FIFA 19 Review

Back of the net, as FIFA returns with a solid entry, even if it isn't the hot new signing you might have hoped for.
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Verdict

FIFA 19 is a great game, packed with plenty of detail. It isn't a huge step forward in terms of raw gameplay, but the sheer amount of stuff to do will mean you keep coming back for more.

Pros

  • Fantastic presentation
  • UEFA licenses complete the package
  • Small tweaks benefit the gameplay
  • So much to do

Cons

  • Not a huge upgrade
  • Lack of career mode updates

Key Features

  • Review Price: £49.99
  • Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PS3, Xbox 360, PC
  • Genre: Sports
  • Release Date: Out Now
  • Developer: Electronic Arts

There are a few things that are oh-so-predictable with every new season of football: Tottenham bottling it at some point; Newcastle parking the bus against every top-six side; and Mourinho moaning about his transfer kitty. Oh, and a new version of FIFA on pretty much every format possible.

FIFA 19 is a worthy successor to the generally excellent FIFA 18 for a number of reasons, but none of them are really in terms of gameplay. Yes, there are some nice tweaks here, and it does feel smoother and more fluid to play. However, the big upgrades come in the form of even more game modes and even more licenses.

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However, what I care about most with regards to a football game is how it feels to play. This year, EA Sports has worked on a few specific areas, and to give the developer credit, each of the changes makes a noticeable difference to the flow of the game. The most notable new feature is the ‘Active Touch System’, which basically means that on the pitch gameplay feels far more natural.

When the ball is coming towards you, it’s now possible to flick the right stick to either bring the ball down with greater control than ever before, or chip it up slightly to set yourself up for an audacious volley. How successful you are at this largely depends on the quality of the player. So, if you’re controlling, say, Mahrez or Eden Hazard, then you’ll be able to comfortably bring the ball down on your thigh and continue running forward. Try it with Wes Morgan and the ball will likely end up rolling away.

Alongside providing an opportunity to begin a decent attack quickly, these new animations just look far more realistic.

Also implemented this year is a greater focus on 50/50 challenges and battles. Like the Active Touch System, this adds a realistic layer to the game rather than redefining how you play. There’s much more physicality when you’re battling for position, and you have greater control over retrieving the ball – even if it was your mistake in the first place.

Everything feels less pre-determined than in did in previous versions of the game – and now, with the right player – I’m looking at you, N’Golo Kante – you can wrestle the ball back in situations I’d just have given up in with FIFA 18.

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After plunging far too many hours into PES 2019, jumping back into FIFA’s frenetic pace proved initially jarring. There’s no doubt FIFA 19 lacks a focus on build-up play, which makes its Konami-made rival so good. Nevertheless, this is still a very good game of fast-paced football here.

The biggest changes to FIFA 19 aren’t in the way that it plays, however. It’s things you can do in the game – and in this area, it firmly has PES 2019 beat.

FIFA 19 is stacked with game modes, customisation options and things to do. The once ignored basic Kick-off mode has been given a facelift with options to track your victories against a mate offline, and the ability to tweak your game by turning off cards or having a player sent off every time you score a goal. These are welcome touches that add a party-game feel to proceedings. You’re probably not going to play it each time you boot up the game, but it’s ideal if you’re playing with someone who isn’t a die-hard FIFA fan.

Another touch I really like is the ability to play a Kick-off game as a cup final, semi-final or even a group-stage tie. This adds a real intensity to friendlies and, considering such care has gone into the presentation of these marquee matches, it’s great to be able to constantly replay them.

EA Sports has probably made such additions because it wants as much focus as possible on its biggest signing this year – official licenses for the UEFA Champions League, Europa League and Super Cup. Plucked from Konami, this has been the only big license missing from FIFA’s arsenal.

In typical fashion, these new licenses are handled with the utmost quality. Everything from the ball to the anthemic “CHAAAMMMMMPIOOOOOOOOONNSS” music, to the specific advertising hoarding, has been reproduced in sublime detail. There’s so much atmosphere packed into these matches that I almost want to play them every time.

The Champions League licenses are baked into the Career mode, too, and here you’ll see new graphics for the homescreen when a European week rolls around. Sadly, that’s it for Career mode.

Actually, my only issue with the new UEFA licenses is the poor commentary provided by the uninspiring duo of Derek Rae and former Arsenal stalwart Lee Dixon. Rae – best known for commentating for NBCSN in the US – just doesn’t feel natural here; there are many times that he hasn’t finished screaming the name of a player by the time the ball drifts away for a corner. Considering the quality of the commentary in other modes, the shortcomings here stand out obviously.

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Like the gameplay, the visuals have received minor tweaks rather than wholesale changes. There’s more personality to those in the crowds and you’ll see them waving crested flags or taking selfies, while player faces have slightly more detail and movement. Lighting in the accurately represented stadiums looks fantastic when playing in HDR, but I have noticed some dropped-frames on a PS4 Pro when playing in arenas that are particularly detailed in rainy situations.

There are two other significant aspects of FIFA 19 that I haven’t touched upon yet: the final chapter in the story-driven ‘The Journey’ campaign, and the uber-addictive Ultimate Team.

The Journey surprised when it debuted a few years back with how good it was, and last year’s follow-up was equally engrossing (even if I felt it was a good way to end the series). For this final chapter EA Sports has used those new UEFA licenses to full effect. ‘The Journey: Champions’ continues Alex Hunter’s journey with a Champions League run, and it adds in a few more playable characters for variety.

Alex is still the focus, and you can ignore the others completely if you wish, but being able to switch between his half-sister Kim and friend Danny freshens up the formula.

It’s still trashy, cheesy, straight-to-DVD-quality writing and dialogue throughout. Yet it’s fun to play and introduces some fun mini-games and decisions to make. EA has really hit on something with this story, and it will be interesting to see where it goes next. 

Ultimate Team returns, obviously, and it will likely be the mode used most by hardcore fans. It’s very much the same as before and will likely eat away at your wallet if you get really stuck in. 

Verdict

FIFA 19 is a great game, packed with plenty of detail. It isn’t a huge step forward in terms of raw gameplay, but the sheer amount of stuff to do will mean you keep coming back for more.

Score