Football and me never really saw eye-to-eye. I was raised in a football-loving household by two proud Evertonians, so at the very least I understood disappointment from an early age. My parents always wanted me to share their interest in the beautiful game, but for the most part, I just wasn’t fully interested. Perhaps I’m just too lazy to pick a team and support them for three quarters of a year, keeping track of their win/loss history, transfers and injury list, but stick a match on and I’ll sit down and watch.
Instead, I found more to love in football games instead of the real thing. It’s pretty easy to be invested in a team’s season when you can play seven to ten matches in a sitting, or when your difficulty setting allows you to practically win every game in a season, going undefeated in all competitions. Yeah, none of this World Class difficulty malarky — we play strictly Semi-Pro at most.
These days, though, the current crop of football offerings haven’t really gelled with me. FIFA gets a download anytime the most recent addition comes to the EA Access Vault so a friend and I can play a few games, but that’s it. The gameplay is great, but it feels like FIFA focuses too much on Ultimate Team, which isn’t surprising given how much money it generates, but the random nature of it all gets on my nerves. Personally, I’d rather play Pro Clubs, but that’s another story entirely.
Pro Evo, on the other hand, just doesn’t feel like the genre-defining trailblazer it once was. Many a day was spent leading Merseyside Blue to Master League glory in the likes of PES 4, 5 & 6, or simply creating a brand new team using the in-depth creation systems to make new kits, logos and more. You could also make a player with the head of a husky, which possibly makes it the best game series ever made, but it feels like the new iterations don’t offer that.
The Volta Mode, which was announced for FIFA 20, has me incredibly interested though, as it feels like a breath of fresh air and a return of the familiar. This new mode lets you create your own character and play in 3v3, 4v4 and 5v5 modes with a focus on style, tricks and the more flamboyant aspect of football. There’s also a brand new Story Mode, Volta Tour, where you compete against community created teams in challenges and the online Volta League. All of this is music to my ears
As I was growing up, I found myself drawn to the games in the “EA Sports Big” brand, and what self-respecting teenager wasn’t? The SSX series made its name as part of the “Big” umbrella, along with Def Jam Vendetta, both of which rank amongst my favourite series of all time. Side note: where’s the next Def Jam game, my dudes?
Despite all those other games that formed EA Sports Big, it was the FIFA Street series that buried its way into my subconscious, particularly FIFA Street 2. It gave me a version of football that was instantly more relatable: a simple kick-around with an almost “jumpers for goalposts” attitude like you’d see during a school lunch break. Except this version of a kick around has Cristiano Ronaldo and Theirry Henry, not the smelly kid from your form who you force to be the goalkeeper, who also isn’t me in this scenario. Of course not. At least in FIFA Street 2, I could be the striker for once, scoring all the goals.
Tragic backstory aside, FIFA Street captures the essence of football stripped down to its bare essentials and rebuilt with an emphasis on style. Sure, the Street series might have become a little bit more fantastical, with the silly Gamebreaker abilities and the graphics of FIFA Street 3 that made Peter Crouch look like more of a gangly-limbed freak than normal, but the core remained the same: style on your enemies.
This relaxed, more arcade-esque approach to football is something that seems to be sorely missing from the genre, as currently there only seems to be “accurate” simulations. While you can mess about with the gameplay sliders in FIFA to create some daft gameplay, granting League 2 teams the ability to score 30 yard screamers with ease, there’s still a gap to be filled, and hopefully Volta is the mode to do it.
I’m not suggesting that FIFA 20’s Volta Mode should add power-up meters and make Wayne Rooney look like an actual ogre like older FIFA Street entries, but I hope it retains the simplistic nature of its predecessors, with easy to perform tricks and a satisfying faster pace. Either way, I won’t be waiting until FIFA 20 gets added to the Vault to play Volta. I mean, EA promised no microtransactions in the Volta Mode at launch, so I may as well make the most of it before it gets tainted.