‘FIFA 21’ review: A gaming testament to sport and spirit

On the surface FIFA 21 may seem the same, but under the hood are small tweaks that bring the video game closer to the offline sport

Sports games that come out every year have it tough; tweaking gameplay, updating stats and rosters, and rolling out novel features, all to justify another purchase — especially after the powerhouse release last year which introduced VOLTA, EA Sports’ narrative innovation, which will permitted gamers to take football back to the streets, away from the familiar arenas of big clubs. (Volta is also Portuguese for ‘return’)


  • Developer: EA Sports
  • Publisher: EA
  • Price: ₹2,499 on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC ; coming soon on Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X/S

That said, there seems to be a pattern, as FIFA 21 — launched globally on October 9 — seems to be an all-round improvement this year, not just in the look but in the feel.

After the hue and cry around the disappointing career mode in FIFA 20, the latest game buffs up the single-player experience. FIFA 21 plays like a management simulation, where you lay down strategies for a successful team. You seem to become a more active football manager, where you can realistically simulate a game and play out different plans in real time. However, if you want to get a bit hands on, you can jump anytime into the game and play it yourself. The abilities to trade players on the market, train your team and set your tactics are fun. Sure, it’s not the grand update we wanted, but it’s a step up from last year and a move in the right direction.

Screenshot of FIFA 21, taken on a PlayStation 5 | Photo Credit: EA Sports

The other single-player mode comes with VOLTA, too. The other modes too, such as Ultimate Team, have got small improvements and key additions — including co-op with a friend to take on rival teams — that make the game a lot more fun. All welcome features but nothing revolutionary.

New kicks

The best user experiences are the invisible ones, and FIFA 21 has a lot going for it under the hood. There is more focus on the defensive aspects of the game, given FIFA has always been attacker-friendly. A favourite gameplay feature is Agile Dribbling, which holds down the right shoulder button and use the thumbstick to allow the player with the ball to have precise control of the ball; a skilled player can manoeuvre out of tight player dragnets on the pitch towards the goal.

A render of Norwegian footballer Erling Braut Håland doing Agile Dribbling in FIFA 21 | Photo Credit: EA Sports

Creative Runs, another great feature, allows some control on how your teammates move around you, easily positioning them for a strategic pass. EA has also added a better player AI personality, so players in the game will behave a lot like the real players, in both offence and defence verticals. Other behind-the-scenes changes include a better collision system, that aims to bring about more natural movements and interactions between players, which in previous games saw a lot of falling down and other goof ups.

It goes without saying that the game looks great, updated with all the latest rosters of your favourite matches. FIFA has shaped itself over the years as a true interactive representation of not only the sport but also its spirit: from the fans’ animation in the stands to the on-pitch emotions running wild, this release captures everything loved about the entire franchise.

Screenshot of FIFA 21, taken on a PlayStation 5 | Photo Credit: EA Sports

As expected, EA has also included two sets of distinctly different soundtracks (from more than 100 artists from 23 different countries) for both the tournament and VOLTA modes.

If your next gen console pre-order has not been cancelled in the ensuing supply scarcity following the pandemic, then wait and play FIFA 21 on your brand new next gen console as soon as it arrives. If you skipped out on FIFA 20, it is a great reason to jump on the new game. A lot of FIFA 21’s changes prove that it is one of the best football games on the market today, and while it is short on large features, its improvements are worth its price tag.

The writer is a tech and gaming enthusiast who hopes to one day finish his sci-fi novel

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