FIFA 21 review – Crossing is king and fans pack virtual stadiums in latest EA Sports outing

ANOTHER year, another FIFA – but this year's been unlike any other.

With the world (and football) in crisis amid a global pandemic, 2020 may be the perfect time to invest in a new game to take your mind off things – but is FIFA 21 worth your cash?

Like the hundreds of real teams who lack the funds to overhaul their squads, EA Sports has kept the additions to a minimum this time around.

Career mode has been given a much-needed revamp, adding the ability to jump in at key moments during simulated games.

It makes you feel a lot more involved in the action as you can take a penalty or free kick before hopping out of the match again.

Gamers can also take advantage of new Active Training, which lets you train multiple players at a time in group drills, as well as choose when they rest between games.

In terms of gameplay, EA has changed things up a bit by adding a new Positioning Personality trait.

It improves in-game intelligence of your teammates, with smarter players now better at getting behind their opponents.

In my short time with the game, I've noticed this benefits attackers more than defenders – a well placed cross to the back post is a sure-fire way to get you a goal if a decent winger is running onto the end of it.

Attackers are also bolstered by Agile Dribbling system, which lets you shift the ball with rapid and precise touches.

It can look a little goofy but if used correctly is an over-powered tool for one-on-ones. Expect it to lead to numerous rage quits.

Moving on to multiplayer, and EA appear to have leaned heavily on the old saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".

FUT now has a companion app which you can use to make transfers and buy players and packs for those of you who find the chore of switching on your console a little too taxing.

I got my hands on the game early and so wasn't able to access FUT mode itself, but expect the same mix of dizzying highs and agonising lows as you lose 5-0 for the third game in a row.

Outside of multiplayer and career mode, Volta – EA's narrative-driven street football mode – makes a return.

The 3v3 games are a good way to practice your skills in tight spaces, but I much prefer good ol' fashion 11-a-side matches, personally.

Perhaps what's most interesting about FIFA 21 is not what's there, but what's missing.

With real crowds all-but absent due to Covid-19 restrictions, it's odd that the game doesn't mirror the eerily quiet atmospheres of stadiums in 2020.

Fans sit side by side without a mask in sight – a slightly jarring spectacle given the empty stands we're now used to seeing on telly.

Another omission of note is VAR, making FIFA 21 the third of EA's footy games in a row to leave out video referees from the action.

Given the controversy surrounding the real VAR, this is perhaps a smart move, but they'll have to bring it in at some point, surely.

For all its hype and star-studded marketing, the key question is: Is FIFA 21 worth your hard-earned dough?

EA has added a couple of nifty features, and appears to have evaded the glitches and bugs that played last year's title, but overall there's not a great deal to write home about.

Given the lack of any blockbuster additions, it feels like FIFA 21 is a stepping stone game for the hardcore fans only.

If you're a FIFA obsessive who lives for FUT, grab yourself a copy (you were going to regardless of what I said, weren't you?)

However, if you're a casual fan who's bought a FIFA within the past two seasons, you can probably give it a miss.

FIFA 21 is out on Xbox One, PS4 and PC on October 9. It will launch on the Xbox Series X and PS5 later this year.

In other news, here's everything you need to know about the new FIFA game.

You can find the best pre-order deals for the footy simulator here.

And, Brit boxing legend Anthony Joshua is available as a playable character in the game.

Are you excited for the new FIFA? Let us know in the comments!

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