FIFA 21 Gives You More Control Over a Creative Attack
FIFA 21 aims to give you more control over the pitch, particularly in the attack with new mechanics that open up a new world of possibilities.
Recently, I got to sit down with a relatively early beta build of FIFA 21 and play about a Weekend’s League worth of matches. For those of you non-FUT players, that’s about 30 games spread across Kick-Off and Volta (the only two modes available). Unfortunately, for you Volta fans (I assume there are some of you), this particular preview is focusing solely on core gameplay in FIFA 21. Though, maybe check back later if you’re interested in more details.
EA Sports shared a new video today showing off some of the changes coming this season. Give them a look below and join me after the break for a bit of breakdown over some of the most important changes I noticed. And, if you’d prefer to see me break down some of the changes in visual form, head over to our YouTube page. There’s a new video there that essentially covers everything you see below in more detail.
Before I begin, it’s important to stress everything I’ll speak to below happened in an early beta build. Things can and will change as we move toward FIFA 21’s October release. Some will remember how great manual tackling felt pre-release in FIFA 20 before it was changed when the game came out. That being said, a fair few of the new gameplay additions don’t feel like things that will go away with a patch.
Arguably the biggest change coming in FIFA 21 is the new ways to trigger creative runs. Previously, you were limited to either calling for help or sending the AI on a run. As the player with the ball at your feet, you had no control over where the AI would actually go. This can lead to situations where the runs you send players on end up being unhelpful and frustrating.
Given that I’ve only played a few dozen games, I’m hesitant to say all of that is a thing of the past, but I do think EA has made strides in making your attack much more fluid. Basically, what they’ve done is given you full, 360° control over your AI’s run.
So, if you’re holding the ball and looking for a teammate to run into a channel, you can trigger a run with RB and then flick the right stick in the direction you want. If you need someone to drop back and open up an angle for support, you can use the stick to send them back. It lets you set up a bit more tactically as you move the ball into the attacking third.
But it doesn’t stop there. If you click in both sticks, you’ll lock yourself to a player. Then you can move into position as the AI controls the ball. Once you find your opening, you can call for the ball and hopefully get a shot off. Essentially, it turns the game into Be A Pro mode for a few seconds.
It’s not perfect, especially in my hands. Too often, I would send a pass to my striker and try to flick the right stick to make my midfielder attack only to end up flicking the ball in the air on accident because my flick came too late. Plus, when you lock on a player, the AI just kind of muddles about. You have to be quick and decisive with your movement or the AI will lose the ball before you can ask for it back.
That said, it’s a useful mechanic that I can see better players really using to their advantage. I’m no slouch at FIFA, but imagining someone with real skills using this new system is exciting. At the very least, it opens up the pitch and lets you have more control over the action when you’re on the attack. In their press event before the demo, EA described it as a “game-changer.” Early on, I tend to agree.
Outside of this standout feature, FIFA 21 has a few other systems that could make a big impact on how the new game feels. One of those is the new Agile Dribbling. Personally, I only do like five skill moves. I rely much more on passing and a small helping of left sticking dribbling. The aim of the new Agile Dribbling feature is to improve top players’ ball control by holding RB and using that left stick dribbling to get through 1v1s.
Admittedly, I didn’t utilize this enough in my short time with the game. I was too focused on learning how to better use the Creative Runs system. However, when I did use it, I didn’t notice a huge difference. Of course, as someone who likes to set up attacks with passes, I wouldn’t call myself the best barometer for how good Agile Dribbling feels. More creative players might be able to wrangle much more out of the system.
EA is also hyping up something they call Positioning Personality. Essentially, they’re trying to make players play more like their real-world self. Take a player like Tottenham’s Harry Kane. The English striker is one of the best in the world, but he never really fit the FIFA 20 meta. He’s too tall and lacks world-class pace.
Positioning Personality aims to make players like that more usable. Kane may not have the wheels of someone like Kylian Mbappe, but he understands how to play striker better than almost anyone. That means he’ll hold his line until the last second to stay onside and set up scoring opportunities.
This system extends across the pitch. In fact, I noticed it more on defense. The best defensive players in the world are more likely to correctly read an offense and defend it correctly. Lower skilled players will find themselves out of position more often. This isn’t a feature I’d call game-changing; however, if it lets more players be viable at the top-end of FUT, I’m all for it.
The team talked about a few other features in their conference. Things like improved blocking, better collision detection, and improvements to heading will undoubtedly make a major difference in how the game plays. However, I just want to focus on two more things: Super Cancel and Competitor Mode.
Super Cancel is something players have wanted for a while now. Essentially, this lets you cancel any button press whenever you want. FIFA 20 players know you can cancel shots or crosses with the fake shot, but this lets you stop everything. So, if you start a spin and see your opponent reading you, just Super Cancel. It takes you out of the move and gives you a chance to counter your opponent on the fly. Again, I don’t do a ton of skill moves; however, I know players that do really wanted something like this.
Competitor Mode is a new level of difficulty that aims to have the AI replicate FIFA pros. Once you bump the difficulty up to Legendary, you can turn on Competitor Mode and test your skills. I played a handful of games on this new difficulty and mostly just noticed that the AI really likes to spam stepovers. Surprisingly, not too many dragbacks.
Jokes aside, Competitor Mode doesn’t feel that much harder than Legendary difficulty. The big difference, at least to me, is that the AI is much less likely to do the same thing over and over again. In FIFA 20, you can usually just funnel the AI down the wing and then clear their cross. In Competitor Mode, it felt like they actually varied their attack. Hopefully, it stays that way. Cheesing the AI is only fun for so long.
As mentioned above, the current beta build of FIFA 21 doesn’t make the game feel like a completely new game, but it does add some much-needed features. Creative Runs, on its own, is going to spice up gameplay quite a bit. However, fans looking for a true next step forward in a football simulation, are likely going to be unimpressed.
That isn’t to say the game isn’t fun. I certainly had more fun trying out FIFA 21 than I did playing FIFA 20 Rivals for the last few months. In its early stages, I prefer FIFA 21’s gameplay to last year. I just can’t help but remember how quickly FIFA 20 changed after its release.
While gameplay is the most important part of the FIFA experience, it isn’t the be-all-end-all. Players will surely want to know more about what’s coming to Career Mode, Volta, and, of course, FUT. Sadly, I can’t share that with you just yet, but keep your eyes tuned to DualShockers for further updates.
FIFA 21 launches on Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, and Xbox One on October 9. A next-gen version will launch on both PS5 and Xbox Series X once those consoles drop.