3-underscored fifa 20 review
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For fans of soccer video games, there’s not much better than FIFA’s hallowed name. Sure, you could go with the latest iteration of Pro Evolution Soccer, but if you want the gold standard, you go FIFA.

The latest entry in the sports series is FIFA 20, and like other titles in the series, it has an exciting new book of plays up its sleeve. From the addition of a brand new game mode that moves the action away from the glamorous arenas and stadiums, to tighter mechanics and animations, this year’s FIFA is the best yet.

For $59.99, FIFA 20 gives you a brand new spotlight game mode and various tweaks and improvements to the annual formula. With all of this new content, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would plunk down hard-earned cash on a PES title when FIFA is the veritable Madden of the soccer world. The EA Sports series now includes 27 entries, and they get stronger with every year that passes.

I’ve played through numerous games, tackled the raucous Volta mode, and played alongside friends for some explosive multiplayer matches that had us squealing “GOAL!” more than a few times.

Here’s how FIFA 20 stacks up to the competition.

New Volta mode comes alive with streetwise scuffles

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Jumping right into the game, longtime players will want to see what the new Volta mode has to offer. FIFA 20 does away with The Journey, the cinematic story mode that concluded character Alex Hunter’s story in FIFA 19. Volta is two things: a Portuguese word for “return,” and a version of soccer played in the streets, the way many of the biggest players learned the game in their hometowns.

Taking inspiration from the raucous FIFA Street series, Volta is an amalgam of outrageous plays, tricky maneuvers, quick scuffles and victory laps. It’s all about street games. While you’re playing, you’ll feel like an up-and-coming soccer star who’s just arrived home for a raw, unfiltered three-on-three match right before you head out to dinner with your friends. To kick things off, you can customize your player by selecting a gender, clothing style, hairstyle, everything down to tattoos. This custom character becomes the star of Volta, much as Alex Hunter was in The Journey.

Volta’s cutscenes are fully voiced and offer a sense of tension to go along with the high-octane fun that runs throughout the narrative. Your team is set to rise through the ranks and achieve stardom on the field, and you’ll accomplish that by completing a variety of matches. Some of them require you to come out on top during tournaments, while others have you emerging as victor after some quick pickup matches.

Volta takes you across the world to exotic locales, including Amsterdam, Tokyo, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and Lagos. You also get the domestic experience, as Miami, New York and Los Angeles are other options. There are 17 areas to explore in total, which all feel totally unique and out-there, compared with the sameness of being in a giant arena over and over again. Volta gives FIFA players a chance to break out of what can feel like stuffy professional rules and enjoy loose 3v3, 4v4 and 5v5 matches that focus more on individuals playing with tricky maneuvers rather than clean plays and carefully orchestrated moves.

Volta is the showpiece of FIFA 20 by far, and something decidedly different for the series. It’s a big plus for this entry that the team decided not to prolong The Journey and instead went for something so new and refreshing.

Dig in with updated Ultimate Team and Career mode options

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After you’ve seen the spectacle of Volta, you’ll want to jump into the other pieces that round out the FIFA 20 package. Volta was just the tip of the iceberg, as there’s a veritable treasure trove of content beyond that. Ultimate Team should be your first stop if you decide to skip over Volta, and you won’t be disappointed.

Commonly known as FUT, this mode lets you build teams using any players you like from every league included in the game. You can then use them to challenge other gamers both offline and online to earn coins for additional players and packs. These packs will include random players, and you can continue building out your squad from there.

Ultimate Team has been bolstered with a few new game modes that will no doubt delight. For starters, Ultimate Team features 88 players, with 15 new additions who have joined the game for the first time, including Zinedine Zidane, Ian Rush and Didier Drogba, to name a few. These iconic players make this mode a delight, and make for an even more fleshed-out journey through FUT, where you have complete control over the team you play with and how it progresses.

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Career Mode is a much different affair from Ultimate Team, putting you directly in charge of your own soccer leagues. It’s one of the slickest options you can choose from in-game. If you’ve ever wanted to manage your own team, this is the place to do it. Featuring over 700 clubs and 17,000 players in total, this mode will let you oversee your entire franchise, right down to holding fully interactive press conferences, overseeing player conversations, and even improving player morale.

Player morale can shift from game to game, and can often depend on the answers you give during interview segments. This puts the onus on you to perform as a manager just as much as the players do on the field. While Career Mode falls short of games that make managing a team their bread and butter, FIFA 20 goes beyond the call of duty to make the experience feel as real as possible. While the cutscenes that show the administrative tasks being carried out can indeed be a bit long, overall they go a long way to make you feel as though you’re in charge of your own team of athletes, which is a pretty cool feeling.

If you’re not interested in managing your own team or taking charge behind the scenes, FIFA 20 still contains all of the other, more traditional game modes you’d expect from the series. You can hop online to play a single game with friends (or with strangers) or choose to team up with friends in your home. You don’t have to take part in the more involved parts of the game if you don’t want to, but the fact that they’re there makes the game feel like a much more complete package.

Traditional footballing is still fantastic and refined

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While Volta is a flashy experience that you’ll enjoy, and all the other modes that can be selected are well worth trying out, FIFA 20 is all about the traditional game of football. Luckily, there’s a proper selection of tweaks to the classic modes that make this year’s entry feel like a true improvement over the last. The ball feels properly light and movements have been refined in a big way. Player animations have become more organic than robotic, which was occasionally an issue in last year’s FIFA 19.

This year’s spotlight is on improved ball physics, so when you pull off a particularly spectacular kick, the game really makes it feel like you did. Occasionally, the same actions have felt a bit iffy over the course of the last few FIFA games, but this particular installment seems to have nailed it. From cross-field passes to goal kicks, the ball goes where you want it, and it feels effortless to get it there.

Free kicks are an exciting change, which lets you treat a major mechanic much the way you would swing your driver in a golf game. You can point the cursor in the direction you’d like the ball to go, but you’ve also got to take wind speed, your player’s ability, and several other factors into account. It’s an interesting way to meld two sports that are otherwise unrelated, and I found it far easier to score when I was able to use this mode to keep my eye on the target.

Bottom line

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FIFA 20 is proof positive that if a formula isn’t broken, you shouldn’t try to fix it – unless you’re looking for a way to dazzle players beyond what they’re expecting. Making the decision to opt out of The Journey for the much more extravagant and exciting Volta mode was a fantastic idea on EA’s part, as were the myriad improvements across the board.

For anyone looking to get their soccer fix without having to head to the field in the real world, FIFA 20 is simply the best choice on the market. It’s truly accessible, loaded with things to do, and just plain fun. Whether you can’t tell your Harry Maguires from your Eden Hazards, or you’re moonlighting as an amateur football manager, you should still find something to love about this exemplary soccer title.

Note: The price above reflects the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.