFA shone and showed us the way from around 2007 to 2012, it continued to come to the forefront with ultimate team really kicking into overdrive from then and stayed up top because of that. Only recently it is being called out, is it time for PES to shine again?

How about if I put things into lovely tables:

GameScoreGameScoreBest Game?Difference
FIFA 077.8PES 20078.9PES 20071.1
FIFA 087.1PES 20087.7PES 20080.6
FIFA 097.5PES 20097.6PES 20090.1
FIFA 107.6PES 20108PES 20100.4
FIFA 118.1PES 20116.9FIFA 111.2
FIFA 127.2PES 20128.3PES 20121.1
FIFA 136.7PES 20136.9PES 20130.2
FIFA 146.3PES 20144FIFA 142.3
FIFA 155.5PES 20157.1PES 20151.6
FIFA 164.4PES 20167.2PES 20162.8
FIFA 174.9PES 20177.3PES 20172.4
FIFA 183.4PES 20187.2PES 20183.8
FIFA 191.9PES 20196.4PES 20194.5
FIFA 201.1PES 20207.7PES 20206.6

This table shows another concern, does FIFA just get poor grading compared to PES anyway? To that I say, there is definitely evidence there that even in FIFA’s hayday (or at least what I thought were the days when FIFA was better than PES) it scored lower than PES on average. However, what disproves that is the difference column. You can see most differences were insignificant from the 2007 – 2013 games the average difference was just 0.67. For me that’s nothing. For the next 7 games after the average difference was 3.43. That shows that the games each year were found to be majorly different. FIFA 20 was 6.6 lower than PES 2020. FIFA 19 was 4.5 lower than PES 2019

GameScoreGameScore
FIFA 118.1PES 20078.9
FIFA 077.8PES 20128.3
FIFA 107.6PES 20108
FIFA 097.5PES 20087.7
FIFA 127.2PES 20207.7
FIFA 087.1PES 20097.6
FIFA 136.7PES 20177.3
FIFA 146.3PES 20167.2
FIFA 155.5PES 20187.2
FIFA 174.9PES 20157.1
FIFA 164.4PES 20116.9
FIFA 183.4PES 20136.9
FIFA 191.9PES 20196.4
FIFA 201.1PES 20144

Another look at the table with less focus on FIFA vs PES year on year and more on the individual franchises. This is with the scores listed from highest to lowest.
This shows a few things:
2007 and 2010 are both in the top 5 for football, a great year for football sims it seems.

The most recent entry in the top 5 for FIFA is FIFA 12 at 5th, PES has PES 2020 in 5th.

Looking through PES the years seem somewhat random, it’s hard to establish patterns year on year. One thing could be that PES 2012 and older seem to get better reviews than the others; PES 2011 being an exception. You’ll then notice PES 2013 in 12th place, then PES 2014 in rock bottom 14th. PES 2015 comes 9th and then from there you see a steady increase with a blip in PES 2019. There’s no clear pattern for me, it’s quite choppy.

When you look through FIFA I think it’s clear as day. You can almost count in numerical order from FIFA 13. It shows that from FIFA 13 onwards there is consistent decline in ratings hence where this idea that FIFA 12/13 were the last good FIFA’s. What caused this? People blame Ultimate Team, but this was created in 2009 so unless I miss something there’s no clear catalyst. Maybe from FIFA 13 onwards the focus shifted from EA’s perspective but there’s no clear evidence to that other than it seemed a lot of already established modes weren’t shown many new features, or had old features removed and slowly reintroduced. In recent years The Journey series came out, this would have cost EA a lot of that budget to create, as would Volta in FIFA 20. They’ve tried to be innovative and you’ve got to at least give them some credit. Yes they’ve been milking that poor abused Ultimate Team cow as well but it’s arguably been funding these new ventures. It’s a shame because the audience in recent years wasn’t calling out for Volta, the Journey was a great idea and if I remember rightly was a welcome addition for most but seemed poorly executed at times and too linear. A more in depth My Player may have been better. But I’m getting side tracked I could talk about this forever. Point being, they’ve had less money (with money comes labour time too) to invest in making the actual gameplay better – not even talking about the under developed Career mode and Pro Clubs features.

I hope I haven’t bored you stiff with my ramblings. I hope it makes sense? All I’ll say is don’t feel obliged to buy it, if you must have the latest players in the latest teams look at PES. If it’s about playing in the right kits and licenced stadiums ask yourself is it worth buying a game that downright lets you down on so many other areas? If it is then fair enough there isn’t any judgement from me. For me, there is a lot of authenticity in FIFA that PES struggles to compete with. But throw in the issues with large parts of the gameplay, the argued scripted matches, dynamic difficulty, constant bugs whereby it just doesn’t either make sense for players to be saying certain things or just ruining the immersion in general. The list goes on, factor it all in and it’s now very close to the point of asking for something different.

Credit to EA Sports / Electronic Arts for the Featured image – Found through:
https://www.gamespot.com/articles/fifa-21-cover-athlete-and-new-box-art-style-reveal/1100-6480007/
“Official Cover art for FIFA 21, featuring Kylian Mbappé”

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