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Review: EA Sports FIFA 20 (PS4)

Gear Reviews

Review: EA Sports FIFA 20 (PS4)

A favorite of professional footballers, eSports athletes and an army of gamers worldwide, EA Sports FIFA 20 dropped in late September. Since then the game has possibly seen billions of hours of offline and online game play around the world. Here’s our World Exclusive look at another great offering of the title on the Sony PlayStation 4.

Review: EA Sports FIFA 20 on PS4

Updates

The most obvious change in EA Sports FIFA 20 is the addition street soccer via the VOLTA Football feature of the game. As has been the case in recent years, EA Sports continues to tweak FIFA 20 to resemble the real-life version of The Beautiful Game in all its glory. We’ll delve into these improvements throughout our review. 

Free Kicks and Penalties

Set pieces have been reworked for the better in FIFA 20. There’s less guessing and more user control to get the ball in the desired spot this time round with the help of on the screen targeting. There is also the ability to add curls, knuckles and dips to free kicks. Doing so requires a bit of practice though.

Penalties are quite straightforward and simply a matter of placing your target cursor on the right spot before applying shot power.

Review: EA Sports FIFA 20 on PS4

Strafe Dribbling

This is EA Sports’ cool term for more agility in dribbling. You now run into quite a bit more freedom when trying to beat defenders and can run around them with the right players. Skills moves using the R2 button and R3 stick are also (and finally) much easier to pull off. This is probably an extension of the technical footwork on show in VOLTA.

Controlled Tackling

Active Touch Tackling makes one on one defensive play easier, more predictable and far more realistic than in recent iterations of FIFA. The basic tackling move of the pass are intact but much more effective when timed properly.

Composed Finishing

Clinical finishing brings some stunning realism to FIFA 20 as players can now readily score of volleys and long shots from outside the box depending on their skill level. The likes of Ronaldo and Messi can score some one touch goals that will have you replaying them several times over. The same can be said for Christian Eriksen long range specials from outside the box. Players now also have a better chance in one on ones against charging goalies.

Review: EA Sports FIFA 20 on PS4

AI Defending Overhaul

Computer controlled defenders work as a unit better than ever in EA Sports FIFA 20 and are apt to read and intercept ill-placed or weak passes. You’ve got to think carefully in FIFA 20 and not just pass and pray.

Natural Player Motion

There are times when you can hardly tell the difference between a live soccer match broadcast and gameplay in FIFA 20. EA Sports continues to refine player motion and off the ball positioning to improve realism. The days of painful, mannequin-like movements are long gone for the most part.

Ball Motion and New Shot Trajectories

Ball physics have been tweaked in EA Sports FIFA 20 to produce more true-to-life spins, bounces and movement. The last varies with pitch and weather conditions. Called the FIFA 20 Ball Motion System, the improved physics lead to an amazing amount of variation and excitement in shot selection as the likes of curling and first-time rising strikes are possible with a bit of practice.

Menu

The effective and now quite familiar mosaic menu that made its debut in FIFA 2015 makes a welcome return in FIFA 20. Its biggest change is the replacement of the now retired Journey with VOLTA. Everything else from updating game settings to perusing competitions is the same as last time out. 

The VOLTA menu system is a bit different and quite reminiscent of that of the FIFA Street standalone game that EA Sport dropped in 2012 with a younger Lionel Messi on the cover art. It is quite intuitive however and allows you to enter the VOLTA Story mode, one-off matches or knockout competitions around the world within seconds.

Graphics and Presentation

The player, kit and stadium graphics in EA Sports FIFA 20 continue to stun and push the capabilities of the PS4 GPU to its limit with slightly sharpened graphics when compared to FIFA 19.

As always, big name players are readily recognizable from their faces, body shapes, celebrations and signature moves. This applies to the stars from most of the best-known clubs in world soccer such as Liverpool FC, Real Madrid and FC Bayern. Better player likenesses with a widened range of expression, detailed tattoos and even clear sweat add to the immense player detail in FIFA 20. Add in realistic, less robotic body motion and you’re probably as close to controlling an avatar of your favorite soccer stars as technology currently allows.

The title’s crowning jewel, the Barclays Premier League, is excellently presented from 3D headscan-based player faces to realistic stadia that capture the vibes at the grounds of powerhouses such as Manchester City to small but mighty AFC Bournemouth at their 11,000-seater home venue.

EA Sports FIFA 20 is spot on in capturing the atmosphere and pageantry for tournaments and leagues. You can feel the gritty, intimate environments of lower league teams in competitions such as the FA Cup as much as the pomp of the UEFA Champions League Final.

Cut scenes to stadium stands and up-to date selfie-taking crowds that are reflect on the field developments capture the essence of matches. There are now even crowd waves for slow matches and taunting songs by fans of winning teams. Recognizable fan song anthems by fans at matches are an integral part of FIFA 20 and are clearly heard from away fans when their team is winning on the road.

Brand new up-close player celebrations including high fiving with fans has been added to EA Sports FIFA 20. A slew of signature celebrations such as Kylian Mbappe’s folded arms and Antoine Griezmann’s air guitar playing are also on display.

Music

FIFA 20 boasts two separate soundtracks for the first time ever. There a 43-song playlist of jams for the traditional mode of the game and a 70-song one for VOLTA Football. Both are brilliantly curated and made up of buzzworthy tracks from a mix of established and up and coming artists from around the globe. Both playlists are available on Deezer, Spotify and Apple Music. Some of the better-known artists in the mix are Major Lazer, Judah & The Lion, Sofi Tukker and Swizz Beatz.

Kits designed by lume, Sofi Tukker, GoldLink, and Judah & the Lion are included in the Ultimate Team section of the FIFA 20.

Teams and Leagues

One of the beauties of EA Sports FIFA is that it always carries most of the world’s biggest soccer leagues and cups. These competitions are made extremely realistic with detailed player likenesses and stadiums. FIFA 20 continues the trend with an astounding 30 official leagues, 700 teams, 17,000 authentic players, and 90 licensed stadiums included.

The ever-popular English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga, Italian Serie A and the heavy hitting UEFA Champions League and Europa League are all in the mix. South America’s Copa Libertadores will be added to the game next year. As usual, the more footballing pyramids of the world’s soccer meccas go several levels deep in FIFA. This includes the English Football League down to League Two and the German system down to the 3. Liga.

There are some major club omissions in FIFA 20. The most glaring is Italian Serie A power Juventus FC. They’re present under the uneditable name Piemonte Calcio with real life players including Cristiano Ronaldo. Similarly, Superliga Argentina de Fútbol giants Boca Juniors are River Plate are called Buenos Aires and Núñez respectively. They do feature authentic players though.

The Campeonato Brasileiro Série A is a bit thin with the likes of Corinthians, Flamengo, Sao Paulo and Palmeiras are missing. The teams that are present have generic players.

The omission and generic players are a result of exclusivity deals that the clubs mentioned have signed with Konami to be featured in eFootball Pro Evolution Soccer 2020.

The sixteen best women’s national team are present in FIFA 20 (up from fourteen in 2019). They all have authentic players apart from Brazil. The same applies for the Brazilian men’s national team where only Neymar Jr. is a real world player.

The men’s national team roster runs forty-nine deep of which only three teams apart from Brazil are made up of generic players. They are Ecuador, India and Uruguay. Several other teams have FIFA 20-made kits and crests including EURO 2020 qualifiers Finland and Switzerland.

We were able to update Brazil and Uruguay with strong squads of their actual players using the national squad selection update feature of FIFA 20. It helps when national teams are made up of European-based stars that are part of the game.

Commentary

There’s no change to the English language commentary crews in EA Sports FIFA 20 since the 2019 edition of the game. Martin Tyler and retired Arsenal hitman Alan Smith provide punditry for all matches except European competition. Derek Rae and Lee Dixon (also a former Arsenal star) do the honors for UEFA Champions League and Europa League matches.

There is little change in the commentary provided since last time out. The contextual updates, individual player form mentions, and play by play color are pretty much the same as in FIFA 19. The volume of material is enough to avoid the announcers from becoming like bots and mildly entertaining at times. 

Spanish and French commentary are also on show in the North American version of the FIFA 20. 

VOLTA Football

It’s been seven years since the release of EA Sports fourth and last street soccer title, FIFA Street. Now the small-sided, urban version of the game is back with the VOLTA Football.

An option in FIFA 20 that seemingly replaces the popular Journey offering, VOLTA is patterned after 2012’s FIFA Street in that it allows you to go on a tour of seventeen cities across the world and participate in knockout competitions. You can also play in online competitions and one on one matchups. Its most entertaining mode is the VOLTA Story in which you create a character who joins a street football team in their quest for a world championship. Like The Journey, the storyline has its ups and downs, a bit of drama and a few surprises along the way. You can also develop your selected player’s skills similarly to how Alex Hunter was improved in The Journey in FIFA 17 to 19.

Review: EA Sports FIFA 20 on PS4

The gameplay in VOLTA is creative, full of flamboyant skills moves and quite amusing. It’s a nice break from the formality of highly organized league soccer and really lets players express themselves on the court. Futsal is in the mix for those preferring a little more structure.

It should be noted that you cannot play as professional clubs or players as was the case in the standalone FIFA Street game of 2012 or its predecessors. You also can pull off superhuman moves like partially running up walls as in FIFA Street 3. VOLTA instead seems intended to capture the essence of the ever-popular court version of soccer present in major cities around the world because of space limitations.

Gameplay

EA Sports continues its refinement of gameplay with FIFA 20 instead of a major overhaul. The game has had a solid gameplay engine since 2015 so there’s no need to make big changes. Periodic updates are delivered over the web to your console to address bugs found by testers and users and additional improvements. Earlier this year the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 was added to FIFA 19 via this mechanism. The 2020 Copa Liberatores will make its debut via a FIFA 20 drop in a few months.

We’ve already mentioned the main gameplay updates in FIFA 20 at the beginning of our review. We’ll now delve into the title’s experience after many hours of play and championships won.

Level Updates

The expected Beginner, Amateur, Semi-Pro, Professional, World Class and Legendary levels are once again available in EA Sports FIFA 20. We noticed no changes in the difficulty settings compared to FIFA 19 so veteran players should be able to enter the game at their usual level. As always, new players will have to kick off their FIFA experiences in Beginner or Amateur level and work their way up to Professional or above.

Since VOLTA Football is a new addition to the FIFA fold, we entered it with Semi-Pro difficulty to figure things out. We usually play in Professional level. We moved to the latter after four matches to become more challenged and run into teams that could give us a run for our money.

Game Speed

The default game speed in EA Sports FIFA 20 is absolutely perfect and as close as you can get to real world professional soccer. It is adjustable but we see no point in changing it.

Playing speed is league specific with the frenetic pace of the Premier League admirably replicated. Meanwhile, match play in the more technical La Liga and Serie A are slower as it is in real life. Dip into lower leagues such as EFL League One, the 2. Bundesliga or Serie or competitions with less skilled players and you’ll also notice a more restrained pace of play.

Worn down small club fields, rain and snow also affect the speed of play in FIFA 20 as the ball travels slower in adverse playing conditions.

Dribbling and Skills Moves

The skills moves of FIFA 20’s VOLTA Football have crept into the non-streetball modes of the game or EA Sports developers have made them a tad bit easier to execute. 

Past iterations of FIFA have been criticized as being too pass oriented with little room for individual player creativity and brilliance. Things have got better since over the past three years with the right joystick (R3 on the PS4) now a weapon of defender destruction if used properly when dribbling with highly rated, technical players such as Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Once mastered through practice we found that we were able to successfully pull off basic to medium degree of difficulty moves 75% of the time with good players in Professional level. However, as in real life football, passing or finishing with a shot on goal after beating your man is essential. Do neither and the defense will strip you of the ball quickly.

Dribbling mechanics have improved with FIFA 20. The increased fluidity in players’ body movements when on the ball is quite noticeable and very lifelike. This includes in possession of the ball, when eluding tacklers, and when dispossessed through good defense or a foul.

Offense

Roughly half of the gameplay updates of EA Sports FIFA 20 are offensive-related. These include the aforementioned AI, dribbling, skill moves, finishing, free kick, penalties and shot trajectory updates.

All of these amount to an extremely realistic and entertaining soccer gaming experience in which every game (even rematches against the same opponent are different).

We noticed much smarter of the ball movement for your team via FIFA 20’s AI with support from winger, fullbacks and midfielders always present and aligned with the tactics that you’ve set up.

There is also a noticeable increased level of urgency towards the end of matches when better teams are down. They will throw the kitchen sink at you with relentless attacks including extra strikers and goalies popping into the box for last minute corner kicks.

FIFA 20’s new and improved skills moves, composed finishing and shot trajectories make for more dynamic and unpredictable play in front of goal. We’ve scored some brilliant goals that we’ve had to replay and share video of along the way!

One note on shots is that they now seem more effective from distance from players known for long range belters such as such as Luka Modrić and Kevin De Bruyne.

Defense

EA Sports FIFA has seen steady improvements in its defense for the past five years now. FIFA 20’s AI Defending Overhaul continues the trend to produce incredibly smart defenses that anticipate and react to their opponents with great effectiveness. 

We noticed more interceptions and man marking off the bat on Professional level and above in FIFA 20. There is no chance to succeed with for 50/50 balls and blind passes as defenders will pounce on them with ease when playing against any team rated at three stars or above.

Defenders are also more physical than ever and will use their strength to body attackers off the ball. There is even visible shirt pulling at times that goes uncalled by referees who are now generally less generous in awarding fouls against the computer.

At the last line of defense there is more dynamic goalkeeping particularly from big names netminders like David De Gea, Manuel Neuer, Ederson and Jan Oblak. They are more adventurous and will leave their goalmouths and box to stop oncoming attackers. Dynamic saves including fingertip and foot deflections are on show along with rapid full body stretches to stop powerful shots.

Replay Value

EA Sports FIFA is known for its yearlong replay value until the next version of the game is released in September. FIFA 20 is no exception with its incredible depth of leagues, cups and ability to create customized competitions. Add in the incredibly popular FIFA Ultimate Team and now VOLTA Football and you’ve got enough to keep you footballing fingers moving well into 2020!

Things will get even better next spring when a free Copa Liberatores add-on appears in FIFA for the first time ever. Hopefully EA Sports’ can secure licenses for the biggest Argentine and Brazilian clubs by then/

Final Thoughts

Wonderfully updated, always engrossing, chock full of game options, modes and levels, EA Sports FIFA 20 retains its place as a must have for soccer and sports gamers during the 2019/20 soccer season. Its exceptional presentation, amazing gameplay and authenticity are again second to none!

Gameplay: 9.9 /10

Graphics: 9.8 /10

User Interface: 9.5/ 10

Realism: 9.8 / 10

Longevity: 10 / 10

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