Does the new FIFA 21 update make it worth diving into the game?

by Palabar

EA Sports has just made Title Update 11.1 avaialble for FIFA 21 on all PlayStation consoles. The 3GB package is actually two updates because it includes all the previously specified changes for Title Update 11. Now players on PC, PlayStation, and even Xbox will all have the same version. But the real question is: does the update make it worth it to dive into FIFA 21?

The EA Sports series has been a divisive issue for some years now. Its player base is enormous, with some strongholds of rabid fans like New Jersey, a state with a strong gaming tradition. Analyses performed with GoogleTrends data revealed that NJ was the top state expressing a preference for FIFA 20 among all videogames. Critics are numerous, though, starting with the ones who compare FIFA unfavorably with the rival PES series by Konami. According to them, PES 20 and 21 are definitely superior in terms of more realistic graphics and overall player experience.

A telltale sign that players were disappointed with FIFA 20 was the vitriolic reactions on Twitter after its launch in September 2019. EA Sports had to restyle their communication on social networks by basically shutting up a great deal. The bad mood seems to have spilled over to FIFA 21, with lots of additional criticism addressed at the “career mode” innovations. Apparently, the Football Manager series’s success has suggested EA to considerably enhance the managerial functions in FIFA 21. Dissatisfied players found out that the changes made this part of the game exceedingly complicated and tedious. The publisher’s idea was to allow players to “manage every moment” and provide “new depth in matches, transfers, and training.” A lame user interface and too many menus and submenus have torpedoed the result.

FIFA 21’s career mode is different from FIFA 20. Still, it is not a breakthrough, just more of the same: more training, more scheduling, more replying to emails. Fans were expecting something genuinely new, something exciting. Being a career mode manager is supposed to offer the thrill or romantic, albeit unrealistic, experiences like bringing a team from the Championship to the Premier League, or mentoring a promising rookie all the way to megastar status. This type of user experience requires more courage on the publisher’s part, not only cautious upgrades of the existing. In the end, a player in career mode spends half the time simulating training sessions.

Ultimate Team attracts some criticism too. This is the most popular mode of the game, and also the one dabbed the “cash cow” for EA Sports. The most straightforward mechanism to build a better team is for players to buy player packs with FIFA points. Strategies by EA to discourage other ways, like trading on the transfer market, have included the lightning rounds (Lrs), where the publisher sells out a limited number of the best player packs on the in-game store. Usually, the players from those “sales” packages end up at low prices on the transfer market and drive prices down.

FIFA 21 is still the leading soccer simulation game on the market. Still, veteran players will easily spot the weaknesses in this sequel. Maybe FIFA 22 will take advantage of what the PS5 really has to offer?

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