It’s that time of the year when information about the latest FIFA game comes fast and frequent. So far we have already seen hands-on impressions for overall gameplay and VOLTA from our very own Joel, as well as Pitch Notes breakdowns on Ultimate Team and Pro Clubs by yours truly. Today, like Harry Maguire defending a turning attacker, we tackle the FIFA 21 career mode Pitch Notes.
Interactive Match Simulation
Interactive Match Sim is a new way to experience matches in Career Mode. You can now take a step back from the traditional gameplay and focus on the bigger picture. Interactive Match Sim enables managers to adopt a more tactical and faster-pace approach to matches, making all-important decisions from the touchline and watching their impact on the pitch from a top-down view.
Introduced as a new way to sim matches, Interactive Match Simulation is a way to jump in and out of match, allowing you as the manager to alter tactics on the fly more like something from Football Manager. See the momentum turning? Well jump in and get in on the pitch action, or stay the course from your aerial view and see if your tactical genius can lead you to three points.
This is a feature that didn’t gain too much traction in the community, but it’s a solid addition for those who like “Coach Mode” or for the occasional sim when impatience gets the better of us. Going at twice the speed of regular gameplay, you should be able to cut down your match time significantly if that’s your sort of thing. Simming to the end of the match is also a possibility if you don’t want to watch the chess pieces move on the screen.
If you do choose to stick it out with the simulation, you will have access to the following tabs:
- Fitness – gives you an idea of which players might run out of stamina first.
- Player Ratings – summarizes which players are performing well and which players are struggling.
- Match Stats – provides an instant snapshot of both teams’ performances.
- Game Plan – shows the systems the teams have adopted on the field.
Lastly, it seems as if audio aesthetics, such as commentary and stadium atmosphere, will be pumped in as if it’s a post-Covid-19 match experience.
New Match Launcher
I’m not quite sure this deserves a whole section in Pitch Notes, but it is a welcome re-addition. Being able to see the team sheets before you actually jump into a match is a must, and besides, who can possibly forget the great Team Sheet leak of 2018 when Jose Mourinho’s side was leaked before a match with Chelsea. While the CPU’s lineup is still “probable” it lends some great insight into who you’re facing and what their stamina situation looks like. Knowing information like this means that you can finally think tactically and adjust to what you think you’ll face with more confidence.
There’s also a mention of an auto kit selector option to minimize kit clashes, but I’d still prefer to do this manually. All-in-all, even if this is something that shouldn’t have been taken out/should have been added years ago, this is a good get for us FIFA 21 career mode enthusiasts.
Player Development And Training
A lot of work has gone into player development and training the past few years. Last year saw the addition of Dynamic Potential, and this year EA brings us a more robust player and development system that has been getting rave reviews from those of us lucky enough to get our hands on the beta.
Boasting a new Player Development system, EA has taken a page out of Konami’s book with a greater emphasis on specialization, something that’s highly popularized in the modern game. Now, within positions, players can undertake various roles as well as attributes to fit a specific need within your squad and tactical setup. I am huge fan of this approach in PES, so naturally my excitement teeters on high seeing it added to the FIFA 21 career mode.
From the Pitch Notes blog, it appears there will be a new XP system where your players will accumulate XP based on two factors:
- Form – how well they do in matches (player ratings)
- Potential – Dynamic Potential, Potential To Be Special, etc.
Once XP is accumulated, it will be distributed to the attribute of your choice — or evenly if you select the “balanced” option. I like this idea, but a lot of the success will depend upon how a player’s role plays out on the pitch. Similar to “Focused Training” in PES, I like the idea of not wasting valuable XP on areas that have no use to my player and the role(s) I envision for him.
For example, we’ll use Mbappe since EA highlights him in Pitch Notes. Mbappe is already a pace merchant so there’s no real need to train up his pace/acceleration. Instead, I’d attempt to increase his passing while also turning him into a lethal finisher. I also love the idea of creating “development plans” and assigning them accordingly. It reminds me of real life when the coach/manager/staff would work with you in the offseason on things you need to improve upon. Of course, this would be boosted by the addition of an 11-on-11 training mode (or at least 5-on-5), but seeing your growth depend on actual pitch results has me stoked.
As someone who loves player career mode, I’m thrilled that you will be able to train up attributes that you couldn’t before in the FIFA 21 career mode such as:
- Weak foot
- Skill moves
- Attacking/Defensive work rates
It was incredibly frustrating to see a gem of a prospect come through the Youth Academy only to see them with a 1* weak foot. Seeing as you actual training/practice can help develop your weak foot/skill moves (more so than work rate which is something that can be asked of you by a coach but often is down to your personality) means we can properly develop our next generation.
Player Position Conversion
Going hand-in-hand with Player Development, the ability to finally convert players into other positions has been added to the FIFA 21 career mode. Players like Gareth Bale, who originally started as a left back/left wing back and eventually migrated further up the pitch, can be replicated this year in the FIFA 21 career mode. The impact of this on your roster management is huge. If you’re managing a club with a small budget, training up players who can play multiple positions will help keep our wage bill down while also keeping things fresh.
Also utilizing XP, converting players into new positions will depend upon the player and the results on the pitch in these new positions. EA did its homework on this new feature and tied the new position conversion into work rate. So just because you’re a high defensive work rate as a LM doesn’t mean you’ll also put in the same effort as a LW.
Taking it even one step further, targeting younger players (this feature also applies to Youth Academy products) for this kind of versatility will be easier to do than your sage veterans. Besides, not every player is James Milner!
New Active Training
So much training! Where as the aforementioned “Development Plans” are seen as more of a long-term solution, the new Active Training seems to focus more on the immediate, or as EA calls it, Match Sharpness. We now are introduced to a Training Day that can be enabled on any day apart from match days.
This new Active Training system differs from the previous training system. Now it appears, according to the image above, that you can pick up to 15 players on your team to participate in a drill in hopes of increasing their match sharpness. This also comes at the risk of hurting their match fitness, an important risk vs. reward decision. The drills are still limited to the five overarching categories:
- Set Pieces
Instead of tying them to presets like they did in FIFA 20, they are tied to Team Sheets — but are still able to be edited if you want. What this means is that if you have a set 11 as your default team, you can choose to train all of them, or you could just train your Cup squads instead. EA gets into further details when it comes to training and they all sound positive.
First, training difficulty varies depending on the drill. And from the looks of things, there appears to be some new drills in the FIFA 21 career mode as well. Second, and again EA deserves kudos for another risk vs. reward scenario, the more difficult/intense the drill is the more of a risk it has on your fitness. That’s important for balancing as most of us will at some time with FIFA 21 become adept at the new drills.
Lastly, the higher the grade on the drill, the more match sharpness will increase. It’s also worth noting that the number of players that participate in the drills means that match sharpness will be more spread out. Do you pick three players and maximize potential sharpness, or do you pick 10 players and more evenly distribute match sharpness? These are the kind of questions that should be asked when you’re in charge of a club.
EA gets the cart going a little before the horse when it comes to discussing exactly what Player Sharpness is here, but they go into great detail to help us understand it all.
EA defines sharpness as:
Sharpness is an all-new indicator that helps indicate how ready a player or a team is for a match. A sharp player will have their main Attributes boosted and will perform better on the pitch.
Player Sharpness is scaled, with 0 being not match sharp and 100 being absolutely at the top of your game. This can’t help but remind me of PES’ player form arrow, but unlike PES, EA’s system isn’t random and is dependent upon your training and overall run of form. EA uses the following example to explain how match sharpness impacts ratings boosts:
With a striker on 100 Match Sharpness, the following attributes are boosted:
- Positioning +4
- Finishing +5
- Ball Control +3
- Shot Power +3
The same hold true if the reverse happens and Match Sharpness is at “0”:
- Positioning -4
- Finishing -5
- Ball Control -3
- Shot Power -3
Overall, this feature has me really excited because of the variety when it comes to risk vs. reward. Each training session will be a unique decision in that moment.
Player Feedback System
This year EA has enhanced their Player Feedback system by incorporating Player Sharpness as well as Morale and “playing in his preferred system.” Player morale was introduced last year via an SMS-like system that was, well, pretty terrible in both logic and practicality. Now, EA throws in two more factors, which in turn carry their own sets of risk/reward.
Player Sharpness was detailed in the last section as that relates to the Match Sharpness. Playing in his preferred system is also self-explanatory. However, with no positions being able to be learned, how will this affect Player Feedback? Will Joshua Kimmich, who plays more as a CDM now as opposed to RB, get upset if he has to have a run of games at RB? We’re not quite sure yet, but if EA gets it right, there will even be man management to be had in your FIFA 21 career mode save.
(In part two, we’ll continue to discuss some other points made in the FIFA 21 career mode Pitch Notes.)