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REVIEW: FIFA 21 as played by someone who doesn't like or understand football

By Rory Cashin

October 7, 2020 at 4:26pm


"I'm impressed that they've managed to make 21 of these so far..."

As people who know me can attest to, and as you'll find out very quickly, I don't know or like football. I just don't get it. I've seen friends and family get more worked up about football matches than about politics or religion. I'm part of WhatsApp groups that descend into anarchy when the football is on. It is a running joke of friends of mine to ask my opinion on a player, and my response, regardless of the player, is always "I don't like him, all he does is try to walk it in". I'm only about 50% sure I know what that sentence even means.

I do really like video games, but have successfully managed to completely avoid playing the FIFA series to date, although even I'm impressed that they've managed to make 21 of these so far... (Yes, that is a joke). EA sent a review copy, and I'm sure I don't need to convince anyone who is already into football and FIFA about the pros and cons of buying this game, because I'm sure they're already buying this.

But what about everyone else? Is there any room in the world of FIFA gaming for those who don't know/like/understand football? Well, that is what I booted up the game to find out... (booted up, football LOL)

The game loaded and it went straight into a game. I didn't push any buttons to start one, it just launched into one without invitation or warning. Fair enough, good way to get involved, right in the deep end. I'm the red guys, I guess. I know the general point is to get the ball into the net on the other end of the pitch. I keep passing and moving right until the blue guys take the ball away from me, and head the other way and I chase after them.

I get the ball back and there is suddenly some loud shouting outside of my house. I keep pushing the ... kick button? ... while I look out the window to see what is going on. My curiosity satisfied, there is suddenly some loud shouting happening on the telly. The game ... narrator? ... seemed very enthusiastic about my actions, but I've no idea what I was doing. Apparently I've scored a goal. I'm winning. Cool.

After that, it is on to the main menu, and the sheer volume of options available to me is overwhelming. There is Career Mode and VOLTA and FIFA Ultimate Team, and each one of these breaks down into multiple more options. I'm told that the new game has huge advancements in "agile dribbling", "positioning personality", "creative runs", "natural collision systems" and the "fundamentals of football". Very little of that means anything at all to me, so I just follow the path of least resistance to what I think will get me playing another match as quickly as possible.

Pressing the X button to pretty much everything, I quickly realise that I am Arsenal at home against Aston Villa. I follow the same strategy that got me a goal in that first game, but it doesn't appear to be working here. Aston Villa took the ball away from me pretty quickly, and before long they've almost scored three different times. Almost, but all close misses. I start to think if they're missing on purpose because they know I'm no good at this. Is the football player AI capable of sympathy? Is this how The Terminator starts?

I rarely manage to get the ball into Aston Villa's half of the pitch, and my waning interest is beginning to catch up to my lack of ability. I check to see how long it has been since I turned the game on. Fifteen minutes? Is that all?? Jesus Christ. I consider turning the game off, but instead I do the smart thing and passed it to someone who actually enjoys playing these FIFA games (passed it, football LOL), and it is like a completely different experience.

They take to the game so quickly, so fluidly, and they're enjoying playing so much, so in awe of the potential of those options I found so intimidating, that I see the FIFA world doesn't need to win me over. It already has so many fans, one less isn't really going to make any difference.

FIFA 21 will be launched on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch on Friday, October 9, and will be available on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and Stadia later in the year.

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