There has only ever been on question to ask about each year’s Fifa: is it worth getting? And there’s usually been far more than one answer, all kinds of caveats about the kind of features you use and player you are.
This year the answer is as simple as the question. Yes, you should. The changes are subtle but they are everywhere, and offer something for every kind of player.
If you’re a fan of authenticity the Champions League will be worth it alone, but if you want silliness like games with no fouls then there’s plenty of that too. Top players finally get new and intricate ways to show off their skill; casual players have easier ways to jump into games without fretting about if they’ll lose miserably. Those who jump into Fifa every so often when mates are round will be delighted by the alterations to kickoff mode and the handicap system; those for whom it’s an obsession will just become more obsessed by the updates to FUT and other changes.
Nothing has changed a lot. But almost everything has changed a little.
The most unsubtle of those small changes is the addition of the Champions League. Fifa will not let you forget that it’s the first time it’s had the license: when you power up the game for the first time, you’re thrown into a match that’s part of the competition, with “CHAAMPIOONS” blaring loudly at you and all the requisite visual branding flying by.
Fifa is clearly proud of winning it back, in line with its general commitment to authenticity. But it hasn’t rested on that achievement: the mode is properly and thoroughly added to the game, not just a new piece of branding slapped onto old game modes. As well as being added to existing features – such as the Journey and manager mode, as well as the option to play with that or any other branding in a Kick-Off match – Fifa has developed a devoted tournament mode for the Champions League. You can watch the draw happen live, place whatever teams you like into it, play with all the excitement of the real tournament, and progress through without the bother of domestic leagues getting in the way.
When compared with the rest of the changes, it is relatively unsubstantial. Games are not changed in any meaningful way – apart from the design of the score in the corner and realistic branding added to stadiums. But it is lots of fun, and the kind of feature that gives you something clearly new to justify the purchase of the game.
Kick-Off mode has been relatively neglected in recent years, perhaps because it is so stubbornly reliable and does exactly what is needed. Which is an intense shame: it is the game’s most central and reliable mode, the one that probably accounts for most people’s greatest Fifa memories, and the place that most players will first come to.
That changes this year. It offers useful improvements to new players and exciting ones for hardcore ones – and, most importantly of all, new ways of allowing those two kinds of fans to play alongside each other.
Chief among them is the new handicapping system. Until now, attempting to even up a game has meant forcing people to choose wonky teams; particularly good players have been forced to get far more acquainted with the tactics and squads of obscure international teams than they ever wanted to be. In the new game, that has changed so that differences in ability can be offset in more interesting ways: by setting a score at the beginning that puts weaker players a number of goals up, for instance, or giving the better player a much less good AI, so that their players are not as helpful.