FIFA 19 Review

FIFA 19 Review

Last Updated on by Daniel Lawrence

The foundation of the FIFA brand has always been built on two things: presenting a fun, free-scoring game of football and offering unparalleled authenticity. With its addition of a few tweaks to the gameplay formula, FIFA 19 refines rather than reinvents it, while with the inclusion of the Champions League, the game takes a giant leap forward.

The gameplay innovation in FIFA 19 is precision ball control, which is used to create new openings with subtle movements, body feints, and fancy flicks. In addition to every successful piece of control, there is an equal amount of miscontrol as the ball escapes you. At first, it’s a rough game, with balls bouncing off the knees, chests, and heads of supposed professionals. However, once the right analog is mastered, the free-flowing football (leading the ball away from you the first time) creates some of the game’s most exciting moments. A first-time shot that runs across your body or is flicked adds a new level of satisfaction to attacking play.

The act of flicking the ball before hitting a first-time shot makes attacking play more satisfying.

FIFA 19 Review

A complex finishing mechanic is similar to Gears of War’s active reload mechanic, which adds an extra layer of risk to any goal threat. The feature is activated by pressing shoot a second time after powering up a shot, just before the ball is struck. With the right technique, the shot will explode, and although it doesn’t guarantee a goal, it certainly increases the odds. A slight error, however, and the player embarrassingly fumbles the shot. In the end, I believe that the reward of this system didn’t justify the risk when shooting the traditional way still works so well.

It’s encouraging to see that 50/50 battles are now decided based both on the timing of tackles and the attributes of the players involved. Being beaten by stronger opponents repeatedly can be frustrating, but the game reflects real life more accurately than previous editions. As a result, I was able to judge whether to challenge for a loose ball much better than I did with the old system.

In other places, passing accuracy is much less automatic. Although the resulting imprecision takes some getting used to, it’s a welcome change from the laser-precision passes of FIFA 18. At this pace, there is no longer an easy route to goal, and even a player as quick as Leroy Sané has to check back occasionally when a chasing fullback catches up to him.

The emphasis is more on finding and using space properly, instead of relying on a player with 96 sprint speed to breeze past defenders and win you matches. Furthermore, strength has become a much more important stat for winning and keeping possession of the ball, but agility has been somewhat sidelined, with some players resembling Sherman tanks when performing tight turns. In the end, FIFA 19’s lavish presentation results in a much more authentic football game through its slower pace.

FIFA’s fidelity has long been the company’s calling card, and it’s welcome that the Champions League has joined the FIFA lineup, taking away Pro Evolution Soccer’s one licensing bragging right over a perennial rival. In Europe’s premier club competition, all the pomp and circumstance are present.

Every aspect of the tournament is accurately recreated, from the instantly recognizable introduction music to the graphic overlays throughout the season. Each match setting was extremely accurate, and I found myself constantly impressed by the level of detail in the game.

In addition to the Champions League, there are 16 new stadiums in La Liga that have carefully reproduced atmospheres. It is refreshing and enjoyable to play at each different venue. Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium has even been fully built before construction on the real thing has been completed in North London, a testament to EA’s effort to recreate football’s most iconic venues.

It is always refreshing to watch a match in a different venue.

FIFA 19 Review

Furthermore, the players inside the stadiums look better than ever: small details, like beads of sweat on their foreheads or the slight rustle of their shirts on a windy day, add to the atmosphere. Despite their fluidity, they appear to sense and react to the ball and other players around them. As a result, defenders will back into opposing forwards to shepherd the ball out of play and will find new ways to trap the ball if it comes to them at an awkward angle, making them feel more human as they rise to the occasion more naturally. As the game progresses, players appear to tire more, making the experience more realistic.

There are two new commentators for the UEFA competitions: Derek Rae and Lee Dixon. Neither will offer much tactical insight, but it is always nice to have another voice to compare with Alan Smith’s monotone drawl. As part of the career mode, the Champions League (and its little brother, the Europa League), as well as the Kick-Off menu, which allows you to play each stage of the tournament independently, are woven into every game mode. A live content update integration with Ultimate Team is promised, but at this point, it is unclear whether this will be more than simple FUT cards.

In the past, FIFA’s Kick-Off mode offered little more than standard exhibition matches, but it has been revamped this year with nine new game modes. FIFA’s House Rules section is similar to Overwatch’s Arcade. To varying degrees of success, match types such as these introduce new rule subsets to the core 90-minute match experience. Some of the games are straight from the playground, like Headers & Volleys, while others bring a more anarchic edge to the beautiful game, like No Rules. Offsides, fouls, and bookings aren’t enabled, so this quickly descends into chaos. However, it is good fun.

As part of the current battle royale zeitgeist, Survival Mode is the most enjoyable addition to this game. It consists of ejecting players from your team randomly after you score a goal, giving the trailing team an advantage. Due to their evolving nature, these matches offer much more depth than others due to the different tactical approaches you can take. When you attack heavily at the start, you are at a disadvantage later on, with reduced numbers and dwindling stamina. Could you nick a goal at the end in order to keep all 11 players on the field as long as possible? While playing numerous matches against the CPU and other players, I never got tired of it.

In contrast to traditional matches, House Rules is a breath of fresh air.

FIFA 19 Review

In some respects, these new modes restore some of the quirkiness that has been lost over the last two decades since FIFA ’97 briefly introduced indoor football. Compared to traditional matches, House Rules are a breath of fresh air. Despite the fact that many of the modes are exclusive to offline play (and bafflingly so), they’re a welcome addition, especially when both Career Mode and Pro Clubs remain unattended.

There are also not many changes to Ultimate Team this time around, including controversial microtransactions. You can compete against others of a similar skill level for weekly rewards in Division Rivals, a new mode. Although it provides more structure to how you spend your time in FUT, it does not really add much. A 16-hour campaign that’s more soap opera than Sopranos, concludes Alex Hunter’s story in its third (and final?) year.

As the characters face their own challenges, Journey: Champions tells three separate stories. Galactico Alex is settling into stardom in Madrid; his sister Kim is juggling schoolwork and her role as a World Cup star; and Danny Williams is at odds with the people around him, a parody of a Premier League footballer. In particular, his estranged brother, who is one twirly mustache away from looking like a 1920s Hollywood villain.

The story, which can be played as one interconnected narrative or divided into three threads, is bookended by some of the most compelling scenes in any of The Journey’s modes. However, it suffers from a second chapter that’s way too long and could have been done without the repetitive training drills and post-match interview scenes, which are frustrating to watch. There was a definite lack of variety, and I was especially disappointed that none of the new House Rules modes were included.

As a heavily scripted story, The Journey hides a thin veil of choice, both on and off the pitch.

Unfortunately, you seem to make choices without consequence, with key decisions having little impact. I had to decide how “The Williams” should represent his new sponsor, a fictional fish and chip shop chain called McMillan’s. Would it be a photoshoot or a radio advertisement? I never saw any repercussions from this so-called “monumental decision.”

This is a heavily scripted story concealed behind a thin veil of choice, both on and off the pitch. Although promising, the story falls into the pitfalls of ox-bow lake-style storytelling. In the end, every player will play a very similar campaign with a couple of different endings, and even getting a life lesson from Neymar feels like a chore.