FIFA 19 Review: Our first play of Uefa Champions League, House Rules and the end of The Journey in EA Sports annual classic

New modes, teams and leagues in new edition

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2018, 8:19pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 September, 2018, 8:21pm

It’s back. The game that is as hotly anticipated as the football season itself during those long offseason months. Fifa 19 is essentially more of the same, the formula that has taken the series to the top of charts worldwide

The first thing to note is that Fifa has got the rights for the Uefa Champions League from rivals Pro Evolution Soccer and they make this point from the off.

The familiar theme bursts out before a tifo of cover star is held aloft in the crowd. New voices in the form of Lee Dixon and Derek Rae on commentary duty. The game drops you into a Champions League final between Juventus and PSG ­– Ronaldo’s former club are out as are their great rivals, the poster boys of FIFA’s rivals.

Here if anything the gameplay feels at times a little more like the lauded PES than Fifa 18. Slightly slower and with new timing mechanics for shots and headers, there is a learning curve. There are also lessons that it perseveres to get them right. A Kylian Mbappe bullet header from the edge of the box and Edinson Cavani chipping the ball up with his first touch to turn and volley against the bar suggest that going through the training modes will pay off.

What else is new? The Kick Off mode adds some jeopardy to the classic football format. While you can play 11 v 11 as normal, the “House Rules” formats offer new takes. Headers and Volleys is one, another reminder that this is a key part of the new edition, as is the self-explanatory Long Shots and Survival, where you lose a player every time you score. No Rules removes offside and fouls for something a little bit more like the schoolyard, with each of the modes reminiscent of the “Slappers Only” option on Goldeneye on the Nintendo 64, a game that is still being played as multiplayer two decades on.

In single player, the career mode is given a new lease of life beyond the updated teams, kits and stats for the new season with the inclusion of the Chinese Super League and some very tasty transfer budgets. Playing with SIPG unleashes Hulk’s left foot, one of the most powerful in the game and just one of many reasons to try the CSL.

The biggest draw for some will be the climax of Alex Hunter’s Journey. This time it’s Hunter, his sister Kim and sidekick Danny Williams that you can guide through their careers. The production values of this are the best yet and way more immersive than back in Fifa 17 when Hunter debuted.

You can choose to guide any of the three or all of them as they look to make it in the USWNT, the English Premier League or among European football’s elite. It all starts with Hunter’s grandfather and a look at what FIFA’s version of 1960s football on muddy pitches looks like. That – with the commentary done by John Motson – hints at where the series could go with picture perfect football from every era. For now, we’ll take a taste of it and the promise of more in the future.

Online, Fifa Ultimate Team is back and sure to keep most people busy, especially those that have aspirations of e-sports glory. If FUT is your thing then the new Fifa is essential, but even if you play single player or with friends there’s enough to make you feel it is essential.

It’s not perfect. That five v five option is nowhere to be seen, nor is a Fifa Street, while there is no AFC Champions League or correct stadiums for the CSL. The commentary from Alan Smith and Martin Tyler is the same as it ever was, and there is something au courant about the way they talk about Paul Pogba’s shoot-out run-up that very much dates them as men of a certain period.

But it’s another epic improvement, the Champions League is a massive coup, and given the apparent increase in difficulty from before, more of a challenge.

The PlayStation 4 version was reviewed. Fifa 19 is available on PS4 and Xbox One late September.