There is no doubt that year on year, the video game version of FIFA dominates when it comes to giving players a slick package full of flair and authenticity, especially in terms of all the licenses and presentation that comes with the modern game.
Yet, there is no escaping that FIFA remains the arcadey counterpart to the more simulation-like Pro Evolution Soccer 2019, and depending on how you like your beautiful game, FIFA 19 might not be the dish for you.
This year’s big addition is the inclusion of the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League into the FIFA 19 fold. From the television package, commentary, to that familiar anthem of the Champions League, the experience is recreated faithfully in FIFA 19. Save for the still, less than impressive player models and faces, you could easily mistake the game for the real deal.
Derek Rae and Lee Dixon add their voices to the usual commentary duo of Martin Tyler and Alan Smith, and it is refreshing to hear the new pair bantering and discussing the intricacies of European football. Be it Career mode, Kick-off or even FIFA Ultimate Team, the European competitions can be seen front and centre, although the integration with FUT remains to be seen, as there will be live updates.
The addition of 16 stadiums from the La Liga (sorry folks, but Camp Nou remains a PES exclusive), and several more including the homes of Premier League’s new boys, Cardiff City, Fulham, and Wolves means players will get up close and personal with these arenas.
The fans in the stadiums, while still being clones, do engage in more activities like taking selfies and showing off awesome banners and flags. The singing of club songs and atmosphere of most grounds do feel a little more amped up, and puts you in the mood for more footy every time.
The players themselves do look much better this time round, with details like hair and sweat being noticeably more impressive. And although FIFA 19 adds over 200 more faces to the game (most of it for La Liga), the faces of the players still look less realistic compared to their counterparts in PES.
When they are in motion though, they do display a new found sense of positioning, spatial awareness, and move more like the players they represent. If EA can nail down the aesthetic department of the game when it comes to facial capture and animation, then FIFA will undoubtedly be king.
Each year sees small incremental improvements to the foundations laid in place for modern FIFA games, and two of the more impactful changes are the Active Touch System and 50/50 Battles.
The Active Touch System adds even more tools to your locker to feint, trick, and get past opponents, the new animations are smooth and a delight to witness, and more importantly, gives you the edge when you pull them off successfully. Just like the pros, the first touch is essential, and the new system will take some getting used to.
Before you can leave the defenders trailing in your dust like Mbappe, there will be plenty of frustrating situations where a miscontrolled ball ruins your chances of a good opening. It happens to your novice created player, and also to the world-class pros. The flick of the right stick and Active Touch should be the first thing you master when getting into FIFA 19.
The changes to how players clash physically for control of the ball also adds a new dimension to the game. With player attributes now playing a big part, together with your reactions, loose balls are no longer a guarantee.
It is certainly more fun to see the more robust side of the game translate into FIFA 19, and adds a new factor to consider when attacking or defending. If you get yourself into the wrong positioning or time your tackles poorly, you are going to lose out.
Finishing in FIFA 19 also gets a new trick up its sleeve. The Timed Finishing mechanic, reminiscent of the Active Reload in Gears of War, task players to press the shoot button a second time during contact, to strike the ball with increased power and accuracy.
When you pull it off, it is a satisfying reward akin to striking the ball cleanly in real life. But with the traditional way of shooting still available and evidently more dependable, Timed Finishing is pretty much a gimmick. If you are the sort that will panic and mash the shoot button when vying for headers and the like, expect to see many failed and embarrassing attempts at goal.
Generally, FIFA remains a fast experience, but pace has been suitably nerfed this time around. Unless you are breaking away from the halfway line, more often than not, defenders will be doing their utmost to foil any counterattacks.
Threading the needle and finding open space is more important tactically, and with the added 50/50 system, strength and positioning are key to creating chances. Passing the ball around and stretching the defence makes for a more authentic experience, and it creates an experience that reflects football much better.
New modes help to freshen up the usual affair of FIFA, with Kick-Off getting a substantial boost. Headers & Volleys means goals only count if scored in that fashion, do without the referee in the barbaric No-Rules mode, or engage in the hottest genre right now, in battle royale-esque Survival Mode.
Every time you score, you lose a player. Do you take the lead late, or go all-out attack and get to five goals before your opponent can resist? It is a shot to the arm for FIFA 19, especially considering that Career Mode and Pro Clubs remain pretty much unchanged. Local multiplayer just got whackier with FIFA 19, with online play not an option currently (Why!?).
Ultimate Team remains the moneymaker and that means no major overhaul this time, except EA has added Division Rivals, a new mode where you can face off against similarly skilled opponents for rewards each week.
The fan favourite The Journey: Champions returns, together with three storylines revolving around Alex Hunter, his sister Kim, and best mate Danny Williams. The format remains the same, a scripted story that gives you choices that hardly matter.
There are certain scenes that warrant the slog through the mode, but ultimately The Journey remains a sideshow rather than the main attraction.
Come for the arcade gameplay, stay for the presentation. FIFA 19 continues EA’s form as the top dog in giving players an authentic, footballing experience off the pitch, but struggles to truly innovate in the gameplay department.
The new features, especially Kick-Off’s House Rules mode, are frankly awesome to play, and learning new systems that adds a dose of reality to the overall gameplay is always fun. FIFA 19 improves upon its predecessor in every way, but it is definitely not a world-beater yet.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Without a doubt an improvement over FIFA 18 with new tricks and the Champions League license, FIFA 19 still needs to up its game to have complete mastery over its rival.
Gameplay - 8/10
Story - 6/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 8/10