FIFA 20 Review: Initial Impressions of Volta Mode, Features and Gameplay Videos

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 19, 2019

EA Sports

EA Sports' flagship franchise will return with FIFA 20 on September 27, or three days earlier for those who've pre-ordered the Champions or Ultimate Editions of the game. 

FIFA 19 followed a rocky path after a promising start, and EA will be hoping its successor will enjoy a better legacy over the course of its cycle.

Along with gameplay tweaks, the developers have also made notable changes and additions to Ultimate Team and Career Mode, as well as the addition of a major new mode, Volta, which replaces The Journey.

                      

Gameplay

EA has focused on improving 50-50 battles in recent years, placing more emphasis on physicality and adding weight to impacts to make them feel more authentic.

Continuing on from that, the focus this year has been revamping one-on-one situations, offering both attackers and defenders more options in such circumstances.

Attacking players can make use of Strafe Dribbling, a new mechanic where—with the press of L1 or LB—the player with the ball will have more movement options to beat an opponent, perhaps by luring them in and bursting past them at pace or evading them with skill.

Naturally, those with better dribbling attributes and agility will be able to use the system to the greatest effect, but it feels like it will be a worthwhile tool in most players' arsenals.

Meanwhile, Controlled Tackling is an attempt to resolve an issue that plagued FIFA 19, in which the attacking team frequently retained possession of the ball even after a defender made a well-timed tackle.

Controlled Tackling rewards manual defending by going in the other direction, but it perhaps goes too far—tackling now feels too effective. Even mistimed challenges will see defenders win the ball more often than not, without conceding a foul, to the point that it's difficult to even deliberately foul an opponent.

In the event you are fouled, direct free-kicks and penalties have also been revamped.

You can now aim a reticle at goal for more precision, while the power applied will affect the trajectory of the ball. High-power shots will make for driven free-kicks, while low-power efforts will allow for more curl, like a finesse shot in open play.

With specific movements on the right stick during a run-up, you can then affect the spin of the ball, adding top or side spin or hitting a knuckleball. The risk-reward option of Timed Finishing with a second press of the shoot button can also be applied.

Penalties work much the same way, minus the ability to add spin during the run-up.

The system will reward those who master it, but as with Timed Finishing last year, only time will tell as to whether the increased precision proves to be a welcome addition or an overpowered route to goal.

Speaking of precision, players will welcome an increased number of settings to play with, with EA perhaps having taken some inspiration from Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer series.

Included in the new settings is the ability to turn on or off Pass Block Assistance—which dictates whether your A.I. team-mates try to intercept passes or not. You can also lock to a pass receiver late or early, and there is an option to have assisted or manual jockeying.

                

Graphics and Presentation

The Frostbite engine will be familiar to those who've played FIFA in recent years, and it returns once again with the same level of polish we've come to expect.

So too have the menu layouts, though the Squad Screen in FUT has undergone a redesign to allow quicker access to your squad, club, the transfer market and more.

With the exception of Juventus—who appear as Piemonte Calcio as they're an exclusive team for PES 2020 this year—the usual licences return.

Fans of the Bundesliga will particularly enjoy the game this year with new stadiums, face scans and broadcast improvements:

Derek Rae and Lee Dixon, who joined FIFA last year as commentators for European matches, take on a much more prominent role in FIFA 20.

Kick-Off mode matches—aside from men's and women's international games—seem to default to them, and they also comment frequently on Premier League games in Career Mode in place of the usual duo Martin Tyler and Alan Smith.

EA has embraced customisation this year, and that can be felt across the game.

Whereas in FIFA 19 many of the customisation options for hair, tattoos and clothing were restricted to Alex, Kim and Danny in The Journey, you can now do the same with your Volta Avatar and Career Mode manager.

The ability to create female players and managers is also a welcome and overdue addition.

Customisation extends to FUT, with the ability to make kits, crests, tifos and more included.

Meanwhile, the new Volta mode is packed with variety and colour. An underpass in Amsterdam, a rooftop pitch in Tokyo and the streets of Rio de Janeiro make for much more visually interesting locales than the standard 11 vs. 11 pitches you'll be otherwise competing on.

Another neat touch is that in Volta, replays of goals and celebrations are done from smartphones and CCTV cameras, adding to the authenticity of the mode further.

                        

Volta

Volta is the most significant addition to FIFA 20.

Fans of the FIFA Street series, which last produced an entry in 2012, will enjoy a return to the urban environments and more arcade feeling of Volta.

The mode allows you to play free-flowingalbeit occasionally freneticthree-on-three, four-on-four or five-on-five matches in smaller environments. In the latter two, you can play with or without goalkeepers.

Tricks and flair passes are much easier to pull off, so it's far more accessible to those who don't specialise in utilising skill moves in full-sized games.

It's rewarding to rebound a pass to a team-mate off a wall, pull off a stylish move that ends in a spectacular bicycle kick or, if you're feeling especially audacious, disrespect your opponent with a kneeling header.

Volta also has a story mode included for those looking for more narrative in the game. It isn't quite as long or in-depth as The Journey, but it serves as a neat introduction to getting started in Volta.

The story follows Revvy, an aspiring street footballer hoping to make it to the Volta World Championships. Along the way, he encounters real street football legends including Jayzinho and Kotaro Tokuda, as well as Real Madrid starlet Vinicius Jr.

Dialogue and scenes also play out slightly differently depending on whether your Revvy is male or female, and the ability to replay the story after completing it will allow players to explore both versions.

Volta is where the customisation truly shines, as you can kit out not only your Avatar but also your entire squad to your liking.

To that end, clothing items, hairstyles and tattoos can be unlocked by completing challenges or spending coins in the Volta Shop, so microtransactions aren't required to get that must-have jacket you're after.

The limited-time challenges are achievable, while the coins are earned by playing matches and are generously doled out in the story mode, so there shouldn't be too much grinding required even for the rarer, more valuable items.

                      

Kick-Off, Features and More

Kick-Off mode is largely the same as last year, with two new additions to the House Rules: Mystery Ball and King of the Hill.

In the former, every time the ball goes out of play, it's replaced with another that applies a random boost to the player in possession's shooting, dribbling, passing, speed or all of the above, and how much the next goal is worth.

Watching the players zip about the pitch with a speed boost is exciting, and the frequent switches of which boost is active keeps things fresh.

The latter requires you to hold the ball in a random area of the pitch before you can score, and holding it longer will increase what your next goal is worth.

It's a fun test of your ability to shield the ball and retain possession under pressure, though it's worth noting that when playing against A.I. opponents, they did not seem to make a special effort to take the ball into the required area when they had possession.

Exclusive to FUT are two further modes, Max Chemistry and Swaps. The former does exactly what you'd expect, while in the latter, three of your players will be swapped at random with the opponent's at the start of the game.

They can be played in FUT alongside the other House Rules in the new FUT Friendlies hub, where you can play with friends locally or online without having to worry about contracts, fitness, injuries or suspensions in your squad.

Seasoned FUT players will also welcome the addition of Season and Milestone Objectives, which will take place over a longer term than the Daily and Weekly Objectives, while Foundations Objectives make it simpler for new players to ease their way into FUT.

The removal of the daily match cap in Squad Battles allows for more flexibility, too.

After the emergence of FUT as FIFA's most popular mode, players of Career Mode have had little more than scraps to feed off in recent years.

EA has made more of an effort on that front in FIFA 20 with the introduction of interactive press conferences, conversations, a new morale system and Dynamic Player Potential.

In the pre- and post-match pressers, your fully customised male or female manager will answer questions from the media through dialogue options.

Those questions will be tailored to what happened in the match and specific circumstances, such as whether a new signing is making his debut, a young player burst on to the scene with an impressive performance or a high-profile player was left out.

Similarly, one-on-one conversations with players in your squad will see you choose from multiple options if a player welcomes you to the club or requests more game time.

These are a work in progress, though—after saying I'd give a young player a chance in the coming weeks, he sent me an identical message after he wasn't picked in the following game.

Your answers in conversations and conferences will also have an impact on your team and individual players' morale, which in turn can affect their attributes, so it's important to keep a happy camp.

Another addition is Dynamic Player Potential, which means that giving meaningful game time to younger players and performing well with them can see their potential increase the following season, or they can likewise decrease if they're not getting on the pitch.

The impact of this system might become apparent over the long-term, but a few months into the second season of a career, I'd seen no clear sign of it in action.

The ability to switch off international management offers is a small but welcome quality-of-life improvement, but negotiating transfers and wages is still hit and miss, and options such as a loan with an option to buy remains a pipe dream.

Fixture congestion also remains an issue, too, with one instance in which my team was required to play on a Tuesday night before a knockout game in the UEFA Europa League on Thursday.

Last, it would be good if youth objectives applied to real youngsters already present at clubs as well as the auto-generated players scouted and signed to the academy.

At Manchester United, for example, developing 17-year-old Mason Greenwood into a first-team star does not count toward the objectives, which remains a source of frustration.

                               

Conclusion

When it comes to the gameplay changes made to FIFA 20, it would come as little surprise if EA releases a balancing patch in the near future to make tweaks to Controlled Tackling and the revamped set pieces.

More will become clear on that front upon release, when the community at large will get their hands on it and truly put such mechanics through their paces.

FUT Friendlies and Foundations Objectives make it easier to enjoy FUT as a casual player, but there should be enough to keep veterans of the mode happy, too.

EA has spent more time on the Career Mode this year than it has for some time, but the additions don't all land. It's an improved experience from FIFA 19, but the changes aren't significant enough to breathe new life into it.

Volta is a superb addition, though. It's a worthy successor to and boasts more replay value than The Journey, which will have been a one-and-done for most players. Volta is relentlessly fun and will hook new players and FIFA veterans alike.

Volta is perhaps the biggest draw of FIFA 20 and the best way to enjoy it.

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