Review: EA Sports FIFA 19 (PS4)
EA Sports FIFA 19 is now out and the subject of hours of gaming action on consoles and computers worldwide! Now as much a part of the soccer universe as the Barclays Premier League and World Cup, FIFA 19 is the most complete version of the title to date thanks to the long-desired addition of the UEFA Champions League to its many gameplay options. Read on for our World Exclusive review of FIFA 19 on the Sony PlayStation 4.
While the addition of the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League stole the headlines of new features in EA Sports FIFA 19, the game is once again chock full of the tweaks that we’ve come to expect annually. These are the most obvious. We’ll elaborate on them throughout our review.
There are a now a series of gameplay options when selecting a one-off Kick-Off mode match. These are a bit reminiscent of the old FIFA Street video games in feel. For example, you can play a “House Rules” match where you lose a player after you score each goal or in which there are absolutely no rules (fouls and offsides included). The most restrained First To… and is also in the mix. You can be more formal with Best of Series, Home and Away and Cup finals in Kick-Off mode as well.
The way you can control the ball upon receiving it has changed drastically in FIFA 19. You can either be traditional and receive it, dribble or pass as we’ve become used to or flick the right joystick to give the ball a little height (think beach or street soccer) and execute plethora of skills moves such as feint, volley, half-volleys or clearances. Big name player moves (such as Neymar’s Trap are thrown in for good measure. This is a nice addition from EA Sports but requires quite a bit of practice to master since your flick-ups are easy for defenders to intercept.
Team tactics can now be changed and tweaked during matches by using the directional buttons. Gone are the old Counter Attacking, Possession, etc. options. Now you can select Defensive, Balanced Attacking and Ultra Attacking with the left and right directional buttons. Hit the up and down ones to see four options each to fine tune your offence and defense such. They all change the behavior of your team and are great quick tactical updates based the flow of the match. Our favorites are the ability to enable Attacking Fullbacks and an Extra Strike when down late in a game.
Shooting gets sexier, more precise and potentially spectacular in EA Sports FIFA 19 through Time Finishing. Invoking it is simply tapping the shoot button as second time when attempting any shot on target. It works best for one touch moves such as volleys, headers and bicycle kicks. You can keep the FIFA Trainer on when trying it to master the art of creating a bunch of Goal of The Year Candidates.
EA Sports FIFA continues to evolve with increasingly realistic physicality. 50/50 Battles is the latest development in this area as players battle each other for ball possession. We’ve seen this mainly in the midfield where combative defensive-minded players will use their bodies and physical attributes to take the ball away from dribble-happy players.
Like its predecessors of much of the past decade, EA Sports FIFA 19 uses the Frostbite Engine to power its graphics. There’s no overhaul this year but new animations that are contextual with player interactions continue to be added to FIFA to provide very well-done and realistic player motions. We’ve seen many an antic and celebration of some of the bigger names in world soccer reproduced in FIFA 19.
The mosaic menu system that debuted back in 2015 is slightly updated and back for another run in FIFA 19. It’s been imagery is more current and there is a tab bit less clutter but for the most part it is the same very intuitive, easy to use user interface that we’ve come to love since the days of FIFA 16.
In addition to the enhancements in player motion that we mentioned above the graphics throughout EA Sports FIFA 19 continue to be world class. Players on all of the big names international and club teams have been reproduced so well that you can identify them by their face, builds and, for the biggest stars, mannerisms in FIFA 19. The entire Barclays Premier League roster along with countless other players from Asia to Europe to the Americas appear to have been the subjects of 3D head scans that are in use in FIFA 19. The bigger the league and player, the more faithfully he or she is recreated in the game.
EA Sports FIFA 19 has over a hundred stadiums. This includes all of the Barclays Premier League 2018/19 club grounds, most of those in Spain’s La Liga, some of the best-known ones from Italy, Germany and France and a smattering of major venues from around the world including the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. Each has been reproduced in tremendous detail that includes lighting, varying field conditions and crowd proximity to the pitch. Fan in the stands now show off a wide array of animations including selfie-taking and an array of emotions based on how their team is performing.
EA Sports FIFA has long been admired for its realism in presentation. FIFA 19 continues the tradition and excels at it in all of its licensed leagues. Official overlays are present and often better done than by broadcasters. For example, each English Premier League match shows lineups with video animations of the starting elevens with commentary on the form of select players. The same is done for La Liga this time out in the same manner as US broadcaster beIN Sports.
Now that the UEFA Champions League is part of the FIFA series we were curious to see if EA Sports could capture the ambience of the world’s biggest club football competition. Previous UCL license holder Pro Evolution Soccer did a fine job at it. EA Sports may have bettered them with a Champions League presentation package that makes you wonder if you’re watching at European games on a high definition television. From the player walkouts to pre-match pageantry to the lineups, FIFA 19 reproduces it all. You can also feel the difference in play and fan support as you meet with teams from different leagues with different footballing cultures. We’ve included a few gameplay videos along the way for you to get a sense of this.
The EA Sports FIFA 19 soundtrack includes no less than forty-four upbeat jams from around the globe that will keep you vibing in between games. Nothing on it is played out and, as usual, there is a preference for up and coming artists and collaborations. There are some well-known acts in the mix, however. They include Childish Gambino, Gorillaz, Logic and supergroup LSD (Labrinth, Sia & Diplo). Imagine Dragons, CHVRCHES, Logic, Jungle, and Brazilian MC Emicida designed kits that are included in the Ultimate Team section of the game.
Teams and Leagues
FIFA 19 delivers soccer lover’s annual fare of licensed (no option files as in Pro Evolution Soccer needed) leagues and domestic cups along with a host of men’s and women’s national teams. In all FIFA 19 includes 36 leagues including ALL of the majors European, Asian and North American ones. Notables in the mix are the Barclays Premier League, English FA Cup, the German Bundesliga, Spain’s La Liga, the Japanese J1 League and Major League Soccer. The footballing pyramid for England goes to the fourth tier while that in Germany runs three divisions deep.
The only gaps in FIFA 19’s league repertoire are in the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A and Superliga Argentina de Fútbol. Brazil’s top flight is missing a number of big clubs including champions Palmeiras, Corinthians and Sao Paulo FC because of exclusivity deals with Konami for PES 2019. Player names are also manufactured for Série A.
Boca Juniors is called “Buenos Aires” and lacks the club’s Nike kits because of Pro Evo licensing reasons as well. The real player names and appearances are used however.
On the national team front arguably the 14 best women’s side appear in FIFA 19 during the year of the Women’s World Cup. Brazil has authentic kits but generic player names and likenesses sadly, so we can’t play as Marta.
The same issue occurs for the Brazilian men’s team as well where a team of highly-rated fabricated players join Neymar on the pitch. This can be fixed easily by editing the lineup and replacing the made-up ballers with the likes of Coutinho, Ederson and Willian. Côte d’Ivoire and Paraguay also have a mix of actual and generics for some reason. All of the other men’s national sides have real player names and likenesses with about two thirds of the 48 national teams boasting the current kits of their federation’s technical sponsors.
EA Sports FIFA 19 has over 700 teams that you can play as in total. That’s an impressive roster once again!
FIFA 19 English language commentary for domestic league play is once again provided by the tried and tested duo of Martin Tyler and retired Arsenal striker Alan Smith. In a refreshing development, Derek Rae and Lee Dixon (also a former Arsenal stalwart) add color to UEFA Champions League and Europa League matches.
Both duos provide good insight into the matches, players and competitions that they’re covering. The intelligence that FIFA 19 uses to create commentary from the pundit’s database of phrases results in a good offering. The package can get a bit mundane and repetitive after a few hours of play however. This is particularly the case for the ex-Arsenal men who recall the same playing experiences over and over in successive matches. There’s always the option to switch to Spanish or French in the North American version of the game if you prefer.
“The Journey”, the brilliant soccer player role-playing section of EA Sports FIFA since the 2017 incarnation of the game, is back for what’s reportedly a final run in the form that we know it. Called “The Journey: Champions” in FIFA 19, it has been morphed into a deep and immersive experience that lets you play as protagonist Alex Hunter as his transfer to Real Madrid finally come through, his sister Kim as a United States national team starlet, or less skilled friend Danny Williams plying his trade in England. What’s brilliant is that you can switch characters if you’re tired as playing as any one of them!
The storyline in the game is largely dictated by your chosen player’s performance in training and on the pitch. To a less extent it is determined by the character type that you chose (Fiery, Balanced or Cool) via responses to reporter questions and interactions with others in the game. As with previous versions of “The Journey” there are quite a few unexpected plot twists along with appearances by world football luminaries. Neymar Jr., Alex Morgan, Paulo Dybala, Kevin and De Bruyne pop-up along the way in FIFA 19.
If you play “The Journey: Champions” as Alex Hunter at Real Madrid there is a new feature that allows him to select a group of “Mentors” that he can pick up skills from. We selected a set of players that included Luka Modric and Marcelo. Hunter gets to enjoy keep away sessions with his mentors and to identify one as his main mentor. You can also play as the mentors during matches. With this option you can control only Alex and his mentors during games.
We tried out Modric in order to better Hunter’s passing skills. Ultimately, they were increased particularly after a training challenge against Modric.
The days of gameplay overhauls in the FIFA EA Sports series are now seemingly behind us. The title has been a gem in terms of gameplay for the past five years and really is now in the realm of being fine-tuned to provide more intricate realism. The new additions of Active Touch, 50/50 Battles, Timed Finishes and better player motion are integral to the gameplay updates in FIFA 19. We’ve also encountered some notable other updates that we’ll now discuss.
The usual levels of Beginner, Amateur, Semi-Pro, Professional, World Class and Legendary are back in flight in EA Sports FIFA 19. The first three are best for new players while seasoned FIFA games can go straight into Professional to get the vibe of the FIFA 19’s gameplay. The level of difficulty in Professional and higher is the same as in FIFA 18. Semi-Pro does seem a little harder than the last couple of times out though with wins not guaranteed against four- and five-star teams unless you’re playing as a side that is rated at least three stars. Bring on Real Madrid if you’re playing as Wayne Rooney and DC United in Semi-Pro mode!
The speed of play in EA Sports FIFA 19 is on par with what we saw in FIFA 18. We think that it’s quite realistic and doesn’t require any adjustment (although you can speed it up if you’d like). As in real life, field conditions do affect the speed of the ball with rain, snow and worn-down lower league pitches slowing down the ball.
We’ve seen some reports of the game speed in FIFA19 being slower this time out. We do not agree. The video below shows an FA Cup Final between Manchester City and Manchester United in FIFA 19. Here’s one of the FA Cup Final in FIFA 18 for game speed comparison purposes.
Dribbling and Skills Moves
The ability for players to dribble past defenders and execute fancy skills moves have always been present in EA Sports FIFA. Being able to pull of either in Professional level and up has varied from being almost impossible to somewhat up to chance through the years. Things got slightly easier in FIFA 18. To our surprise FIFA 19 lets skilled players such as Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar, Hazard and Griezmann beat defenders in Pro level about 50% of the time if skill moves are well-timed and carefully done. This usually works for beating one player at a time and when followed by a pass and move maneuver. Hold on to the ball and any top division defender will recover and strip you of it.
The biggest offensive change that we’ve seen in EA Sports FIFA 19 is the effectiveness of medium range shots from just outside the penalty box facing the goal. The new Timed Finishing update definitely helps with this as skilled midfielders and those that you may have developed via training have been seen to score many a goal on one touch shots from around 18 yards out.
Closer range shots also benefit from Timed Finishing to a lesser extent. You do have to jostle with defenders along the way however. This complicates matters since they close down your space rapidly.
Offensive support from midfielders dashing into the penalty box to collect passes and crosses continues to improve as it has done over the last three iterations of EA Sports FIFA. We’ve seen our fair share of surprises in which even defensive midfielders make runs in front of goal looking for tap ins and shots. This is more so when your main tactic is set to Balanced, Attacking or Ultra-Attacking.
The new 50/50 Battles brings defense into the midfield more than ever in FIFA 19. It is quite realistic in that midfielders quickly close down opponents in possession and seek to win the ball from them via tackles, jostles and getting their bodies in between their opposite numbers and the precious ball.
FIFA 18 introduced a high level of defensive teamwork that saw midfielders and defenders working together to intercept balls and break up attacks. This continues in FIFA 19. However, the ability to effectively engage in man-on-man defense that was all but absent in FIFA 18 is back in FIFA 19. You can now win the ball again with the square and X buttons if you time your tackles right!
Referees come with all degrees of temperaments and tolerance levels in EA Sports FIFA 19. As in real world soccer, you get a feel for them early on in the match and adjust your aggression accordingly. Rash tackles are sure to earn yellow cards but we’ve seen a few shock red cards for seemingly innocuous challenges.
A point of frustration with the refereeing in FIFA 19 is how infrequently they award penalties. We’ve been the victims of all manner of dirty tackles in the box over the course of an entire English Premier League and UEFA Champions League season. The net result of them were a mere two penalty shot awards.
EA Sports FIFA 19’s replay value is second to none. There is enough in it to keep any footie gamer occupied until FIFA 20 is released next fall. From the host of league and cups to the UEFA Champions League to international tournament’s it is all there!
Add in the The Journey: Champions, FIFA Ultimate Team and online play and you’ve essentially got three more games on top of the core if FIFA. This makes FIFA 19 at full, thorough one-year experience for any fan of the franchise. More casual gamers can probably enjoy it for three years.
Brilliantly updated, engrossing, full of authenticity, overflowing with game options, EA Sports FIFA 19 is the complete soccer simulation package. Its realism is second to none thanks to its fantastic gameplay and world class presentation. It is a must for fans of The Beautiful Game during the 2018/19 football season!
Gameplay: 9.9 /10
Graphics: 9.7 /10
User Interface: 9.4/ 10
Realism: 9.8 / 10
Longevity: 10 / 10