I’ve been playing FIFA for more than two decades — probably longer than many of you have been alive. These days I don’t count the years by birthdays or anniversaries but by FIFA updates. So when I sat down to do this FIFA 19 review, I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into.
The first FIFA I picked up was FIFA 96, the third installment in the series that now spans 26 games (more if you include offshoots like FIFA Street and the mobile versions). I remember playing as “C Jones” running down the flanks with the U.S. team while playing against a colorful Romanian outfit. I had a friend and teammate named Charlie Jones at the time, so I just assumed they put him in the game, ignoring the obvious fact that it was Cobi Jones, one of my favorite players at the time.
So when a new edition of FIFA comes out, I’m already pretty sure of what I’m getting into, and chances are so are you.
I’m not going to pretend you readers are dumb — if you’re interested in a FIFA 19 review, then you’ve probably played at least half a dozen FIFA games prior. You want to know what’s new, what’s changed and what’s been left out. (And what’s new in FUT; if that’s your only interest, you can skip down to the FUT section.) You want to know if it’s worth dumping another $60 into what is essential the same game with a few roster updates and minor gameplay modifications.
The quick answer to that question is that you are probably already going to buy the game, even at the initial $60 offering; you might have already preordered it. You don’t need me to tell you if the game is good or not — EA Sports is still tweaking the same game you know and love (or hate if you’re one of those hipster PES players).
But there are actually a few new cool additions to FIFA 19, namely:
- House Rules for kickoff modes
- Stat tracking for kickoff modes
- Champions League (finally)
Kicking Off In Style
My favorite addition to FIFA 19 comes to what is either the most-played or least-played mode, depending upon your play style: Kick Off.
Previously, Kick Off was only used to play quick, one-off matches, maybe to try out new tactics or teams against the AI. Or, Kick Off was used predominantly, by those whose preferred play style is local multiplayer — those with roommates or siblings who love to play FIFA as well.
Admittedly, I haven’t played a game of Kick Off more than a couple of times per FIFA edition in more than a decade. But that may change with the addition of House Rules.
House Rules is a new mode that allows you to use custom rules for Kick Off matches. My personal favorite is Survival, where every time you score a goal a random player on your team (except goalies) is sent off. This is perfect for couch play, evening the playing field a bit and making every match exciting. Even if you go down 2-0, your two-man advantage will allow you to get back into the match.
Other modes include Long Range (goals outside the box count double), Headers & Volleys (you can only score with the eponymous strikes) and No Rules (you can figure this one out). No Rules would be great fun with four or more players as you could cherry pick to your heart’s content without offside rules but also commit as many egregious fouls as you like. Unfortunately, I couldn’t round up three others to try this out before publishing this story, so we’re just left with our imaginations at this point.
What makes these modes even better is that FIFA 19 will finally track everyone’s stats while playing in Kick Off. Simply create a name for yourself and every time you play a match it will keep notes of all sorts of analytic stats, from simple wins and losses to goals scored, shooting percentage and possession. It’s a great way to ensure bragging rights are always on the line when playing, knowing that you can’t give up on a match because that precious goal differential will be remembered by the game for months to come.
Hopefully these stats will be transferrable to FIFA 20; considering you can take these stats with you to another PlayStation or Xbox (but not cross platform), it seems likely.
These Are The Chaaaampeeeoooonnnnsssss!
The other major addition to FIFA 19 is the Champions League, returning to FIFA for the first time in more than a decade. Only two other FIFA titles had the Champions League, one-off, standalone games for the 2004-05 and 2006-07 seasons. Konami bought the UCL rights in 2008 for its Pro Evolution Soccer series, but EA Sports finally has the license again and it's making sure you know about it right from the start.
When you load up the game, you’re immediately thrown into the Champions League final between PSG and Juventus. You get to play as Juventus because EA Sports loves them some Cristiano Ronaldo (last year you started by taking a free kick with Cristiano Ronaldo in el clasico).
For a company that loves to claim that if it’s in the game, it’s in the (video) game, the lack of the Champions League (and Europa League) has been a major omission for many years. It was silly going through Career Mode and having to play in generically named European competitions.
Perhaps the best part of having the Champions League in FIFA 19 is the addition of the commentating duo of Derek Rae and Lee Dixon — two voices readily recognized in the U.S. Nothing against Martin Tyler and Alan Smith, but it’s nice to have a change of pace in the English language. Also, it never hurts to have more Arsenal voices in the game, right?
Career Mode — Move Along
Unfortunately, despite the addition of the actual names of European competitions (and the Super Cup), there aren’t really any changes to Career Mode, whether it’s as a manager, player or player-manager. This is essentially the same mode you’ve been playing for years (decades?). I’m not quite sure what more EA could add at this point, but it’d be nice if they’d throw a bone to those who devote themselves to taking Crewe Alexandra from the fourth division to the Prem.
There actually is one small change to Career Mode: increased difficulty. If you so desire, you can now use the “Ultimate” AI difficulty, previously only available in FUT.
I suppose there are a few new practice games that are incorporated into Career Mode, but chances are you’ll skip through them after playing them a couple times.
Insert Buzzword About Slight Change To Tactics Here
Most everyone who plays FIFA regularly probably fancies him or herself as a football tactician, someone who sees the game better than others because he or she devotes so much time to playing out matches on the old PlayStation. Now it’s easier than ever to change tactics on the fly.
Dynamic Tactics basically lets you create five different tactics for a team. Previously you’d start with your balanced style and choose to go more offensive or defensive and see your team react in ways you might not desire. Now you can change what each of the offensive and defensive adjustments do, utilizing the same advanced tactics customizations as you would for your base formation and change them quickly during a match without pausing.
This is a nice addition, allowing you to easily customize how your team changes shape throughout the match. You can now easily switch from a 3-4-3 to a 5-4-1 without having to pause.
What Happened To FIFA Street Mode?
Sadly, despite rumors of a FIFA Street revival, there is no actual street mode in FIFA 19.
In August, we discussed rumors of a Last Player Standing, five-on-five, FIFA Street-style mode, but this either didn’t make the cut or the rumors were unfounded.
Ahh well, maybe next year. Or maybe it’s a hidden Easter Egg we haven’t found yet.
Of Course The FIFA 19 Soundtrack Is Good
One key feature of the FIFA series over the years has been the soundtrack. While you’re perusing through menus to get into a match (or the game is the menus, if you’re a Career Mode junkie), the background music is a huge part of the experience, whether you realize or not. It’s not uncommon for me to hear a song and have no idea what the name is or who sings it but I’ll immediately recognize it as “a FIFA 08 song.”
The FIFA 19 soundtrack once again delivers, and with more big-name artists in addition to the usual suspects of great indie tunes.
Perhaps the biggest name on the list is Childish Gambino, because Donald Glover is pretty much the coolest human being alive right now. Add to that the Gorillaz, Logic, Jacob Banks, Crystal Fighters, Death Cab For Cutie and LSD (Labrinth, Sia, Diplo), and you’ll be humming along to the tracks in no time.
Perhaps the most bizarre (but still cool) addition to the soundtrack is that Hans Zimmer (the dude who does scores for movies like Gladiator and The Dark Knight Trilogy) helped create a remix of the Champions League theme with rapper Vince Staples, not that anyone was asking for one. Zimmer also contributed to the final chapter of The Journey.
If you managed to make it through the first two installments of The Journey, EA Sports’ attempt to put a story mode into FIFA, then you’ll be excited to take part in the final chapter of the story.
This time, you’re given the opportunity to play as three different players: Alex Hunter, Danny Williams and Kim Hunter. It’s cool you can play as a woman in the story mode now, but your mileage may vary depending upon whether or not you’re playing FIFA for a story (chances are, you’re not).
And, of course, EA Sports wants you to know that you can play in the Champions League during The Journey, so there’s that.
Yeah, But What About The FIFA 19 Gameplay?
Oh, you want to know what’s new in the actual gameplay of FIFA 19? Well, not much, really.
The biggest change is Timed Finishing, which allows you to hit the shoot button a second time to increase (or, more likely, decrease) your shooting accuracy and power.
Basically, every time you shoot a small visual cue appears above your player’s head. If you hit the shoot button again at the right time, you’ll take a great shot. If you hit it again too early or too late, your player will essentially do this:
It’s a nice way to add a little spice to shooting, allowing skilled players to get even better. It’s also optional, so if you don’t hit the shoot button again you’ll just use traditional shooting mechanics.
The other FIFA 19 gameplay additions are pretty small. There are new animations to first touches and the ability to make a “disguised first touch.” This doesn’t really do much but gives you the opportunity to maneuver around a defender before you even touch the ball.
Also, 50-50 challenges are also a bit more realistic and unpredictable, which was a focus of the EA Sports dev team.
Get To FUT Already!
FUT, or FIFA Ultimate Team, is probably the most-played game mode right now, having become super popular in the last six or so years since it debuted.
So what’s new in FUT? Again, not too much.
There is a new online mode called Division Rivals that’s basically a combination of Online Seasons and Squad Battles. There are some new FUT Icons to collect like Steven Gerrard (imagine the chemistry bonus of Steven Gerrard coaching Steven Gerrard!). And there are in-game events relating to the Champions League mode, in case it hasn’t been hammered into your skull enough that FIFA 19 has the UCL license.
Honestly, if FUT is what you’re interested in, you probably don’t care what I write about here because you’ve likely already pre-ordered the Ultimate Edition.
Perhaps the most important addition to FUT, although it may go unnoticed by many, is pack probabilities are made public. Now when you buy that Premium Gold Pack, you can see what your chances are of actually getting a player you can use (it’s pretty damn small).
FIFA 19 Review Score
So with all that said, it’s time for our FIFA 19 review score. Nah, just kidding. We don’t do review scores around here.
But I will tell you dear readers my overall thoughts on whether or not the game is worth purchasing.
FIFA 19 is pretty much what you’d expect. The only real gameplay change (timed finishing) can be completely ignored by the casual or completely exploited by the hardcore player. The other changes are minor, mostly cosmetic, like finally having the official Champions League license.
If you’re huge into FUT, you’ll probably buy FIFA 19 immediately. You can play as early as Sept. 20 if you subscribe to Origin Access ($14.99 per month or $99.99 per year) and get a head start on everyone else, who won’t be able to play until Sept. 28. You can also play three days early if you preorder the Champions or Ultimate Editions, which run $79.99 and $99.99, respectively
If you’re flush with cash you’ll probably go with one of these options, and that’s perfectly fine.
But if you’re a poor college student trying to save beer money, there’s no real reason to dive into FIFA 19 just yet. The game often goes on sale around Thanksgiving and maybe again once or twice before Christmas. If you don’t mind playing FIFA 18 for another month or two, you can save as much as $30-40 by waiting a little bit for a sale, though you will be missing out on those new local multiplayer features.
So, pretty much like I said at the start: You knew what you’re going to do with FIFA 19 before you even read this piece. There’s nothing much new or different to warrant a new $60 purchase, but at the same time I completely understand the compelling desire to jump in and start playing immediately, especially with not wanting to get left behind in FUT (though admittedly if you wait a month or so you can get a really good, if not great, gold squad for pretty cheap).
Every year I ask myself if I’m going to buy FIFA again when it comes out. For the last few years I’ve told myself I’d wait for it to go on sale … and then bought it immediately upon release. I expect you all will do the same, even after reading this FIFA 19 review.