For years now EA’s FIFA franchise has dominated the football game market. Sure it’s biggest rival is PES, which, arguably is the more pure simulation of “the beautiful game” but FIFA’s slick presentation, various game modes and one the best story modes ever to grace a sports game has made it a near unstoppable beast. In FIFA 19 that trend continues but rather than rest on their laurels, EA have once again shown that they know how to keep innovating. Thus once again they are keeping all challengers at bay in the race to be the go to football experience for gamers.
I’m gonna start out right at the end. Yes dear readers, I’m afraid to say that The Journey: Champions is the final chapter for Alex Hunter, his half-sister Kim Hunter and that lovable larrikin, Danny Williams. Over the last couple of years I have absolutely loved The Journey and following the rise of Alex Hunter. The stories that were told have been engaging and well written. The Journey has delivered in my opinion at least, the best story mode ever to grace a sports game.
In The Journey: Champions you’ll get the opportunity to play all three story arcs and you can flick between them. The game will suggest when’s the best time to switch. Fear not, you could go through each individually if you want. That being said, I recommend making use of the switch suggestions as it’s the most engaging way to see these three characters go through their stories. To the fine people at EA thanks for delivering such a fine story experience. The tagline is “every journey must end” but I hope this isn’t the last time we see a Journey mode.
Now, The Journey: Champions aside I’m going to warn you this may not be the longest review ever written on FIFA. The reason for that? Well if you’re reading this, like me, you’ve probably been playing FIFA for years. The core game at heart is the same and much of what you’ve seen in FIFA over the last few years is still there. So rather than rabbit on about stuff you already know about, I’m gonna focus more on what’s new.
When you load up FIFA 19 for the first time you’re thrown straight into a match. That’s the same as last year but what’s different is you’re thrown into a Champions League match. That’s right folks, EA have added the rights to the Champions League. The presentation is slick and striking. The Champions League anthem blares over the top of a boisterous crowd and commentators Derek Rae and Lee Dixon take us through the teams. It might just be an introductory game but that real-life broadcast feel is more present than ever.
For those not after anything long-term and looking for a casual FIFA fling, house rules are a welcome new addition. House rules allow gamers to set up criteria on how the game is going to play and how goals are counted. For example if long-range rip snorters of goals are your thing then you can make goals only count from when their outside of the box. Wanna bring some Fortnite or PUBG style Battle Royale fun to your Football experience? You can play a match whereby scoring a goal results in a random player from the goal scoring team being taken from the field. Custom commentary for these modes adds to the presentation and shows EA continue to spare no expense for the premier franchise.
Another new addition is Division Rivals. This new mode, aimed at the casual player takes place over 7 days and gives you points from each game. You’ll move up and down your division and earn a few rewards along the way. You’ll also pick up FIFA Ultimate Team Champions points which can help you qualify for the Weekend League.
Now that I’ve mentioned Ultimate Team let’s talk about EA’s much maligned part of FIFA. I hate these types of modes, I really do. It doesn’t matter how you dress the pig, it’s still a pig. In this case, it doesn’t matter how you dress up Ultimate Team it’s still designed to milk gamers off their hard earned money after they’ve already forked over good coin for the game itself. For all the negatives I will give EA credit for working to overhaul pack buying in FIFA 19. Before you purchase a pack you’ll now see the odds of acquiring some half decent players. For reference, your chances of getting a player above 84 sit in the vicinity of 4.5%. I doubt putting the odds up is going to dissuade FIFA crazies, I mean loyalists from paying for packs but I applaud the transparency.
Matchmaking has received a tweak in FIFA 19 as well. Gamers will have “form” and matchmaking aims to pit form players against each other. out of form players will also play against each other. The idea being that the online is more competitive, and for some possibly even more depressing if you’re so out of form you can’t even beat other out of form players.
Gameplay wise, FIFA has shined for years and it continues to do so. Sure, PES has its number on a more simulation style of play but FIFA remains a thoroughly enjoying experience. What has been improved is the pacing of games. Games can get pretty intense at times but it never feels too fast. Dynamic tactics add to the gameplay and allow the more hardcore Football fans to get a bit more tactical out on the pitch.
An active touch system has been developed for FIFA 19 and is perhaps the biggest improvement of this years addition. If you wanted a swag of options for ball control and the ability to add more personality to your players then you’re in luck. The system is slick and can get you out of a bind with a quick touch. Combine that with dynamic tactics and you’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Whilst FIFA 19 hasn’t re-invented the wheel with FIFA 19 it has done enough to improve what it already a stellar Football experience. Career and Pro modes may not have received an overhaul but where it counts, FIFA 19 nails it. It may feel like iterative changes have been made but they are quite bold for the franchise and FIFA 19 is all the better for it. There can be no argument, FIFA remains firmly atop the Football genre.