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There’s nothing revolutionary on the FIFA 21 features list, at least where current-gen is concerned. Career mode, Ultimate Team, and Volta all return in FIFA 21, but in terms of gameplay true evolution isn’t likely to occur until a couple of years into the PS5 and Xbox Series X life cycles. Still, there are small reasons to be cheerful, such as the inclusion of new Benfica player faces. Extra detail is always welcome. For everything else that’s new, plough onwards with GR’s FIFA 21 features guide.

It’s impossible to judge any football game in a single weekend, but our first two days testing FIFA 21 gameplay on PS4 deliver some encouraging signs. Improvements are subtle but key – the most immediate being centre-forward intelligence.

Depending on their awareness rating, strikers attempt to stay in line with the last defender, only breaking towards the ball as it’s released in behind the defence or crossed into the box.

Other small but important takeaways, in no particular order: Goalkeepers are much stronger on the near post. Heading hasn’t been overhauled completely, but isn’t nerfed like in FIFA 20. Central midfield play is less soupy, offering a touch more space and time on the ball. Defenders’ improved recognition of passing lanes, coupled with new blocking animations that make timely interventions feel less arbitrary, tidily counterbalances the improved attacking intelligence. 

FIFA 21 is released on PS5 and Xbox Series X to tie in with those consoles’, but EA hasn’t yet gone into detail on the next-gen versions. It has admitted, however, that haptic feedback is an area of focus: “Sense the impact of shots, passes, catches, kicks, tackles, and hits with immersive controller haptics. A new DualSense controller on PlayStation 5 with rich and responsive haptic feedback deepens the gameplay experience letting you feel the rhythm of the game in your hands.”

More promisingly, the mega-publisher also says FIFA will feature the most “authentic character behaviours ever seen in sports gaming”. An example given is players adjusting their shin pads in the 89th minute, but that’s a cosmetic improvement. What we really need from this humanisation is better player awareness – and the forward runs outlined above are a promising sign – and the end of comical decision-making, such as a midfielder passing the ball straight of play when there’s a winger five yards away.

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