FIFA 21 Review: Gameplay, FUT, Career Mode, Pro Clubs & More

FIFA 21 Ultimate Edition dropped on October 6
FIFA 21 Ultimate Edition dropped on October 6

Congratulations FIFA, you've reeled me in again.

Even for a 30-something long past his gaming peak, EA Sports' FIFA 21 was a must have - especially given we're spending so much time at home. Passing up an opportunity to give the game a go days prior to release (it's out now, btw) wasn't ever going to happen once it first became a possibility.

We're a little delayed with the review release given transfer deadline day happened to get into the way, but strap in. What follows is a hopefully handy breakdown of FIFA 21 from the perspective of your casual gamer.


Gameplay has undergone a few alterations, and for the better
Gameplay has undergone a few alterations, and for the better

In recent editions I've completely lost the art of defending. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

No longer was I safe to hold off Chris Deeley's straight-line running while he spent the time out of possession with 11 men behind the ball on FIFA 20. The art of tackling was a mystery to me with last year's alterations, but having smashed through my own resistance to change I've made an effort to get to grips. It's not worked so far though, at all.

Defending is still difficult. And unless you're putting a heck of a lot of time in or really know what you're doing, you're probably going to ship a lot of goals against friends or online. They have made improvements ahead of launch in the sense of attackers will now less frequently recollect the ball after being tackled (incredibly frustrating, that's been) and interceptions are easier.

It's one heck of a lot easier to attack in 21, though, which should make it a lot more fun. Attacking runs, if you're patient enough to wait for them, are far more intelligent, and they provide far more opportunity for you to create. If you can master off the ball runs yourself (there's a number of ways to do this, check the tutorials) there's some real potential to do damage.

Agile dribbling is a game changer for anyone who can't dribble...
Agile dribbling is a game changer for anyone who can't dribble...

To boot, agile dribbling is a winner. Holding down RB/R1 while in possession of the ball and switching direction will see your player take more frequent touches with both feet, keeping the ball close to the body. It's intended to see you past a defender in one on one situations, so it's worth learning about.

And crossing is back with a vengeance, too. At least at the present moment. There's tons of ways for you to score - even if you've been out of the game for a while.

Visuals & Licenses

As you'd always expect, the graphics are lovely. Licensed kits and player faces galore makes it the most real football experience you can get outside of the game itself, visually at least, and it's always the huge advantage the game series will hold over PES.

FIFA Ultimate Team

Eric Cantona is an Icon ?
Eric Cantona is an Icon ?

I don't envision myself ploughing too much time into FUT this year - I'll be honest, it's lost me ever since you could get 26,000 upgraded versions of the same player and people took it too seriously - but it was obviously the first game mode I found myself drawn to anyway.

There is no good way to get good at this mode other than by ploughing your time, effort and money into it, and that's very bad. It's no secret that it's bad either, but people will still mindlessly pummel their cash into FUT in the hope they can pack at least one Icon from 12,000 FIFA points, only to see the best they've ended up with was Fede Valverde and a bunch of contract consumables.

And it'll keep happening until something changes. But while building that incredible team is half the world away unless you're one of the lucky ones, there are some strong positives.

FUT Co-op will be great fun, plus the menus have received a makeover and are easy to navigate. The best part though (and they had to do this, really) is the Dual Entitlement - allowing you to carry your club and team with you from PS4 to PS5, or through Xbox generations. This isn't possible with other game modes.

Pro Clubs, Career Mode & Volta

Volta's back, but might not keep your attention for too long
Volta's back, but might not keep your attention for too long

Pro Clubs was 90min's champion game mode on FIFA 20, and while it's still obvious it's not too high up on the priority list at EA, there are some improvements to keep you and your mates coming back.

You can now customise your AI teammates' names and appearances, while customising tactics is an option too. If you've got your mates to go along with you'll still have your fun, but it still hasn't been shown enough love.

Career Mode has been given a series of upgrades too, with the Interactive Match Sim now allowing you to jump in and out of matches at key moments like free kicks and penalties, while Player Development allows you to retrain your squad members into different positions. Training and Schedule Planning has been on the agenda, while you can now even mock the real life transfer market by offering loan to buy options on players, because that's all the rage.

Anthony Joshua is a playable character on Volta this year, but you're still not quite sure if this mode's strong enough to steal people away from the classic favourites. We'll see how long the novelty lasts down the line.

FIFA 21 Overall Rating: 7.5/10

Perhaps next year will be the year we see some groundbreaking changes to the FIFA series, given the new consoles are set to drop in the coming weeks and months, but they've done just enough this year to keep you tied over and happy to carry on.

There's still plenty of opportunity to waste your hours in extended lockdown on FIFA 21, and what more can you ask for? Just don't waste too much money or break any controllers.