Whether it’s your favourite football team in one of the world’s top leagues, or perhaps a smaller club from one of the lower leagues, becoming the manager, putting together a squad and leading them to glory is a one of the most rewarding experiences in a video game.
It’s notable that FIFA 21, the latest title in EA Sports’ popular series of football simulation games, will bring new features to Career Mode when it launches worldwide on October 9 (October 6 for Early Access).
While Ultimate Team has very much been the mode focussed on by EA over the years, the upcoming FIFA 21 has promised an assortment of new features that add significantly more depth to Career Mode.
Here’s a look at some of the newly revealed features.
INTERACTIVE MATCH SIM
One of the biggest features announced is the Interactive Match Sim, which EA has described as “a new way to experience matches in Career Mode” which “enables managers to adopt a more tactical and faster-paced approach to matches, making important decisions from the touch line and watching their impact on the pitch from a top-down view”.
The match plays out at twice the speed of regular gameplay, and out of play match moments are automatically skipped to ensure that the player is always looking at meaningful events.
One of the standout aspects of this feature is that it allows you to jump in or out of the action at any given moment, which means that you can intervene when your team goes down, or perhaps whenever your team is within shooting range, all while still being able to jump back out of gameplay and watch the rest of the match through Interactive Match Sim or just skip to the final result, at any time.
EA shared that both jumping in and out of the game, and jumping to the end result are accessible at any point during the match, regardless of whether the match started as regular gameplay or in sim mode.
“Whenever you’re inside the Interactive Match Sim, you see the players attempt to implement your Game Plans and have all the tools needed to re-organise them on the fly if needed. You can interact with Team Management, change Game Plans, and monitor your team’s and your opponent’s information in real-time.”
This information includes match stats and players’ fitness as well as ratings of their performance. It also features audio commentary and stadium atmosphere throughout the match.
Another key addition to Career Mode is Player Development. EA has highlighted that with this new feature – a fully revamped player growth system – they are enabling you to grow your squad.
“Players can be developed and specialised in various roles based on their playing position, and the attributes that best fit your style of play improved upon.
“Whether you favour playing out from the back or fast counter-attacks, you can instruct your players to focus their growth in the direction that you want.”
The growth is determined through XP accumulation, and based on how well they do in matches and their potential to grow, they will gain more or less growth XP.
That XP is distributed to their attributes, determining attribute growth over time. There are various development plans you can place players on to control how the XP is distributed.
“Much like in real life football, the speed at which players develop depends on their age, abilities, potential, form, and playtime. Give a young player with great potential a few games and help him perform, and he will turn into a better player at an accelerated rate. Keeping him on the sidelines for too long can have the opposite effect, so it’s up to you to make the decisions that work best for your team.”
Another major new feature is the ability to train players in different positions – something that Career Mode fans have wanted for years.
“As part of Player Development, players can now be converted to other positions, allowing for more freedom and control to manage your squad. Position Conversions can also give a new chance to players that fall out of favour in their original role, giving you more flexibility with each player.”
“Position Conversion is mechanically similar to Player Development, but the key difference is that all growth XP gets directed towards attributes and abilities that would cater to the new position which the player is converted to.”
“Conversions can also impact Work Rates & Skill Move abilities of players. Converting a winger into a full back? They will need to develop their defensive Work Rate for the conversion to be complete. Moving a player to a more advanced position? They will need to improve on their Skill Moves to be able to take on defenders when going forward.”
EA said that younger players will be naturally easier to convert to other positions, and declining veteran players can be guided towards a position that helps them conserve their key attributes better.
“Player Development and Position Conversion are also available for Youth Academy players. While in the Academy, the young talents develop under good Form at all times, so their growth is sustained at an even pace.”
NEW ACTIVE TRAINING
In line with the Development Plans now being focussed on the long term attribute growth of players, a new Active Training system is focussed on the overall match readiness of your squad by making use of an all new player performance modifier called Match Sharpness.
The Active Training system introduces the concept of a Training Day which can take place on any day of your calendar, with the exception of Match Days.
Each Training Day will feature three distinct training session slots, each focussing on a specific training drill and specific players. Multiple players can now participate in each drill, depending on the drill type, allowing you to involve up to 15 players in each Training Day.Every session consists of diverse drills and various scenarios focussed on improving a specific area of the game: Defence, Passing, Dribbling, Shooting or Set Pieces.
Training Days will always be pre-populated with the appropriate Drills and players based on the active Team Sheet, but you can always take control and edit them should you wish to fine tune your Training Day outcome.
Sharpness is an all-new indicator, which EA said helps show how ready a player or team is for a match, where a sharp player will have their main attributes boosted and perform better on the pitch.
A Player Feedback System has also been added to the Team Management screen, with the aim of enabling better decision-making by surfacing the most relevant information.
Three elements now impact a player’s overall rating in addition to their development and age, namely: sharpness, morale and playing in his preferred position.
TEAM SCHEDULE PLANNING
This particular feature allows you to control what your players to every day of the season, so as to build their sharpness as well as manage their fitness levels and morale, adding a new dimension to the man-management aspect of Career Mode.
There are three distinct types of daily activities, namely: Training Day, for improving Sharpness; Recovery Day for regaining the most amount of fitness possible for players, but also decreasing Sharpness the most; and Rest Day, which regains less fitness than Recovery Day but also has a smaller negative impact on Sharpness and boost Morale a little.
NEW TRANSFER OPTIONS & IMPROVEMENTS
Career Mode in FIFA 21 also brings some notable new enhancements with regards to how transfers are done.
One of the improvements is the inclusion of ‘Loan to Buy’. “Instead of making risky transfers, you can now loan the players you desire first, with the option to make the transfers permanent when or if they live up to your expectations.”
There will also be AI Player Swap Proposals. “While Player Swaps were introduced to Career Mode a while back, you might have noticed that AI was still preferring old-fashioned, cash-only transfers. The AI will now make player swap proposals with players of their own. When you attempt to buy a player from another club, they can propose a swap as well, asking for one of your players in return.”
A third addition comes in the form of Contract Renewal Improvements. As EA explained, “We’ve given the AI-controlled clubs the ability to perform contract renewals based on the players’ rank in the club, so you will usually not see the top players in a club become Free Agents. It can still happen in some cases, as top players might not always want to accept contract renewals.”
Further enhancements include a redesign of how morale is impacted by press conferences and post-match interviews, as well a new layer of depth to how players’ morale levels are impacted by performance.
Another nice new addition is an established youth academy. When you take over as manager of a club, you no longer have to start setting up a Youth Academy by yourself. “The club will already have a youth scout hired and a number of players already recruited into the Youth Academy. The number varies based on the importance of the Youth Development rating, and there’s also a chance that one of those players is going to have the potential to become one of the world’s best.”
There will also be an option to choose negotiation strictness. As EA explained, opting for ‘Strict’ negotiation in your Career Mode play through means that clubs won’t be interested in taking offers from a rival; players won’t be interested to move to a lower ranked league or club that they have a grudge against; players with the ‘One Club Player’ trait won’t be interested in joining another club; and you won’t be able to approach players that signed to a club for less than a year. Conversely, when the negotiation is set to ‘Loose’, all of the aforementioned limits are turned off.
Those looking to start their management career at a club with a significant cash injection will be able to do so in FIFA 21. “Within the setup of a new Career Mode save you can set the amount of cash you want your club to receive as part of financial takeover.
“Whether you want to give your club a whopping 500 million or start with next to nothing, you can customise your experience how you want to.”
Another notable improvement is that the developers have identified and fixed some issues that were causing the player transfer decision score in previous FIFA games to be higher than it should be when it comes to transfer offers.
Additionally, they have also made a number of improvements to the Match Broadcast experience, with a focus on immersion and authenticity.