FIFA 20 Hands-on: Slower, But Perhaps Better

FIFA 20 Hands-on: Slower, But Perhaps Better

We try out this year's version of EA's popular soccer sim.

For as long as I've been playing, FIFA has struggled with the basic question of speed. Turn it up too far, and fans complain about pace merchants and a lack of realism. Turn it down, and fans will complain that its boring and pine for the days of FIFA 15 The quote from the classic Simpsons episode "The Itchy, Scratchy, and Poochie Show" seems to fit here: "You kids don't know what you want! That's why you're still kids! Because you're stupid!"

Anyway, joking aside, it remains a sore point for the series. Last year's version was an especially strange one: a fast-paced, press heavy soccer sim that was also something of a grindfest. Fans complained endlessly of missed shots and defenders that could flawlessly track back and dispossess attackers in one-on-one duels. This year's version attempts to rectify that; cynically, you could say that this is just another spin of the constant annual sports game carousel, but if you're more optimistic like me, you can at least say that the FIFA team is responding to community feedback.

I would compare this year's version to FIFA 16, which from a gameplay standpoint was probably the best balanced version of this generation (I complained about its pace at the time, but I've since come around on it). It feels extremely slow at first, especially compared to last yeear's version. But after adjusting to the speed, and especially the nerfed acceleration, I started to appreciate some of the changes to the gameplay.

Live look in at FIFA audience research | Frinkiac

Most of the updates appear to be in direct reaction to last year's critiques. Defenders were criticized for being able to perfectly follow attackers, so contains have been nerfed in this version. Everyone complained about missed shots, so finishing is being reworked. There's more of an emphasis on one-on-one duels in this version, perhaps because of the new Volta mode, and the AI is deliberately tuned to be more spread out to encourage them. One result was that my players had an easy time beating their man with simple skill moves, whereupon I was able to send the ball through to someone like Mohamed Salah, who would be a couple yards off his man on the wings.

The later matches I played wound up being enjoyable back and forths, especially when it was Liverpool vs. Manchester City. It felt more tactical before, but I also felt like my skill on the ball had a large to play as well. I saw goals scored on headed crosses, sweet little interplays, and a couple long distance worldies from well outside the box. Of course, FIFA being FIFA, I also had one sequence in which the ball went off the post at least three times, so not everything was different.

While I was initially a bit flustered by what felt like sluggish acceleration-directing my midfield felt like steering the Titanic-it eventually felt okay. Honestly, I'm always a little nervous about writing these types of articles, because I know there's still a huge amount of tuning to be done. I imagine that FIFA 20 will feel very different when I get more hands-on with it in a month or two, as it will feel very different at launch. And even if EA gets everything right-as it did with NHL 19 at the outset-it could still drop a patch and break everything. That's the way with sports games these days.

Honestly though, any positivity around FIFA's gameplay is welcome. Ever since its transition to Frostbite, it has struggled with major input delays, frustrating animations, and other issues. Even in FIFA 20, I still get the feeling of being locked in lengthy animations at times, limiting my options in tight situations.

So if I sound hesitant to give the gameplay updates my full-throated endorsement, that's probably why. Still, it's nice to know that EA is listening. And if FIFA 20 is to go out on a high note, this seems like a decent start. FIFA 20 will be out September 27, and you can find release dates and more right here.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Kat Bailey

Editor in Chief

Kat Bailey is a former freelance writer and contributor to publications including 1UP, IGN, GameSpot, GamesRadar, and EGM. Her fondest memories as a journalist are at GamePro, where she hosted RolePlayer's Realm and had legal access to the term "Protip." She is USgamer's resident mecha enthusiast, Pokemon Master, and Minnesota Vikings nut (skol).

Read this next

FIFA 20 Release Date - Gameplay Changes, Cover Star, FIFA Volta, PC Specs

We’re right on the cusp of the reveal for FIFA 20. Here’s what we know so far.

FIFA 20 Icons - Every Confirmed Icon For FUT 20

Icons are back for FIFA 20. Here’s who made the cut.

Starting Screen | Can Sports Games be Fixed?

No one seems happy with otherwise popular games like Madden and FIFA. What's going wrong?

FIFA 20 Volta: Gameplay, Match Types, Stadiums - Is it a New FIFA Street?

FIFA 20 adds in a brand new mode called Volta, though it might seem familiar to fans of the series. Here’s all of the details on the brand new Volta Mode in FIFA 20.

FIFA 20 Closed Beta is Live Today. Here are the Dates, Features, and How You Get In

Those who opted in are getting their first look at FIFA starting today.

FIFA 20 Career Mode: Changes, Press Conferences, Player Morale and More

A bunch of new features have just been announced for FIFA 20’s Career Mode. Here’s what you need to know.

Volta Feels Like the Missing Piece of the Puzzle for FIFA 20

We go hands-on with FIFA 20's new street mode, and we like what we see.

More Opinions

The Fire Emblem: Three Houses Student Ranking Thunderdome: 34 Students Enter, Only Shamir Leaves

We have no favorites among Three Houses' students, except for the ones that are our favorites.

NBA 2K20 Finally Tackles the VC Microtransaction Grind: "We Didn't Want People to Feel [...] Trapped in This Grind Anymore"

Virtual Currency is here to stay, but at least the grind will be less painful this year.

No Man's Sky Beyond Is Finally Feeling Like the Game I Wanted Three Years Ago

The new Beyond update continues to make No Man's Sky the game it was supposed to be.

More on PC

Cyberpunk 2077 Producer Details Law Enforcement and the Rich Areas of Night City

There are no cops in the poorer districts. That all changes when you get to the affluent areas of Night City.

Witchbrook Dev Tweets Design Docs Revealing New Details on the Charming Magical School Sim

A rare look into the internal process of development as it happens.

Telling Lies Review

The spiritual successor to Her Story is a shady investigation into the lives of four liars.

Remnant From The Ashes Tips and Controls

If you’re playing Remnant From The Ashes, you’ll need these essential tips.

Gears 5's Monetization is "Ahead of the Industry," Dev Says

The Coalition was reading the tea leaves.

NBA 2K20 Finally Tackles the VC Microtransaction Grind: "We Didn't Want People to Feel [...] Trapped in This Grind Anymore"

Virtual Currency is here to stay, but at least the grind will be less painful this year.

More Sports Games

NBA 2K20 is Still Very Committed to Switch: "The Flexibility Can't be Matched With That Console"

FIFA is scaling back on Nintendo's platform, but for the moment, Visual Concepts is here to stay.

NBA 2K20 Finally Tackles the VC Microtransaction Grind: "We Didn't Want People to Feel [...] Trapped in This Grind Anymore"

Virtual Currency is here to stay, but at least the grind will be less painful this year.

FIFA 20 Release Date - Gameplay Changes, Cover Star, FIFA Volta, PC Specs

We’re right on the cusp of the reveal for FIFA 20. Here’s what we know so far.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Has a Nostalgic Throwback Mode

Watch Dr. Robotnik scamper like in the good ol' days!