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Game review | The FIFA 21 footballing extravaganza comes with a hefty price tag

FIFA 21 doesn’t feel like a huge upgrade but improvements in the gameplay and access to latest squads have their own appeal

FIFA 21 features Paris Saint-Germain and French striker Kylian Mbappé, seen in this in-game screenshot, as its new cover star. (Courtesy: EA)

With the video gaming frenzy at an all-time high due to the covid-19 pandemic lockdowns across the world, EA Sports’ latest game in the cult FIFA series could not have come at a better time. There’s also a new cover featuring Paris Saint-Germain and French striker Kylian Mbappé.

Though marketed as a new game with the usual price tag expected of a AAA game, FIFA 21 feels more like an incremental update. This might work in favour of rival game developer Konami since they are not offering this year’s eFootball PES 2021 as a new game. It was released as a season upgrade with a much lower starting price of 800. FIFA 21, on the other hand, starts at 3,999. In addition to being available for PC, Xbox One and the PS4, the game is going to be available on Nintendo Switch too.

FIFA 21 seems familiar in many ways. Right from the game's busy landing page to the tile-based interface, it looks just like its predecessor with slight changes in decor. The lighter pink background has been replaced with shades of blue. There are no additional game modes. The game revolves around 'Volta Football', 'Ultimate Team' and 'Career Mode' with minor updates to each of them. Volta Football comes with new playing locations and customisation options. Career mode has a more elaborate player development program and training schedule system. The new match sharpness indicator gives you better insights and can help identify players who need more training in the squad.

Career mode has always been a big deal in FIFA games. After making it more interactive last year, with features like pre- and post-match conferences, where comments by managers had a direct effect on players and team morale, EA Sports hasn’t taken the next step forward. The feature has been retained without any noticeable upgrades. For instance, most interactions -- be it a manager’s address and response to press queries or transfer talks with a potential target and team representatives -- are still muted and show up only as on-screen captions.

The visible changes in FIFA 21 are few and far between, but the game offers several smaller upgrades that are aimed at improving the in-match experience. Attacking mode seems a lot more coordinated and players feel more positionally aware and responsive, which makes them react faster to a user’s commands. The addition of new skill moves such as ‘roll ball fake’, among others, is a welcome move.

Defence and tackling feel a lot more intuitive, even though defending has been tougher in new FIFA games as there are separate buttons for tackling and pressing, as compared to the PES series where they are combined in one button.

In terms of in-match graphics, FIFA 21 has a slightly sombre look with more restrained and natural colours as compared to its predecessor. Player faces have been improved to show more detail but stadium renderings feel more or less the same.

Even though FIFA 21 doesn’t feel like a huge upgrade, especially not worth the price tag it demands, the minor improvements to visuals and gameplay and access to the latest squads have their own appeal. The fact that EA Sports has managed to sell millions of copies of new FIFA titles in recent years with these little upgrades shows that the series still retains its charm over football fans.

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