FIFA 21 review: high-scoring fun marred by pay-to-win loot boxes – again

I’m having fun with FIFA 21. EA has made significant improvements to how the game plays on the pitch, added welcome quality of life tweaks, and given Career Mode – much maligned in last year’s game – a Football Manager-inspired makeover. But none of this masks the fact FIFA 21 lacks a big ticket new mode or feature, and that old evil, Ultimate Team loot boxes, are just as evil as they’ve always been.

There’s a lot to like on the pitch, which makes FIFA 21’s failings all the more frustrating. The game feels almost arcadey. Players are certainly more responsive than in FIFA 20, and passing is crisp (although occasionally it veers on the pinball-like). Fast forwards are, early days at least, king. It’s an absolute goal-fest, too. I’m not sure whether this is the result of defending feeling a lot trickier than it has done in recent years, or that defenders sometimes feel improbably sluggish, or that shooting from pretty much anywhere is reliable (finesse long shots are very much back), or that the goalkeepers don’t seem much use at all, but I often score five or six goals per game and concede just as many, if not more.

I’d call the whole thing entirely unrealistic – and let’s remember EA is trying to create a football simulation here – but given recent results in the Premier League perhaps the developers knew the way the wind was blowing and thought they’d let their hair down. The upshot is FIFA 21 is at this early stage a lot of fun, as it is watching the Premier League this season, but let’s be honest, the defending is atrocious and everyone just needs to calm down a bit. There are so many goals flying in that after a while you start to feel numb to the ball hitting the back of the net. EA will probably want to tweak that.

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