You might expect the best thing about FIFA 19 to be the new Champions League license, the third and final chapter in Alex Hunter’s story, or some new modes and Legends players coming to FIFA Ultimate Team. You’d be wrong. The best thing about FIFA 19 is playing with no rules at all.
All Harm, No Foul
If you’ve ever complained about modern footballers flopping around like a wet fish as soon as someone looks at them funny, then No Rules is the game mode for you. It takes the game back to before anyone had even heard of a broken metatarsal, back to when men were men, when moustaches and mullets were all the rage and shorts were unnervingly, well, small.
Just as you’d expect from the name, there are no rules. You can go in for that vicious slide tackle, pass to someone whose sprinting from an offside position, even foul the goalie and the only whistle you’ll hear is to signal time. The AI behaviours haven’t really changed, so there’s no goal hanging AI to boot the ball too and the goalie won’t pick up a backward pass, but No Rules is simple, cathartic footballing violence that’s great for a laugh when you’re just having a quick kick about.
It’s actually just one part of the overhauled Kick Off mode, which looks to liven up those local multiplayer sessions. There are a few other modes tucked in there as well, like Headers and Volleys where you can only score from headers and volleys (duh!), Long Range which awards double points for goals scored from outside the box, and the curious Survival mode.
Survival isn’t FIFA’s take on Battle Royale, but rather a game where one of your players is taken off at random every time you score. It sounds odd, but it really works, handing the numerical advantage to whoever is losing at the time.
Of course, you can just play head to head and dress it up as the Champions League final or something, but Kick Off now tracks your head to head matches with more stats that you can shake a stick at. Tie a newly created Kick Off name to your PSN, Xbox Live, or Origin account, and you can take your rivalry from console to console.
The headline act EA want you to pay attention to is the new Champions League license, though, and they’ve done a great job of capturing the atmosphere and look of the competition. There’s the all new branding for this year, all of the licensed teams, and even a whole new commentary team of BT Sports’ Derek Rae and ex-Arsenal man Lee Dixon.
It’s there everywhere you look in FIFA 19. It’s Alex Hunter’s ultimate goal in The Journey’s third season, it’s there in Ultimate Team, in career, in Kick Off. Naturally, it’s also a standalone mode, so just pick a team from the tournament and maybe right the wrongs of last year’s final. Alternatively, throw Macclesfield United in at the deep end and see how far you can get.
If you crash out of the Champions League in the Group Stages? Well there’s always the Europa League instead…
Once you get out on pitch, the competition you’re playing in doesn’t really matter, it’s all about the gameplay. EA tout some new animation system almost every year, but FIFA 19’s Active Touch really does have a big difference on how the game looks and feels to play.
It’s about as generic a name as it gets, but it helps remove so many of the previous restrictions on player animation and how they would interact with the ball. Players will now stretch further to reach the ball and they’ll make contact with it using more parts of the body, depending on what’s appropriate. One example is making a diving header in the middle of the pitch to send a through ball for your counter attack.
It’s surprising how much of a different this can actually make to how the game feels, and it’s all backed up by reams and reams of new animations. There are new ways of trapping the ball, new feints, tricks, and flicks that the most advanced players will be sure to dig into.
The most audacious examples of footballing skill have all been thrown in there, and I’m actually looking forward to being schooled by someone online who’s far too good at this game.
Timed To Perfection
“Let’s make shooting more complicated,” said literally no-one ever, and yet that’s what EA have done. Timed Finishing can boost the accuracy, power, and placement of a shot, but requires perfect timing to pull it off. Essentially, it’s a second tap of the shoot button, just as the player makes contact with the ball, but it’s as difficult to do as it is tempting to try. Thankfully, you can completely ignore this and stick with the tried and tested shooting methods instead.
The problem in learning Timed Finishing is that every type of shot is different. With a header or volley from a cross, you need to wait for the ball to arrive and that gives you a moment to think, but if you’re dribbling through on goal, the ball’s already right at your feet, making the timing especially tricky.
The game indicates with a coloured icon above the player if you get the timing right or wrong, but it’s hard to get your head around initially. Our shooting was all over the shop while trying to use it, though that’s not much different from usual!
FIFA Ultimate Team’s The Division
Of course, EA is tinkering with their addictive Ultimate Team mode. Behind the glitz and glamour of Champions League themed players being featured, they’re shaking up the main game mode, replacing Seasons with Divisional Rivals. You’ll start off with a string of placement matches to help matchmake you with similar level players, and earning enough skill points will see you level up, but the real aim for a lot of players will be in earning points to let you enter the Weekend League competition.
FIFA 19’s announcement was all about Ronaldo and the Champions League, but that’s far from the whole story. If you love the technical side of the game, then EA are adjusting Ultimate Team’s flow, adding more depth to shooting and making the players act more realistically than ever, but if you just want a few matches with your mates? Look, all I’m saying is that No Rules is as good as it sounds.