FIFA 19 Review – A Change Is Here

FIFA is always an interesting game to review. With every iteration, there’s minor changes that always have a major impact on how the game plays. Both on and off the pitch, EA has made a genuine attempt to change things up this year. Major changes such as timed finishing, and changes to the way that 50/50 battles play out as well a host of new kick off modes and UI improvements that make FIFA 19 feel like the next generation of FIFA.

When EA introduced timed finishing earlier this year, I was worried. Shooting has largely stayed the same over the last ten years and it’s the one thing I’ve been happy with them not messing around with. The good news is that standard shooting is very much the same, but timed finishing changes the game completely. If you’re feeling like taking a risk, you can now tap the shot button which will bring up an indicator (ranging from red to yellow to green). Pressing it again when it’s in the green zone will unleash a powerful shot unlike anything previously possible in FIFA.

You’ll still need to have your aim on, but the timed finishing will pretty much handle the power and trajectory. Obviously, if you press within the red or yellow portions of the meter, your shot will go flying out, so it’s a risk/reward thing that I can actually appreciate. I found that timed finishing was incredibly useful from crosses into the box or corners. Previously, it was hard to get an indicator on when to execute the shot but with these meters (providing you have space), you actually feel in control of the header or bicycle kick that you’re

My main issue with timed finishing is how it’s handled from a UI point of view. You need to have trainer turned on in order to get the meter on screen (your player indicator will flash green/yellow/red if it isn’t), in order to make it useful, but it just feels a little bit unintuitive. It made me wonder if EA see timed finishing as more of a beginners tool or something that would help the top players rise above the rest.

EA have been harping on about how 50/50 battles are incredibly more competitive in FIFA 19 and they aren’t wrong. It completely changes the way the game is played across the pitch. I was often getting in 1 on 1 tussles between players which would end up in close encounters where the ball would go back and forth between each players. Similarly, I found interceptions to be much more costly, with it being much harder to keep possession than in previous iterations.

In previous iterations of FIFA I’ve always been about the power runs with certain forwards, but it’s near impossible to break away from the pack in FIFA 19, unless you set up a play with clever short passes. You won’t be breaking away from kick off all the way to the goal square anywhere near as often as you would in previous games, and it results in a more balanced (and much more realistic) soccer experience.

Whilst these might sound like minor changes, when you change up the way that shots are taken and that every single 1 on 1 content feels completely different, FIFA 19 is definitely the biggest change up we’ve seen in years. I feel like more tweaks will definitely be made in patches along the way, but these were changes that were necessary. The game had become too much about individual performances rather than genuine contests that took place all over the field.

A major issue since the original FIFA was released was the player change function changing to an incorrect player. Well, this year EA has been clever enough to include a transparent icon above the player that you’re about to change to. It definitely makes the world of difference, but another minor gripe I had was the fact that the icon was incredibly similar to the one that is above the active player. In a game like FIFA, you don’t really have time to stop and look around, so it just would have made more sense to have something that contrasted a little bit better.

House Rules is definitely the mode you’re going to be booting up when you’ve got mates over. As far as I can tell, it’s only available locally (which is a little disappointing), but it’s a whole lot of fun. ‘Survival Mode’ great fun, and a good way to even things up if you’re playing against someone less skilled. You’ll lose a player every time you score a goal making it easier for your opponent to catch up. ‘Long Range’ is also a bunch of fun and a great way to play around with timed finishing, with shots outside of the box netting you two goals on the scoreboard.

Another great improvement is the fact that FIFA 19 is always tracking stats and lets you continue tracking stats on your profile even when playing elsewhere. If you always play against a friend or family member locally, they can create their own FIFA ID so you’re always tracking your competitive stats which is huge.

For those that like their dose of story, The Journey is back for a third year and more complex than ever. This year, you get to play as Alex Hunter, Danny Williams and Kim Hunter in three separate campaigns that cross over at certain points across each chapter. It’s clever in the sense that you can either play each respective story straight through or follow the pre-determined journey. There’s also some nice implementation around mentors, and being able to build relationships with players in order to challenge them, but the whole experience did feel a little bit stale this time around. With similar skill trainings and a lot of familiar challenges, it definitely needs a shake up next year.

Both FIFA Ultimate Team and Career Mode have seen some modest improvements this year, but don’t be expecting too much. It’s clear that Champions League is star of the show. EA has done a great job in bringing the league to life with  broadcast overlays, authentic commentary and changes to the rules that are only present in the Champions League.

All-in-all, I don’t think we’ll see too many people saying that it’s the same version of FIFA this time around. There’s a bunch of changes small and large (some for the better and others questionable).

FIFA 19 is really solid overall with what feels like more changes than we've seen in the last few years combined. Ultimately, when you're making this many fundamental changes to a soccer game, you're going to have certain aspects that lack a little bit of polish, but it'll be interesting to see how EA continues to balance and improve the game over time. I also wonder at this point whether the next few years will be spent polishing this fresh feeling experience or if EA will continue to mix up the tested formula.
House Rules Is Fantastic
Timed Finishing And 50/50 Battles Change Everything
Taking Your Stats Anywhere Is Simple, Yet Clever
Timed Finishing Feels A Little Unrefined
The Journey Is Feeling Stale At This Point

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