The first FIFA game I remember playing was FIFA 98, David Beckham donned the front cover. Spending the majority of the time completely taking the keeper out when he had the ball in his hands, whether that be on the pitch, or the absolutely classic indoor mode.
Fast forward a few years, and we are met with an absolute behemoth of a gaming series which in my opinion has really left PES in its wake.
This was actually the first FIFA game in a long time I really considered not buying. I felt a lot of the time, money and effort EA were putting into FIFA was going specifically into Ultimate Team and The Journey. Now of course there is nothing wrong with that. I love playing Ultimate Team, and although I felt I generally didn't do too badly online, I thought it did get to the point where the career modes or just playing with friends, whether that be Friendly Seasons or Pro Clubs, began to fall at the wayside a bit.
I did eventually buy FIFA 19, and immediately as you start the game up, you are met with this year's (in my opinion) biggest and overdue new addition. The Champions League. It looks great and adds another piece of realism that was missing from previous titles. It looks slick and I didn't appreciate how much better it would look to lift aloft the real Champions League trophy instead of "the Champions Cup". With this addition also brings two new commentators in the form of Lee Dixon and Derek Rae, although not a massive selling point, I felt that hearing Martin Tyler and Alan Smith say the same thing over and over again for another year has started to really grind.
There's more game modes as opposed to a classic Kick-Off. Headers and Volleys, First to X number of Goals and No Rules has also been added to FIFA 19, along with Survival where you lose a player every time you score. This has definitely brought a new dynamic to playing FIFA, I imagine these game modes may be wasted on a lot of players, however, but it brings something different to a title in need of fresh ideas.
The Journey has come to its conclusion, and this year it focuses more on Alex, Danny and Kim as a three, instead of Alex Hunter stealing the show. I feels shorter this year, and you do get the option to skip another character's story if you see fit (I did). This time round Danny and Alex are working their way towards the Champions League final, where they will both meet and you essentially chose who wins the trophy. Kim is representing the US at the Women’s World Cup. The Journey did add something different, but I'm glad that this year will be the last of its inclusion in the series.
Ultimate Team is back and it is MASSIVE. Division battles has had a face lift. A new style qualification to new a Weekend League, and lots of different challenges to earn coins, rewards and packs to make your team as good as possible. Initially I thought the way in which the Divisions were split this year was an unnecessary change. I felt as well I was being paired up against someone with a FAR better team than I had for the Division they were in, but a recent update seems to have aided that slightly.
There is a far bigger emphasis with the controls and tactics this year. I felt your players were more likely to make errors than previous FIFA games, passing and shooting went askew more regularly than before (maybe that’s a reason to get used to precision shooting). Everything is based towards being as realistic as possible, to the point where to play an effective pass or get off a good shot you really need to have the ball in a decent position or under control to do so. I still struggled to get to grips with set pieces and penalties, but that has been the case for the last few instalments.
The way in which you use tactics has also had new initiative added to it, with regards to players getting in the box for a corner, who is sitting back, putting pressure on the other team, or a specific line up for when you wish to play very attacking or defending. This does sometimes cause issues where you have players automatically switching to playing in a position you might not want them to.
Overall, I bought FIFA 19, with an idea of what to expect. EA sports know they have a working formula and fan base that will constantly buy the game year in year out. I have to say that I am glad that there have been changes to the game, there have been a lot of new features and little changes like the Champions League/FA Cup badge on a player's sleeve are small but welcome additions to this year's iteration. The game itself looks great, but at what point should that be expected for a title as large as this?
FIFA is undoubtedly here to stay, every year little touches are added in terms of realism and player control. More game modes have been added and small innovations to what is already there. Ultimate Team continues to grow, and with the end of The Journey, FIFA 2020 will require something new to focus on.