Football changed beyond recognition this year. First it stopped entirely, then it came back without crowds, now as we have seen from the results of Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City this season it seems to make no sense. Even Bayern Munich have been beaten this campaign. While we might not know what to expect from real life for the rest of the season, Fifa 21 is here to bring back a bit of normality. So what’s new? First off there have finally been changes to Career Mode – which often feels like the game’s poor relation to the shiny, moneymaker Fifa Ultimate Team. The biggest of these is to take a leaf from Football Manager and sim matches in a 2D match engine. This is a great improvement and removes one of the most tiresome aspects of previous years – having to play all the games for example. Now you can “Jump In” at any time (and you can jump back out). Other tweaks include a more realistic transfer model, where players will reject you based on your playing style and some stars not for sale at any price, plus there is a loan-to-buy option as in the world. Training has been improved too, making it a smoother process to develop players. Volta is back, but it is still closer to simulation than Fifa Street, which is what many want. The Story mode of last season is gone, instead replaced by a Cinematic mode that while still close to The Journey acts more as a gameplay guide than anything. This is a missed opportunity. Fifa Ultimate Team remains a behemoth and that has not changed judging by the online reaction to the release. There have been tweaks to this but it is a case of leaving their flagship game mode largely as it was save for altering the menus. Similarly, Fifa remains the standard for presentation and nothing has changed there. More game modes, officially licensed competitions and clubs and women’s football means there is something for everyone. While people criticise these annual releases as squad and graphics updates rather than new games, there is an awful lot packed in. Konami have also hit back with club tie-ups meaning that Juventus are Piedmont and AS Roma are Roma FC this year in Fifa. The gameplay across all the modes is not dramatically different from Fifa games past and anyone can pick up and play almost immediately. This year’s main changes are a new runs system where you can control players off the ball more easily and with more variety, a close control dribble and tweaks to the skill settings for star players. There were complaints from more serious gamers over the last two games in the series – Fifa 19’s introduction of timed shots meant that goals were easier to come by and then Fifa 20 dialled it back by making defenders much better, meaning gamers could sit back on a lead. PES 2021 review: still the best football game around Time will tell how the pros feel on this year’s edition – and a re-review after several months’ action – but the game has everything that Fifa has come to be known for: spectacular goals and skill moves worthy of YouTube channels. You’ll also soon have the frustrations at the speed of opposition forwards and the helplessness to counter that, especially cover star Kylian Mbappe. The argument of Pro Evolution Soccer stalwarts is that Fifa is not close enough to the real life game but from what we have seen so far this season it seems real football is moving closer to Fifa, if anything. Whether you buy this comes down to a few things: where you stand on the PES vs Fifa divide; whether you play Fifa Ultimate Team; and if you are planning on getting a next generation console (the PlayStation 4 game will update to the PlayStation 5 version for anyone lucky enough to get one on pre-order, same for the new Xbox X). If you have skipped a few Fifa games then this as good a point as any to get back in. If you’re a zealot then you’re probably already playing Fifa 21 ahead of the official October 9 release – pre-orders got access on October 6. Fifa 21 is going to be a success no matter what and notably there has been nothing quite like the Madden 21 fallout, where animations were problematic, to say the least, and the community was up in arms. Football’s coming home as Hong Kong Premier League goes online Like Ronaldo and Messi, it’s ultimately a matter of taste but there is much to like in Fifa 21 even if, ironically given its main rival, this year it is a case of evolution rather than revolution. PlayStation 4 version reviewed.