FIFA 21 is a breath of fresh air as gameplay speeds up, Career Mode gets revamped

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FIFA 21 makes a lot of notable gameplay gains that will keep you playing all season, and all year, long. Courtesy of EA Sports

With winter fast approaching, there’s no shortage of soccer on TV these days, but Friday marks another notable event on the soccer calendar: the worldwide release of FIFA 21, the latest iteration of the blockbuster video game franchise from EA Sports.

How does it play, what’s new this year and how do the player ratings stack up? We’ve got all that, and a word from the game’s new lead commentator, covered.

Jump to: Gameplay | Career Mode | Other modes | Superlatives | A word from Derek Rae | Verdict

A much smoother, faster game

Real-life soccer is chaotic and fluid, but previous versions of the FIFA game have felt at times inescapably blocky and slow-motion by comparison. Tackles would be chunky collisions between finely sculpted pixels, passes would skid and soar around the pitch, though never too far from your intended target. Headers would scoff in the face of physics.

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This year’s game feels like a massive upgrade when it comes to capturing the silken ebb and flow of the sport. Tackles come with consequences; limbs and player momentum are much more touchy and true to life, so that poor split-second decisions about taking an extra step or trying to change direction result in losing the ball. Passes made when the player is off-balance or on their weaker footbehave as they should; the end result is a much more frenetic and exciting experience.

Equally, the speed is notable in attack — everything about gameplay is souped up in the pursuit of goals, goals and more goals — when it comes to building play through midfield or switching the ball from flank to flank