FIFA 21 has made improvements, but not in the one place it needed to
A much smoother, more enjoyable game, but one major issue has once again been ignored.
FIFA 21 has attempted to solve a number of issues from last year's game and, for the most part, it has succeeded.
Playing the game is a lot more enjoyable, and while it is more difficult to get a chance at goal, it makes it more satisfying when you do.
This game favours the passers. The nice triangles you can create with your teammates. And you actually have a chance at scoring from a cross this time, which was a no-go in FIFA 20.
This year, the game's developers placed a greater importance on realism, and each individual player's stats being clearly reflected in the game.
And you can see that when you're playing. The game's fastest players - your Adama Traores and Kylian Mbappes - will be able to leave defenders in the dust with ease, but your average forward can't just knock it past the defender and be one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
It was also said that the more intelligent players would make more intelligent runs, and while there are some noticeable improvements in this department, you can still see top strikers failing to make a really obvious run, or stupidly going offside when a simple cut back is on.
There is also a clear improvement when it comes to dribbling, with players feeling much lighter on their feet, and a greater importance being placed on agile dribbling, making it easier to go past a defender in a one-on-one situation without just relying on pace.
Maybe it was only the games I was playing, but I noticed that the goalkeepers in FIFA 21 are absolutely terrible. Top keepers were making awful mistakes; flapping at crosses, letting the ball slip through their hands and other simple mistakes that did not happen with the CPU-controlled keepers of the past.
While it is frustrating, it does happen in real life (especially so at the moment, it seems) so I guess it should be included. But be prepared to scream your house down when your goalie has an absolute 'mare in the last minute of a game.
You can now play Volta (FIFA Street) online, which is really fun, and a fairly major change has come to career mode, but other than that there are no massive adjustments made to other game modes.
But gameplay and game modes aside, EA has once again failed to address its biggest problem, and this is giving children a platform to gamble with real-life money.
When asking whether FIFA 21 does facilitate a form of gambling, take three points into account:
- Does the game allow for a bet to be placed?
- If so, does the placing of the bet lead to a loss or a win by at least one of the players?
- Does chance play a factor in the outcome?
When it comes to FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT), the answer is yes to all three.
In FIFA 21, the biggest concern surrounding loot boxes (in-game purchases, after having already purchased the game) comes in the popular Ultimate Team mode.
In FUT, the more real-world, actual money you spend, the better your team will be.
You can buy packs (which have players for you to put into your team), and this is essentially the only way you can gain access to the very best players in the game.
There are no warnings that what you are doing is essentially gambling, in the hopes of buying the players that you want, because what or who you get in the packs is a complete surprise.
No amount of money you spend will guarantee that you get Ronaldinho or Zidane, but the more money you spend, the more likely you are to get them.
And perhaps worst of all, it is often children who purchase these loot boxes, often on their parents' cards that are hooked up to their account.
In a recent report entitled Spotlight: Gambling, Children and Video Games, Parliamentary Researcher Daniel Hurley outlined the potential issues surrounding loot boxes, and what EA, Ireland and other countries can do to solve the problem.
It came to the conclusion that the following steps should be taken:
- Amend gambling legislation to bring loot boxes within the definition of gambling in Irish law.
- Require game developers to include warnings alerting gamers at the time of purchase to the potential harms associated with gambling.
- Require game developers to include features in video games to enable gamers to keep a better track of the money that they spend on loot boxes, for example, user-defined spending caps and running spending totals.
- Provide that advertisements for and packaging of video games that contain loot boxes are labelled with appropriate content descriptors and age ratings.
- Provide mechanisms for enhanced education strategies to help gamers and the parents and guardians of underage gamers to understand the potential harms posed by loot boxes.
None of these ideas seem far-fetched, and they would all go a long way in ensuring a generation of children aren't exposed to a form of online gambling from extremely young ages.
Sadly, EA has gone another year without including spending caps or ways of keeping track of how much money children have spent off their parents cards, in the hopes that a really fun game will help gloss over it.
When approached for comment, EA told JOE: "In Ireland, the majority of gamers play EA games on one of the major video game consoles. Each console provides family controls, which allow parents or guardians to manage the type of content their children are allowed to access, whether and how much their children can spend in games, and how much time they can play.
"EA actively encourages use of these controls and respects the choices parent’s make."
FIFA 21 is in stores now.