At launch, FIFA 18 was a big step forward, but a series of post-launch patches appeared to wind back many of the innovations players enjoyed, and FIFA 19 needs to avoid repeating the same mistake.
The regression led to a fierce backlash from the community. A #fixFIFA campaign and petition were launched by some sections of the community in the hope that EA would address their issues. The primary complaint was people believing they were mis-sold a product based on the FIFA 18 demo allegedly being vastly different from the actual game following its post-launch patch.
This wasn’t EA’s only misstep of 2017. With Star Wars Battlefront 2 and its implementation of microtransactions proving a massive miscalculation, it was a tough year for the publishing giant. Hopefully, 2018 becomes the year of forgiveness, and the company’s biggest titles come back with a bang, better than ever, starting with the biggest sports title in the world.
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With Konami officially unveiling PES 2019, and the fact that Konami’s entry will be arriving in August this year, EA can ill afford two years of poor reception, as there’s now a viable alternative for football fans.
As such, we’ve put together a wishlist of what we want to see from FIFA 19. We’ll also round up all the latest news, trailers and gameplay info as EA reveals more.
FIFA 19 News
EA has dropped some big FIFA 19 announcements at E3 2018. The biggest of these was that the UEFA Champions League will be coming to the game after being a PES exclusive for ten years. In term of gameplay enhancements, EA also promised that it has improved first-touch mechanics for FIFA 19, but we’ll have to try out the game for ourselves before we know exactly what this means for the series.
FIFA 19 release date
EA hasn’t officially revealed FIFA 19 yet, but the launch date for FIFA games has been consistent for several years now. You can expect the game to launch in the last week of September.
EA has recently confirmed its plans for E3 2018, in which it has confirmed which games will be at the show. In the promotional info, it details showcasing the latest “EA Sports titles”, which is hardly surprising, but expect a good chunk of information and FIFA 19 gameplay during the conference.
FIFA 19 Gameplay Preview
Every year that FIFA is revealed, distant navel-gazers offer the same critiques, “It’s the same every year, it’s not that different!”
If, like me, you spend hours pouring over the most minute changes to player ranking, rip up tactics because crosses feel different, and have spent the previous 12 months crossing all fingers and toes during every FUT pack opening, no matter how small the changes may seem, they have a huge impact on the way we will play FIFA 19.
Last year, EA Canada got so much right with FIFA 18, at launch. But subsequent patches reversed a lot of the things I, and indeed a strong contingent within the community, loved about the game. When I initially reviewed it I offered up glowing praise about everything that EA was building, but after the patches started rolling in the mood soured. Eventually numerous posts across social media threads and hashtag campaigns emerged to demand that EA ‘#FixFIFA’.
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Based on what I’ve had the chance to play at E3 2018, while EA has certainly listen to some of the criticisms from the hardcore crowd of the finite details of the game, the average gamer may be hard pressed to notice the work that’s gone into this year’s iteration. Many of the improvements are very subtle, offering very slight improvements to the overall package. It seems that the acquisition of the UEFA Champions and Europa League from Konami has given the developer enough of a back of the box feature that it hasn’t needed to focus on the minutiae of what makes FIFA tick to its more dedicated following.
Many of the improvements I’ll list below will either go over the head of the more casual players or may be considered barely a noticeable upgrade, but overall they combine to become greater than the sum of the parts.
For starters, when defending there is now a faint reticule over the player whom you will switch to if you tap LB/L1. This makes defending far less chaotic in tough situations, because you now know who you’ll control next and avoid having to frantically spam the button in the hope you’ll take control of a useful player.
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The minimap has also been tweaked to show your players as circles and opponents as triangles, which is much better to differentiate at a glance or for those who are colour-blind.
There are also plenty of new animations in the game, adding details such as chest control, or jostling between players chasing through balls. These combine to add a nice level of detail to the experience and making the visual aesthetic even more realistic.
Overall though, the two most noticeable improvements were through balls and tactical customisation, with the latter taking a leaf out of PES’ book. gone are the wretched D-Pad tactics that have clung on for far too long, replaced with a new control scheme that lets you customise every level of mentality (from ultra-attacking to ultra-defending) with the tactical nouse of a Guardiola.
There are way more options to instruct your team and every player on the pitch. You can now tell your players to leap onto a bad first touch, attack with greater pace and throw more bodies forward as soon as you regain possession, or be more conservative if you know you’re facing a better team. If you’re clinging onto a lead late on, you can even control exactly you want to park the bus.
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It’s a far better system that will hopefully appeal to players who want a bit more Football Manager in their FIFA.
Through balls will hopefully finally get the power they’re due in FIFA 19. Last year there were two kinds of through balls: a useless pass to feet or one so far ahead of the intended receiver that it went out of play or to the goalkeeper. Now, it feels like they are far more intelligent; played into space and between defenders so they now feel like they’re actually to the advantage of the attacking team and not the detriment.
I’ll admit that, right now, they do feel a little overpowered, and I’m sure they’ll be reined in a little come launch, or maybe a post-launch patch as is so common with FIFA titles, but it’s hard to argue with how exciting they are in this build.
There’s also a couple of new fundamental gameplay systems which unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to fully test.
‘Timed Finishing’ gives players the chance to have a better shot, if they choose. Press shoot a second time just before your player kicks the ball with the correct timing and you’ll be rewarded with better accuracy, curve and speed. Poorly timed shots result in the opposite, creating a risk/reward system.
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Active Touch also looks to overhaul a player’s first touch, meaning there’s way more variety in how a pass is received. There were quite a few instances where a simple pass would go astray and an awful ball was somehow rescued by great skill, so it certainly made things more exciting on that front.
Again, all these tweaks will be music to the ears of dedicated fans like myself, and on this page sound game-changing, but in practice they won’t be that drastic unless you look really closely. They certainly make for a better feeling FIFA, but you won’t be able to see anything without a keen eye.
The star of the show, though, is of course the fact that we now get to compete in the Champions League. EA has always got presentation spot on, and this continues with European football. The atmosphere, the lighting, the crowds, everything really feels like it’s taking place on a Tuesday or Wednesday night. It’s great to see, and the fact it’ll be present across every mode in the game is very exciting.
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I also got a chance to play a brief match of FIFA 19 on Nintendo Switch at EA Play, and outside of the addition of the Champions League licence, it feels exactly like FIFA 18. It seems that the Nintendo Switch iteration will take the spot previously occupied by the previous generation of consoles and the PlayStation Vita as the “Legacy Edition” with very few, if any, changes outside of squad updates.
It’s hard not to feel like EA is resting on its laurels a bit this year. Letting a licence stand in the place of real innovation on the pitch feels a little cheap, but when that licence has been ripped away from a rival, you can see why EA may be taking its foot off the pedal. However, this complacency is what cost EA in the early 00’s, and saw a resurgence of PES. Sadly, it’s hard to see the same comeback happening again, I just hope this doesn’t mean that we also see a continued slacking off from the developers in Canada.
FIFA 19 demo
A few weeks ahead of launch, EA launches a demo of the game, giving players the chance to play single matches with a select few teams.
FIFA 18’s demo launched on September 12, 17 days before the full game’s release, so expect a similar trend this year. The teams available last year were Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Bayern Munich, PSG, LA Galaxy and Toronto FC. Clubs like Manchester United, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester City, Bayern, and PSG have featured in previous demos, so it’s likely they’ll make a welcome return.
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FIFA 19 The Journey – What can we expect?
In the previous demo, you also got a snippet of the popular story mode: The Journey. EA hasn’t confirmed whether or not The Journey will return in FIFA 19, but considering how great it’s been for the past two years, we certainly hope it does.
Alex Hunter has already been on a rollercoaster ride in his relatively young career, so whether or not EA decides to continue his story or follow a brand-new one remains to be seen.
What would you like to see in FIFA 19? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter @TrustedReviews.