Seven new things we like about FIFA 21

By Harry Edwards

Published: 15:31, 7 October 2020

It’s finally here, after months of anticipation, FIFA 21 has been released.

Although it isn’t officially out until Friday, those who preordered more than the standard edition have been given the opportunity for early access and are able to play FIFA 21 from Tuesday onwards.

Whether you’re playing Career Mode, Ultimate Team, Pro Clubs or Volta there is a lot to be excited about both for players already on the game and those waiting for Friday and beyond.

Often between new editions of FIFA there are complaints that not much has changed, but we’re pleased to say there have been quite a few adjustments, having tried our hands at various game modes.

So, without any further ado, here are seven new things we like about FIFA 21.

The advantage rule changes

The advantage rule is a big part of football, and when the referee gets it spot on, by allowing play to continue, it’s hugely satisfying. But also, it’s often pretty easy for the team to decide they want the free-kick instead by simply stopping play, meaning there has been no advantage gained.

Unfortunately that’s not something that has previously transferred over to FIFA games. Yes, sometimes stopping your player does work in cancelling the advantage, if you’d rather a shot at goal, but on other occasions the advantage continues, wasting the opportunity.

But EA Sports have finally addressed that.

FIFA 21 Advantage rule

Now, when given an advantage, you have the option to cancel it with your trigger buttons (that’s L2+R2 for PlayStation and LT+RT for Xbox). Like the usual advantage, there is only a fixed amount of time for you to cancel it, but there is a handy indicator in the top-right corner of the screen complete with a red bar countdown.

No longer will we be frustrated for being given an advantage that we didn’t want, particularly for those good at free-kicks.

Directing runs off the ball

Another new in-game change is the ability to direct runs off the ball. In previous FIFAs you could do a give-and-go move, but there was little control over where the first player went.

But now you can fully dictate where they go. When you pass the ball, you can hold the right analog stick in any direction and the player who passed will move accordingly.

FIFA 21 directed runs

And this is not something that can be used just for one-twos. The most elite of players will undoubtedly be using the runs off the ball to move defenders away from the centre of the box, as they mark the runner, opening up space for the ball carrier. There is also the ability to control the runner rather than the ball carrier, but it’s best to save that for the pros.

As shown in the image above, the run indicator only comes on if you’ve got FIFA Trainer on, but you can alter the settings so that’s the only thing showing to avoid the other annoying bits.

Interactive Sim on Career Mode

Depending on your age, the interactive simulation on Career Mode isn’t a new thing for FIFA 21. There were previous occasions in what is best known as the sixth generation of consoles (PS2, Xbox etc), where you could follow a simulation on FIFA Career Mode and opt to cut in when things weren’t going your way. But it’s had a massive upgrade.

Back in the good old days, the longer simulation (as opposed to an instant sim) just had a run down of the key incidents: goals, injuries, cards, substitutions and so on. But now it’s like old school Football Manager.

FIFA 21 Career Mode Interactive Match Sim

Instead of a run down, you can watch your little circles moving around the pitch with the ball, to see just how well they are doing. You can also change the gameplan, picking how defensive or attacking your side will be, and keep track of the fitness and player ratings for both sides.

Taking control of the game is also more detailed, as you can do it when you know you’ve got a penalty, or a good opportunity, rather than just when you are losing. And when you’re done, you can jump back out to the interactive sim.

The gameplay

While the points so far have been about specific parts of the game, this one is in appreciation of it as a whole.

Although it may look the same, it feels like there has been a big change in the gameplay on FIFA 21, being much smoother than FIFA 20. EA Sports have also fixed, to an extent, the crossing and heading mechanics.

In FIFA 20 it was almost impossible, and not worth trying, to score from crosses and corners, having been very overpowered in FIFA 19. But they have brought them back slightly, and players are already enjoying being able to work down the wing and whip a ball in.

It’s early doors, but there is a hope that this will be maintained across the season as people look to get the most out of Ultimate Team, particularly when it comes to Division Rivals and Weekend League.

Pre-filled Youth Academy

Back onto Career Mode, and another good change in FIFA 21 is the updating of the Youth Academy. While it is still vital for you to set up your scouts and where they will be stationed for the season (if you want to use it), the Youth Academy now comes with a handful of players ready to go.

FIFA 21 Youth Academy

This makes things slightly more realistic as, in the real world, when you take over a club they don’t have blank academies. But also it makes things a bit easier when it comes to board objectives.

How many times have we failed youth objectives requiring 20 games and some growth because of a lack of games in the season, and having to scout the youth players in the first place? The potential of the players come at a range, and not all will be stars, but it’s still a useful addition.

Skill move changes

Skills are useful again in FIFA 21 but they’ve also come with an interesting change.

In previous FIFAs a player could only do a certain skill move if they had the required skill ratings. Four-star skill moves could only be done by players with four stars and above, and five-star skillers had the exclusivity of the top skills. But that’s not really the case in the real world.

No matter how good you are at the skill, any player can attempt anything on a football pitch. But their ability affects how well it comes off. We’re looking at you David Dunn.

And now that’s the case on FIFA 21. Every player, accept for goalkeepers as far as we can tell, can attempt any skill move, but the success is based on star ratings.

So, for example, a two-star skiller’s rainbow flick might just go straight up in the air, with the player leaving it behind. Or a roulette could see a ball being caught between the player’s feet. Another step closer to realism for FIFA.

End of an era

We end on a change that is a sad one, as it brings the end of an era.

For the first time since 2005 it appears that we have no Martin Tyler on FIFA and Alan Smith (involved since 2011) is no longer alongside him. Now, for a few years, players have been able to turn the commentary of Tyler and Smith off, or switching them for the pairing of Derek Rae and Lee Dixon.

But now Rae and Dixon are the default commentators and the only option for English speakers, with Tyler and Smith nowhere to be found. We’ve had commentator changes before, with John Motson the first voice of FIFA, joined by a variety of co-commentators including Ally McCoist and Andy Gray. He was then briefly replaced by Clive Tyldesley before Tyler took over.

While some, who still listen to the commentary, may feel sad about the change, it is a welcome breath of fresh air with Tyler and Smith becoming a bit too stale over the past few years.

Sorry guys, we were just getting tired of hearing about when Alan was on loan at Leicester City and played against his parent club Arsenal.