It’s been a long and frustrating road for offline FIFA fans, those who’d prefer to tuck in to their fifth Career save and take Burton Albion to the Premier League over dipping their toes into the murky waters of Ultimate Team. Last year was a quick reminder from EA Sports that suggested more was to come with new mechanics introduced, such as deeper negotiations and a spring in its step that hadn’t been seen in a few editions.
Sadly, it looks like Career has gone back to its old ways: incredibly minor additions and “improvements” with little to differentiate it from its predecessors. Having sunk my fair share of hours into it for my review, it became almost immediately apparent that it was another conservative effort from EA Sports, to put it lightly.
The most obvious change comes with the introduction of the Champions League, effectively replacing the off-brand alternative that had been a part of FIFA’s Career mode for years. It’s hard not to get immediately swept up by it: the draw for the group stages taking place from the Career menu and it clearly being something to work towards if you’re playing as a mid-table club (see: Everton).
But the sheen wears off quickly; it’s nothing more than a bit of cinematic flair. The format is the competition is the same as the unofficial one was, except the commentary is now not very good at all and the pre-match Champions League song remaining a total banger. When that initial “wow” factor wears off, you’re left with, well, not a lot to differentiate it from FIFA 18.
There are some other small quirks that try to immerse you, such as a player’s debut being bigged up with a quick vignette before a match. In addition, the news section has a shinier makeover with players up for awards being given their own neat little animation among other similar moments. There are other tiny, barely notable changes, but it’s clear that Career is not where EA Sports have been investing their time and money.
Focusing on the thing that makes you money is just good business; look at how Epic Games completely abandoned some of its failing projects to focus on Fortnite to great effect. In that regard, you can’t blame EA Sports for putting an emphasis on Ultimate Team each year, though the monetisation practices are another question of ethics entirely. However, when there’s still a large contingent of FIFA fans who buy it each year solely for Career and its other offline modes, when does lazy tweaks each year become the final straw?
It’s clear where EA Sports are going wrong with Career, or not even going at all. There are so many avenues they can explore to make Career feel like a fuller and more enriching experience in the long-term. Stadium and facility upgrades, better relationships and communication with players, maybe even spoken lines for your manager during press conferences. Being able to properly customise your manager would be a good start: I’ve been stuck with the guy who looks like he manages a Tesco store for the longest time.
Having played FIFA 19’s Career for a fair time, I can’t see myself bothering to establish a footballing dynasty. Beneath the tidy visuals and gimmicks, it’s more or less the same mode as the one that bored me after a few seasons in FIFA 18. I may take Everton to the Champions League for the ultimate bit of unrealistic escapism, which is what the mode should be all about. Isn’t it about time EA Sports started using their own imagination with something that’s been a staple of the franchise before coins and unpacks were even a part of the experience?
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