"Story mode was always intended to be a trilogy," FIFA 20 producer Matthew Prior says of The Journey. The story mode that has been a large part of the last three FIFA games. "It was always intended to end."
But that doesn't mean FIFA 20 is giving up on story entirely. Lots of players enjoyed the narrative arc, Prior says, so the new street ball mode, Volta, will have a story mode as well. Lasting six hours, it trades FIFA hero Alex Hunter for a player-created avatar, but with a similar intention of teaching players the basics.
The story mode is just one part of an expansive new mode intended to capture the spirit of the much-loved FIFA Street for PlayStation 2. While it's based on roughly the same mechanics as the traditional FIFA 11v11 mode, its small arenas and open goals put a greater emphasis on stick skills and flairs. Effectively, it's an opportunity for advanced players to cleanse the palate of Ultimate Team and put on a show.
The full mode will include something called "Volta World," which will feature CPU-controlled player squads that can be downloaded from the cloud, with victory allowing you to recruit other player avatars to your squad. It will include peer to peer, couch co-op play, and a seasons mode in which you create your own arena and set custom rules, then play a multitude of home and away games under different formats.
It will also eventually include microtransactions... probably. While Volta's grindable currency won't be able to be purchased with real world money at launch, EA is open to adding the option at a later date, perhaps after more cosmetics are available. It certainly has plenty of reason to diversify, particularly with the looming prospect of more decisions like the one in Belgium.
Taken together, it's quite a bit meatier than I initially expected. I'll reserve judgment until I actually get to play it, but it certainly sounds promising. We've been sorely lacking an arcade soccer game in the years since 2012, which marked FIFA Street's last appearance. It's just a shame that it won't be on Nintendo Switch, which is only getting a simple "legacy edition" this year. Baffling, really.
Anyway, here are a few more notes from today's FIFA 20 presentation at EA Play.
- Why it won't have Online Team Play: As soon as word hit that FIFA 20 was introducing customizable avatars, the FIFA community started getting excited about the prospect of Online Team Play. Who doesn't want to be able to kit out a full customized character, then jump into a squad with 10 other players? Alas, it's not to be... at least not yet. "We considered OTP early on," Prior says. "We couldn't fit that in at the first kick of the can. It is something we're aware of, it is something we're looking to bring, but it's not something we have right now."
- Real teams will be available in Volta: While Volta will be primarily based around customizable avatars, it will also include 3v3 games featuring real teams. One variant I saw pitted Atletico Madrid against Real Madrid on a rooftop arena in Tokyo. Why Tokyo? I have no idea. I'll just pretend that it was one really big friendly match between the two.
- This is the first time female players can play with male ones in FIFA: FIFA introduced women's teams several years ago, but its only now possible for men and women to play on the same pitch. It's a nice addition, and considerably more meaningful than the effort put forth by NHL, where female avatars are glitchy messes referred to by male pronouns by the announcers.
- Clothing will be seasonal: On the subject of customization, EA is planning to continually update the available cosmetics. Prior expects seasons to last around 4 to 6 weeks, at which point the available items will be refreshed. Some may also be tied to real events. Just speculating off the top of my head, that could include amazing performances, big Champion's League upsets, and World Cup winners. There are certainly plenty of candidates to choose from.
Another Way to Get Fresh Blood Into FIFA
FIFA has a reputation for being one of the most accessible sports games around. It built its massive fanbase on couch play and the intuitive fun of playing video game soccer. But for newcomers, coordinating 11 players is a monstrously complicated task. Thus, it only makes sense for FIFA 20 to slim it down a bit with a mode like Volta, where players only have to control three avatars and don't necessarily have to worry about goal keepers (though there are some advanced blocking mechanics).
Volta won't have any hooks into FUT, which is where FIFA 20 will make the bulk of its money, but there's no doubt that EA is aiming to get some fresh blood into its flagship mode. Volta will be the FUT gateway drug, just like The Journey before it. But to its credit, it already feels more fully-formed than NHL's World of Chel, which was fun for about a minute before getting tiresome. FIFA Street has a much richer history than NHL Ones, which only ever felt like a gimmick.
Anyway, FIFA needed some refreshing after a drab couple years, and EA is wise to look to street football to give it an injection of life and energy. I look forward to circling back when its playable. As for FIFA 20 itself, it will be out in September.