An­swers its crit­ics with a glit­ter­ing dis­play

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - CONTENT - @Ben­jiWil­son

The wealth­i­est com­pe­ti­tion in club foot­ball French-kiss­ing the rich­est name in dig­i­tal sports was never likely to sit well with more ra­bid sports gamers. On which note: wel­come to FIFA 19. Af­ter pris­ing the Cham­pi­ons League li­cence away from PES, EA’s lat­est kick­about of­fers com­pre­hen­sive im­ple­men­ta­tion of the big boys’ favourite mid-week pur­suit. For those open­minded enough to look beyond pre­con­cep­tions, this per­ceived match made in hell pro­vides nu­mer­ous heav­enly mo­ments.

Be­fore get­ting to those, let’s make some­thing clear: on-pitch game­play is para­mount. It’s why, for all their pre­sen­ta­tional ex­cel­lence, MLB: The Show and NBA 2K have main­tained their sta­tus at the top of the sports pyra­mid for close to a decade. Tweaks made to FIFA 19 put it in the same league. Fun­da­men­tals such as pass­ing, shoot­ing, and drib­bling haven’t been trans­formed, but from a phys­i­cal stand­point this is much dif­fer­ent from its pre­de­ces­sors.

For in­stance, pace at­tributes are low­ered across the game, mak­ing the on-pitch ac­tion more con­sid­ered. Mean­while the in­tro­duc­tion of con­tex­tual 50/50 bat­tles, as play­ers slam into one an­other to con­test loose balls and crosses, in­stils a sense of phys­i­cal­ity be­fit­ting elite sports­men do­ing bat­tle. There’s still room for zippy pass­ing and bal­letic drib­bling, but those who pre­fer their foot­ball more in­dus­trial are catered for too. In­deed, head­ing is the one fun­da­men­tal el­e­ment rev­o­lu­tionised by these changes, with pow­er­ful goals off a striker’s bonce and im­pe­ri­ous fore­head clear­ances en­joy­able like never be­fore.


Those in­cre­men­tal-yet-whole­sale im­prove­ments on the turf are bol­stered by the piz­zazz of the Cham­pi­ons League off it. Avail­able as a stand­alone tour­na­ment, or within the re­con­fig­ured Kick-off mode, ca­reer mode, third in­stal­ment of The Jour­ney and/or Ul­ti­mate Team, EA can­not be ac­cused of bung­ing the ball-shaped logo on the box and watch­ing the cash roll in. This colos­sal li­cence’s in­fil­tra­tion of said modes brings mixed re­sults – it’s the only ma­jor change to ca­reer, which is dis­ap­point­ing – but it cer­tainly drums up a vibe of com­plete­ness.

Unique­ness, too, partly be­cause of the OTT fea­tures that go hand-in-glove with the tour­na­ment: play­ers emerg­ing through the makeshift arch as if at­tend­ing a royal wed­ding, that glo­ri­ous op­er­atic theme boom­ing out as they line up. And partly be­cause of a new com­men­tary team in Derek Rae and Lee Dixon. Em­phatic in de­liv­ery and un­con­ven­tional in pro­nun­ci­a­tion thanks to his Scots burr, Rae is a rev­e­la­tion, while Dixon – de­spite some


wonky first-timer mo­ments – shows more en­thu­si­asm here than he ever has on ITV Sport. Demon­strat­ing a nat­u­ral chem­istry, the pair make the mode sing.

The CL’s in­te­gra­tion into Ul­ti­mate Team is un­der­stated. There’s sadly no op­tion to use Rae and Dixon, but sports gam­ing’s best mode doesn’t go un­touched. A key new fea­ture is the pack-open­ing tool that maps ev­ery­thing to a sin­gle but­ton or stick nudge: up to trans­fer list, down to quick sell, i to send all cards to your club. Di­vi­sion Ri­vals, with weekly re­wards for your on­line per­for­mances, are a fan­tas­tic sup­ple­ment to off­line Squad Bat­tles, while Squad Build­ing Chal­lenges – in which you sub­mit teams to un­lock fresh packs – are one of the most ad­dic­tive mini-games on PS4 ever. I’ve lost en­tire evenings to them with­out play­ing a match.

A word, too, for The Jour­ney: Cham­pi­ons, the fi­nal chap­ter in Alex Hunter’s in­ter­ac­tive story with cameos from Ney­mar and Kevin de Bruyne, to name two. Once more show­cas­ing like­able char­ac­ters and the bet­ter kind of B-movie writ­ing, it uses that new li­cence smartly, and the abil­ity to switch be­tween Hunter, sis­ter Kim, and pal Danny Williams at any time cre­ates va­ri­ety and some fun sur­prises – such as a pass­ing prac­tice in a ho­tel cor­ri­dor. It’s an ap­pro­pri­ate send­off to a fic­tional char­ac­ter FIFA diehards have be­come sur­pris­ingly at­tached to. So good, you won­der just how the series will evolve in his ab­sence. Rae and Dixon across all modes would be a start.

It won’t cause diehard PES fans to switch, but FIFA 19 is a fine foot­ball sim in its own right.


Be­low There are more than 700 teams, with Di­namo Za­greb a new­comer.

Right Goalies are more alert to dan­ger, but still im­per­fect. (For re­al­ism, says EA.)

Above left ‘Player pick’ packs add a de­gree of choice to Ul­ti­mate Team.

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