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Lifewire / Eric Watson
The Journey remains one of the best story-based sports campaigns
Excellent match presentation and easy-to-navigate menus
Fun training mini-games effectively improve ball skills
Seven different difficulty levels
Champions League is an official game mode
Commentators are limited in their responses
Goal keeper’s animations often look jerky and unnatural
FIFA 19 looks and plays great, with excellent progression, a steady difficulty curve, and the best campaign mode in sports gaming.
Though soccer infamously lags behind most major sports in the United States, its popularity has been slowly and steadily gaining momentum. It wouldn’t be fair to attribute that rise to the FIFA series, but it also wouldn’t surprise us: FIFA 19 is one of the best modern sports games and well worth playing even if you’re only interested in playing with the four-time champion US Women’s National Team. Featuring satisfying controls and ball physics, effective menu design, hundreds of playable teams, and the best single-player story mode in sports games, FIFA 19 should be doing its part to win more fans to association football.
Getting the game ready is just a matter of putting in that disc or doing a digital download from the PlayStation Store. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
Controlling the player and the ball is easy to learn, and feels more natural than ever. There are dedicated buttons for ground passes, lob passes, and through passes, and another for shooting. The Shot button can be held down to quickly add height to the kick, with a well-timed final press adding accuracy to the shot. Passing and shooting must be properly aimed with the left stick, as well as executing various feints and stutters to send the defense scurrying in the wrong direction.
We were particularly impressed that our AI teammates were almost always in the right place at the right time, rarely leading to any frustrating moments.
Defense is limited to sliding and standing tackles, as well as copious amounts of coverage and blocking, which manages to feel both simple and satisfying. Optional on-screen button indicators and prompts are unobtrusive and tremendously helpful, making FIFA 19 one of the easiest sports games to jump right into.
This is especially true thanks to the seven different difficulty levels, including a nearly mindless beginner level that immediately turns the ball over and barely bothers at all on defense, all the way up to a nightmare-inducing Ultimate level. We were particularly impressed that our AI teammates were almost always in the right place at the right time, rarely leading to any frustrating moments.
Like many sports games, FIFA 19 features several different seasonal, career, and fantasy game modes, including Kick-Off, Ultimate Team, Champions League, and the conclusion of the story-based campaign, The Journey. Kick-Off is FIFA’s version of a quick play match, but with a new cloud-based progression system. Now you can create and sign into an ID that tracks Kick-Off stats no matter where you’re playing, a nice touch for those that play locally at a friend’s home.
Optional on-screen button indicators and prompts are unobtrusive and tremendously helpful, making FIFA 19 one of the easiest sports games to jump right into.
Ultimate Team is the typical fantasy mode. Here, you complete daily and weekly challenges to earn gold, using it to purchase new players and random packs of players, boosts, and various customization items like kits and stadiums. Gold flows at a decent rate, and the starter objectives provide an excellent introduction and immediate goals to hit. Your fantasy team can also venture online to battle others, with rewards depending on our opponent’s overall rating. Real money can be used to purchase FIFA points for more purchases, but the microtransactions are kept to a minimum and feel all but unnecessary for most players.
The UEFA Champions League is a new mode to FIFA 19. Here we can choose to play any (or all) of the 32 teams, from PSG to Real Madrid and Manchester United over the course of the 2018-2019 season. This mode feels more like a necessary component of any FIFA soccer game rather than an impressive new add, but it’s nice to see nonetheless.
FIFA was the original home of the RPG-like campaign when The Journey debuted in FIFA 17. FIFA 19 represents the third and final act of Alex Hunter’s story. Hunter is already a superstar, achieving his dream of signing with Real Madrid while dealing with drama involving a new manager and the surge of fame that threatens his personal life and his career.
What makes this Journey particularly compelling is the full inclusion of the two other protagonists who were first introduced in FIFA 18, Alex’s half-sister Kim and friend Danny Williams. The campaign treats each of these three characters with equal weight, and we’re given free reign to switch between their stories and careers as the campaign progresses. Danny works his way up through the Premiere League and deals with a renewed rivalry with his not-so-nice older brother, while Kim is the youngest member on board the US Women’s National Soccer team, forming a wholesome mentor relationship with Alex Morgan.
Any game that lets us play as and alongside Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe is a clear winner.
The Journey strikes an excellent balance between cutscenes, player choices, customization, training mini-games, and actual matches. Training mini-games are effective teaching tools for learning fundamentals and skills, such as passing, crossing, and sliding tackles. Earning high grades on these training sessions, as well as achieving objectives and high player ratings during games earns skills points and stat boosts, with each character having their own skill tree and skillset to improve upon. It’s a robust, lengthy, enjoyable story campaign, and a benchmark for how other sports games should tackle this emerging gameplay mode.
The default camera is so far zoomed out in FIFA 19 that any player model inconsistencies aren’t as noticeable as other sports games. Yet the models, faces, and animations still look great, and the action shows up well during instant replays and highlights. The one model that doesn’t look as smooth is the goalkeeper. It looks too much like jerking from one animation to the next, without the appearance of how a human body would realistically react and move.
We were enamored with the sleek, simple, and effective menu designs. Navigating around FIFA 19’s gameplay modes is a breeze, and the same design philosophy extends to individual modes, like squad builder, and when opening card packs for quick sells or transfers. FIFA is not only one of the most attractive sports games on the field, but it’s also one of the most well designed.
Soccer (or football) is vastly more popular around the world than it is in the United States, and the soundtrack reflects that with an impressive suite of international pop, rap, soul, hip-hop, and rock. Artists include Gorillaz, Octavian, Bas featuring J. Cole, and Young Fathers. The Journey campaign also features an original score by renowned cinematic composer Hans Zimmer.
The highlights and instant replays also do a fantastic job capturing the action from both an audio and visual level.
The commentary is almost distractingly bad, however. Given the large amount of players and leagues in FIFA 19, Martin Tyler and Alan Smith have extremely limited responses and quips. You’ll hear the same “one-sided affair” and “he’ll be thinking about that one” comments several times over the course of the same match. On the plus side, the actual broadcast presentation is great, even featuring the last few lines of each side’s national anthem before a match. The highlights and instant replays also do a fantastic job capturing the action from both an audio and visual level.
FIFA 19 launched with a full $60 price tag, though almost a year later you can typically find it on sale for around $30. Each mode, from Ultimate Team to Champions League and The Journey, is a complete package featuring several different leagues and over 700 teams from around the world. There’s an exhaustive amount of content with a satisfying level of progression for skills and players, even if you never venture online.
With Pro Evolution Soccer’s loss of the UEFA Champions League license to FIFA 19 this year, the age-old rivalry, one of the last remaining among big sports video game series, rests firmly in FIFA’s favor. PES is still a decent soccer simulator with impressive ball and player physics, but FIFA has been steadily improving in this area, along with much deeper and more interesting gameplay modes, such as The Journey. As a final coup, FIFA 19 has added the National Women’s Soccer League as an entire gameplay mode as a free update this summer. Any game that lets us play as and alongside Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe is the clear winner.
One of the best, most newcomer-friendly sports games available.
Most sports games rely on obvious familiarity and love of the sport to get the most out of the simulation; FIFA 19 is just plain fun for anyone thanks to easy to learn controls, realistic physics, attentive AI, and a smooth difficulty curve. The third Journey arc is a solid conclusion to the Alex Hunter story, offering a three-in-one campaign with multiple dramatic arcs and plenty of opportunities for choices and skill progression, while the inclusion of the Champions League is a delicious cherry on top.