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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Sports
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Vancouver
Release Date: Sept. 28, 2018

About Andreas Salmen

I'm sure this is all just a misunderstanding.


PS4 Review - 'FIFA 19'

by Andreas Salmen on Nov. 21, 2018 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Experience the excitement of the UEFA Champions League across FIFA 19 with a new tournament mode, The Journey: Champions, FIFA Ultimate Team and more.

Buy FIFA 19

EA's FIFA series has experienced incredibly strong sales and is easily the biggest sports title released every year. The series may have one of the biggest development teams and budgets in the video game industry, but FIFA still suffers from what plagues other yearly releases: a lack of substantial improvements from year to year. FIFA 19 is certainly no exception, and while there are a few notable improvements (some more major than others), the series seems to stagnate for players who are seeking engaging offline modes and content.

Playing the game feels different for the first time in years. Basically, FIFA 19 is the familiar package that finally received a few desperately needed tweaks and improvements to its gameplay formula. It isn't as fast as it used to be, the sometimes-lightning-fast gameplay from FIFA 18 has been rectified and slowed down noticeably.

If you're a returning player, the speed may already be the biggest and most important improvement. There are a few more welcome additions, such as the increased physicality that gives a sense of agency and weight to encounters that include body contact. This plays incredibly well with the more methodical speed of the gameplay, and it frequently creates more physical encounters in the moment-to-moment gameplay. There are more additions that go beyond gameplay tweaks, such as the option to press "shoot" twice to time your shot for an incredibly powerful finish or a remarkable fail if you miss the second input. It's a mechanic that could be useful if you can utilize it consistently, but it's also fine if you ignore it, so the feature feels slightly tacked-on.

The ball still behaves like a weightless feather that hovers from foot to foot to goal, which is unsatisfying when compared to other sports games. I'd love for EA to find a better way to translate dribbling, passing, and shots to a more impactful experience than it currently is. Regardless of this minor gripe, FIFA 19 feels and plays great, and it still benefits from the pick-up-and-play mentality that poses a low entry barrier for newcomers. Controller options can satisfy any skill level. Although this year's iteration arguably introduces ways to make the gameplay more demanding, the usual training sessions and in-game trainer recommendations make sure anyone can jump right in regardless of previous experience. It scales incredibly well with your skill, so you'll always have something to master on your way to the top, so it remains a rewarding experience throughout.

There are still some inaccuracies when on the pitch that will cause players with significantly lower stats to curiously outperform stronger players. This is especially true when sprinting down the side of the field. It solves some of the easy goals that you could create by storming down the green with your star player to sneak one in on the rush, making pass play more important when constructing your attack instead of a rushed wing attack.

Overall, it's as sound as it could possibly be, with some major improvements to the overall speed and feel of the game that will be appreciated by anyone who was annoyed by the arcade-like pace of FIFA 18 or longed for a general shift in gameplay for the sake of progress.

Leaving gameplay behind, FIFA 19 still presents a behemoth of soccer game modes that keeps growing by the year. People buy FIFA games because the series provides the most dense and authentic football experience around. That doesn't mean everything's perfect, though. The emphasis this year clearly wasn't on single-player content, as all major modes in that department remain relatively untouched. The biggest draw in this year's iteration is the new UEFA Champions League license, which previously belonged to KONAMI and House Rules. If you're down to play the game on your own, this may not be the best year to start with the FIFA series, especially if you own any of the entries from prior years.

Career mode is the most prominent example that has received almost no love for years. Whether you play it as your own player or as a manager, the career mode is still a good and deep experience, but it has been unfairly neglected when compared to other game modes in the franchise. There are deeper ways to adjust your tactics and create dynamic tactics, but otherwise, there is not much new to report. The only new single-player experience in FIFA 19 is the finale to Alex Hunter's story in the Journey mode. The cinematic story mode sees us taking control of Hunter and two more characters as they reach the heights of their careers. With plenty of cut scenes and decisions, this mode is decent entertainment for a few hours. At the end of the day, the frequent and sometimes quite uninspired training events it forces upon us get stale enough that even the passable actors and story can't elevate it.

The UEFA license has been expertly utilized by EA, including the atmosphere, commentators, entrances and music. It's an immersive highlight that you can either play separately or may encounter in other modes, such as the career mode. The improvements in atmosphere occasionally carry over to regular matches, where the audience doesn't seem to be as obviously copied and pasted, making them seem more varied and dynamic as they cheer us on.

The next big thing this year around is the reworked Kick Off mode, which enables us to set rules for our offline matches. You can create chaotic "No Rules" matches where there's no offside to worry about and sliding tackles into a forward's ankles are fair game. There's a good variety of special scoring rules to choose from, such as only having volleys and header goals count or only having goals from outside the zone count. There's even a battle royal mode (if you want to call it that) where players are removed from a team as soon as a goal is scored.

The modes don't seriously rival the substance in any other part of the game. They're shallow, flashy and stupidly fun, especially since they're made to be played with a local friend. What keeps them down is the fact that EA decided to make them couch co-op-only affairs without an online component beyond keeping track of stats. It's a missed opportunity that we won't see rectified until FIFA 20 rocks around the corner.

With all that said and done, let's quickly mention the heart and soul of the title: FIFA Ultimate Team. FUT is the most important part of the game for EA, as it offers a steady income stream and hooks players for at least another year. The game constantly updates the cards and options, and EA doesn't let a single event or holiday pass by without a set of limited edition cards and packs. Surprisingly, apart from cards, even FUT doesn't get much content this year. Division Rivals now offers weekly rewards and access to special events when successful on a weekly basis. Beyond that, it's business as usual, which may be bad or exciting, depending on where you stand on FUT.

From the technical side, FIFA 19 looks phenomenal and mostly runs the same. There simply isn't a better-looking sports game out there — and certainly not for soccer. It doesn't run perfectly smooth, with rare frame drops even on the PS4 Pro and the usual odd glitches and ragdoll shenanigans that FIFA players have come to expect. All of that aside, this is a beautiful game that oozes authenticity. If you're interested in licensed eye candy, FIFA 19 surely delivers.

Where do we stand at the end of the day with FIFA 19? While it introduces a few much-needed tweaks to the general gameplay and certainly nailed both the addition of UEFA and House Rules, other modes have not received much attention. It's the usual incremental update with a few stand-outs, depending on what you emphasize. As a total package, FIFA 19 plays it a bit too safe and relies on what it has rather than what it can achieve, so it ultimately falls short of expectations when compared to previous releases.

Taken as the sum of its parts, FIFA 19 is the most complete and beautiful soccer game around. Upon closer inspection, the latest entry doesn't shine as brightly. There are some admittedly great additions to this year's offering, but they don't add enough to the game to make it worthwhile for returning players who are invested in single-player content.

Score: 7.0/10

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