FIFA 21 Review – A Goal Bonanza

With next-gen consoles only a few weeks away, FIFA 21 feels like a swan song for the current generation of sports games. It ostensibly wraps up an era that was defined by the increasing prevalence of microtransactions and the game modes designed...

FIFA 21 Review – A Goal Bonanza

With next-gen consoles only a few weeks away, FIFA 21 feels like a swan song for the current generation of sports games. It ostensibly wraps up an era that was defined by the increasing prevalence of microtransactions and the game modes designed around them, and FIFA 21 is no different in this regard. Ultimate Team is still front and center as the main draw for many players, but this year's game is also the most robust version of FIFA in series history. Volta Football has been expanded after debuting last year, Career Mode has finally received some much-needed new additions, and there are even new ways to play Ultimate Team. None of this is revelatory--and that remains true on the pitch, where subtle attacking changes make for a more dynamic game of football--but each of these aspects sets FIFA up for the future while also ensuring that this year's game is still worth playing.

The latest gameplay changes aren't immediately obvious when you step onto the pitch for the first time, mainly because FIFA 21 isn't trying to reinvent the wheel. Instead, new features in attack supplement the strong foundations of last year's game, with player responsiveness and passing also undergoing slight tweaks. There's an immediacy to everything you do that makes performing sweeping attacking moves a joy to execute. Passing has been sharpened up, with fewer instances of the ball missing your intended target. Through balls are also more effective when playing a runner in behind the defensive line, with well-timed and incisive passes managing to find the feet of onrushing attackers at a more consistent rate. Even heading has returned after its metaphorical absence in FIFA 20 on accord of how useless it was, with aerially strong players able to power crosses into the back of the net with increased frequency.

These gameplay tweaks improve upon the core pillars of FIFA 21's on-pitch action, while marquee new features, such as Agile Dribbling, elevate its creativity and attacking dynamism. This new dribbling technique gives you greater control when faced with an eager defender by enhancing the speed and responsiveness of your player's footwork. It's designed to help you retain possession and create space in tight one-on-one situations, emulating the play of diminutive playmakers and fleet-footed wingers. Players who excel in these moments like Lionel Messi and Bernardo Silva are more adept at using Agile Dribbling than others, utilizing sharp changes of direction and a delicate touch to escape the clutches of aggressive defenders. It can be a powerful tool at the feet of the sport's best dribblers, but there's also a palpable learning curve that applies to using it successfully and consistently. Once you do get the hang of it, however, there are few better feelings in FIFA 21 than being able to lure an opponent in close before shifting the ball past their outstretched leg and exploding past their hapless frame into open space.

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