If you’re one of the lucky ones who has been able to secure a next-gen console, you’ve been waiting patiently to hear news regarding what next-gen sports games are going to look like. With NBA 2K setting the standard and drawing some good reviews from my OS compatriots, it was always going to be tough for EA to measure up. While information on Madden was released late last week, we had to wait until November 24 to get a sneak peek at what’s in store for FIFA 21. Now that we’ve had a moment to take in what EA has planned for next-gen FIFA 21, it’s time to see if the wait was worth it in our FIFA 21 next-gen preview.
DualSense Controller Haptics
One of the best features the PS5 has to offer centers around the new DualSense controller. Harnessing the power of the console, the PS5 controller’s haptic feedback “responds to what happens on the pitch.” While this sounds like typical EA marketing, the proof is in the pudding as displayed by Astro’s Playroom and NBA 2K21. Offering resistance when players are fatigued and controller-specific vibrations should bring a new way to “feel” the action on the pitch.
The instantaneous feedback that should result from a crunching tackle seems like a no-brainer but the execution of fatigue will be interesting. Different parts of the community have different ideas when it comes to fatigue and its effects on gameplay. While the sim crowd will welcome this change, I’m not quite sure how the esports and FUT crowd will respond. My gut tells me they won’t be too happy, but if it is addressed properly and applied consistently, the playing field could be level — something that community wants.
Lastly, “Activity Cards” have been added as a way to jump right into the action (modes) from the main menu. If we’re being honest here, (side note, we always are) this does little to nothing for my excitement as load times are already lightning fast on next gen, and being able to jump into career mode now is already a breeze considering your most recently accessed modes/saves appear on your home screen. These decreased load times will probably kill off the pre-match arena skill games, which I honestly enjoy, but in the end it’s still a net positive.
Enhanced visuals are the most logical improvement we’re expecting when we move to a new generation of consoles. In particular, stadiums and crowds are set to receive some much needed attention. Upgrades to lighting and player models by way of “strand based hair technology” are marketed to show off the power of next gen with more life-like representations. Who knows, maybe we’ll be able to count every strand of Wayne Rooney’s hair!
When it comes to visuals, I’m not expecting too much of a leap when playing on the default camera. Because it’s zoomed out so far on the player action, and yet not so zoomed out you get the whole stadium, you really don’t get a chance to take in the stadiums and what makes them unique. Increased crowd visuals are what I expect to be the biggest difference from last gen, so it will be interesting to see how well the fan models hold up now.
We’re approaching nearly a year without fans in the stadiums, so it’s easy to forget how raucous the atmosphere can get at soccer matches. While FIFA 21 released with the best atmosphere the series has enjoyed to date, the next-gen offering promises to take it to the next level. More cinematics pre-match are nice but I have the feeling most of us will skip over the cutscenes of fans walking through turnstiles.
What’s more eye catching is reading about the crowd’s reactions to on-field events. For me, that’s one of the biggest omissions in sports games. While most games have the requisite trophy presentations, it’s the emotion of scoring a last-minute winner that often fails to generate the same feelings they do in real life. If FIFA 21 can give me those same sort of feelings on the PS5/Xbox Series X, we’ll be in for a real treat.
FIFA 21 on PS5 also allows us to create the most natural movement and behavior to date.
This is music to my ears but I’m not holding my breath. Over the years I’ve been extremely critical of how FIFA moves. Yes, it’s very responsive but that comes at a cost, namely physics. True foot planting has been a wish of mine for many years — and not just in FIFA but also in Madden and NBA 2K. While NBA 2K and Madden have taken strides on next gen towards accomplishing this (at least Madden claims it has), I feel as if FIFA has gone the opposite direction.
Thus, hearing phrases such as “enhancing the visual quality and responsiveness of linked animations on the ball, giving you more agility and control over the ball than ever before with over 700 new animation combinations” give me cause for concern. I love new animations being added to their database, but FIFA already has a hard time with picking the right animation for the moment, which is why at times it can look so awkward. “Off the ball humanization” that was touted in the build-up to yesterday’s press release is a nice touch at adding the “little things” but lacks any real substantial change to how the game is played.
One of the nicer things gaming companies have done with this console release is offering a free upgrade to those of us who have already purchased these games on the PS4/Xbox One. There’s not much to be said about this, but if you’re curious as to how it works feel free to check out EA’s website here for information on how the program works.
New Camera Angle
EA just kind of casually threw this nugget in, but it mirrors what Konami did with PES by changing the default camera. Although official screenshots haven’t been released yet, several FIFA Gamechangers have leaked pictures of this new camera:
— Matheus Gamer (@gamer_matheusx) November 25, 2020
Inspired by the look and feel of top-level football broadcasts, a new gameplay camera gives you a fresh perspective on every match. See more of the pitch to help you plan your build-up play or block passing lanes, and watch home and away fans react to the game in real time.
Reading the press clipping and looking at the screenshot posted above it appears that the camera offers a more broadcast feel. Some might have difficulty playing with such a zoomed-in angle but more options is never a bad thing.
If you already purchased FIFA 21, then upgrading to the PS5/Xbox Series X version is not even a question. While the changes here are all welcomed additions, I can’t help be underwhelmed when compared to NBA 2K21 and the significant changes their development team made to AI and the foot planting mechanics.
Without seeing actual gameplay footage, we’re left to judge this next-gen offering based off a glitzy trailer and marketing pitch that has let us down previously (cough, cough Madden 25). I wasn’t expecting any significant changes, but with how tight EA kept this to the hip and how delayed the actual next-gen release is (December 4), one would expect a little bit more. Nonetheless, I’m still excited to see if any little gameplay changes have made their way into next-gen FIFA 21.
What’s your excitement level at for FIFA 21 on the PS5/Xbox Series X?