FIFA 20 review – fun football foiled by a stubborn refusal to read the room

September 19, 2019
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I find myself quite cross with FIFA 20. This is a game with meaningful, welcome changes on the pitch. This is a fun football video game made by developers who clearly love football and are well aware of community feedback. But FIFA 20 is also a video game made by a publisher that’s seemingly incapable of changing some of the problematic stuff that comes with each and every FIFA game – at a time when the conversation has most certainly changed.

Let’s start with the good news. Pace is back. FIFA 19 had an annoying issue where decidedly average defenders would catch up with fast players. Even Chris Smalling could do it. No more. In FIFA 20, fast players really do feel fast. This is very much a good thing, in my book. So much of modern football is about pace and running in behind the defence, and so it is in FIFA 20. I find myself looking for that winger run pretty much every time I work the ball in midfield and, if I can get it to my winger, attacking the box. There’s a real sense of immediacy to FIFA 20’s gameplay, a staccato rhythm to play that rewards quickness of thought. Pass, pass, pass around the corner then bang! The likes of Mohamed Salah and Kylian Mbappe are devastating in FIFA 20 – as they are in real life.

Speaking of bursts of pace, the new strafe dribbling, dubbed “crab walking” by the FIFA community, returns after a hiatus brought on by its overpowered star turn in FIFA 17. This powerful technique feels particularly useful in the context of FIFA 20 downplaying skill moves (the El Tornado cross auto-goal is a thing of the past). The idea here is to lure the defender in with crab walking then beat them with speed or a skill move. It’s fun, satisfying and perhaps ever so slightly too effective. But what’s certain is it beats normal left stick dribbling.

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