Of all to highlight, it’s the visual appeal that stands out. The aesthetics and the details of this year’s FIFA is one of the most spot-on I have seen in video games — as if emulating the perfect symmetry of cover athlete’s Cristiano Ronaldo’s face.
FIFA 2019 consists of new features and wider technical aspects, as well as the continuation to Alex Hunter’s “Journey” and the premiere addition of the UEFA (Union of European Football Association) league competitions, including the huge UEFA Champions League.
The Final Stop in The Journey
The Journey: Champions is the story-centric mode introduced way back in 2017 and follows the story of Alex, Kim Hunter, and Danny Williams. While I had never played its predecessors, the story leading up to this installment did not play a factor. So I didn’t feel lost in the story and instead connected with the characters in my way.
The story gives you the freedom to switch characters as they progress through the timeline of events. Though each character has their own unique storyline, they are all still connected throughout certain events.
Conversation and how you choose to let your character act play an important role in what you believe should be prioritized: your fame and following or your time on the pitch.
Outside of playing matches, you are also going through training as a way to get a hang of the controls while trying to impress management with good training scores. How you are in training may be a factor in your position in the team, whether you can be amongst the Starting XI or the bench player who may or may not even
This year is featured as the last chapter to the characters’ stories. But even if this whirlwind of a saga has finally come to a close, most of it didn’t end with a huge bang as I thought it would.
However, despite Alex being the center of the story, his storyline pales in comparison to the other two. Alex, who has been transferred to the excellent team of Real Madrid, starts to see fame as a priority instead of his game and thus affecting his relationship with his family. It’s the typical hero rise and fall story that overshadows the opportunity to really put the European league in a spotlight.
Danny, meanwhile, has his storyline centered on a sibling rivalry. Despite being the most annoying character personality compared to the other two, it was an interesting piece of drama to add to the sport.
Then there’s Kim Hunter, Alex’s sister, and by far the most genuinely self-aware piece of writing centered on a female athlete and the challenges they face in a male-dominated sport.
Kim, while young, juggles between studying for school and playing for Team USA in an International competition for the Women’s World Cup. During interviews, we get to see how female athletes are treated through the line of questioning: questions focused on what they wear, their romantic relationships, or their famous male siblings — neither of which are directed to the sport or the player’s talent and skills.
As a female journalist who also dabbles in sports writing (outside of sports video games), seeing this type of story in a game and to be represented elegantly non-stereotypical is a breath of fresh air. I thought EA handled her story beautifully and it’s a great way to let a lot of fans be informed that female athletes are just as amazing.
A Detail Goldmine
Besides the impact of Kim’s Journey, the UI and Environment Design standout more so than even its technical gameplay, with arenas taking into consideration track and weather.
Players are noticeably drenched in sweat and covered with dirt after sliding through the ground for a tackle. Consistent are the after-effects of the dirt and environment even as the time ticks on while on the pitch and especially after regulation.
Facial expressions— and the observation I had of the players mouthing swear words when unable to make a shot—are also one of the interesting enhancements the game and its graphics are capable of creating. Credit to the motion capture and the extreme detail of the artists to recreate the emotions and movement from reality to 3D.
Details like these make playing sports video games engaging to play. This comes at a perfect moment because the World Cup ended some months back, and even I still have the hangover.
While I can rave about the story and the graphics, it’s impossible to not talk about the technical aspects of the gameplay and the physics of each movement.
There’s Such A Thing As Too Much
At one point, I’m in love with how simple the controls are and how quick they are to get a grasp of—especially with training sequences available on My Journey and FIFA’s Career mode—but even the basics can be difficult to handle when it comes to the actual matches.
What I considered to be almost unnecessary is the double press to take a shot and the fact that even the slightest movement of your left analog stick (despite just intending to move further in) will cause the ball to lift and be kicked upward.
This makes taking better shots all the more difficult, and even though that can be a good thing for realistic gameplay, it’s not when even the best-intended shots get caught above the goal because of a minor touch of movement.
To note, I played through gradual levels of difficulty, and none of which had an effect on how well you shoot. The difficulty level only determines how good the opposing team plays.
Despite these, playing matches and especially playing with your friends at home are still loads of fun. Games like these make amazing party games and are best played during free moments wherein you’re just looking to relax.
And with beautiful visuals, and before I forget to mention — the anthem for the UEFA Champions League composed by the great Hans Zimmer (Lion King, Pirates of the Carribean) and Vince Staples — it’s hard not to plug this game in for a good time.
Disclosure: This review is based on a review code provided by Electronic Arts. Read our review policy to know how we go with our game reviews.