Did EA Do Enough to Bring Back the Celtic Fans in FIFA 21?


SINCE 2019, FIFA’s legacy in the gaming world has been somewhat marred by the shortfalls highlighted by many a fan and critic upon the release of FIFA 20. For Celtic fans, who were finally able to get the most out of Celtic players, the most notable issue was, of course, the fact that gameplay was hampered by continuous glitches, lag and interruptions that made a smooth match unattainable and ‘the beautiful game’ rather ugly indeed.

Another issue which seemed to come up time and time again in reviews and critiques of the title was the insufficiencies of the game’s AI, which rendered career mode incredibly limited. Despite the use of artificial intelligence, it seemed as though much of the game was left open to chance, making it incredibly dull, frustrating, and pointless for fans of the franchise. Top Celtic player Moi, for instance, drew only a weak comparison to the real thing.

Now, it’s the case of another year, another title. Released in early October 2020, FIFA 21 entire build up seemed to be indirectly guided by its past criticisms; EA Sports extolled the benefits of their superior in-game artificial intelligence, the deep and detailed career mode, and a massive array of other features that promised to wipe FIFA 20 from our memories, and replace it with something totally game changing for the new decade.

So, now that the game has been out for little over a month, does it seem as though EA Sports did enough to win back their fanbase, and compete with the massive array of other titles free from the same shaky history that influenced FIFA 21’s release? Read more below.

Much Needed Improvements for Celtic Fans

Celtic fans experienced something of an emotional rollercoaster last year, at the release of FIFA 20. On the one hand, Celtic’s Moi Elyounoussi made playing with a Celtic player on the FIFA Ultimate Team a much more realistic prospect for fans, as he was awarded an 87 Card – thus pitting him squarely against some of the games top-rated players.

On the other hand, issues with the games mechanics and AI meant that playing as Elyounoussi was riddled with issues – and hardly a strong comparison for the real thing. Limitations in career mode detracted from any efforts to create a realistic portrayal of Celtic players, and fans were left – for the most part – incredibly frustrated and dissatisfied.

This stood in stark contrast to the wider context of sports gaming. At a time when other sports game developers are stepping up their game for next generation consoles, and Aspire Global – major sports betting brand and provider of the digital casino Karamba – has just made its landmark acquisition of sports bet provider BtoBet, the bar is higher than ever before.

For many Celtic fans, the game simply wasn’t worthwhile.

Stiff Competition

You would be hard pressed to identify an industry marked by a greater sense of competition than video gaming. Not only is it being continuously driven forward, but it is being driven forward at such break-neck pace that one bad release is enough to leave a developer in the dust. In essence, times change quickly, and success is only enough to keep heads above the water – falling behind raises significant issues for the bottom line.

As a result, upon the release of FIFA 21 this year, EA Sports’ competition was not only with themselves and their failures of 2019, but with the entire gaming industry. From Visual Concepts – fellow sporting game developer, responsible for the NBA2K franchise – to the new wave of Triple-A titles being released for the latest consoles – EA Sports would have been feeling the pressure from all sides as the release date for ’21 approached.

Essentially, while FIFA may currently stand at the head of the football genre in gaming, the tools and technologies utilised within its games are exemplified across the board, and FIFA 21 was released to a more discerning and critical fanbase than any of the FIFA titles released in previous years.

What Was Wrong with FIFA 20?

You will likely get many different answers to this question, ranging from a benign ‘not much’ to an assured ‘everything’. If you need reminding, then this video offers an excellent crash-course in everything players found fault with in FIFA 20:

Essentially, however, poor in-game mechanics, coupled with an incredible lack of imagination from developers working on career mode, led to a game that was, at its best, pretty uneventful and full. At worst, it was frustrating for fans of a genre – and game – who seemed to know better than the developers quite how far FIFA 20 could have gone.

Is FIFA 21 a Strong Competitor?

So far – dare we say it – so good, for EA. FIFA 21 was released back on 10th October 2020 to apprehensive anticipation from fans – most of whom could not help but make instant comparisons with its predecessor. Coupled with the fact that the title was released at a new era for console gaming, when the power and polish of new titles is expected to be greater than ever before, made for an incredibly stressful time for EA Sports.

Of course, as a result of those instant comparisons, fans were quick to turn to the Career Mode and see how it stacked up against ‘20. At this point, it seems as though EA Sports’ promises have proved meaningful, with AI and player training/customisation packing a much bigger punch. For a more in depth look at the long-awaited FIFA 21 career mode, this video goes through some of the most anticipated featured EA Sports hinted at in advance of its release – and how they hold up to criticism from fans who remember the blunders of FIFA 20 all too well.

For Celtic fans, there are plenty of high ranking players to make the most of within Career Mode. Callum McGregor, Moi Elyounoussi and Shane Duffy are among those with scores in the high seventies, and with plenty more scope for player training and advanement, many are hopeful that this is finally the game for Celtic fans.

EA Sports have the benefit of years on their side. FIFA has been hitting our consoles for more than two decades now, and fans continue to view the franchise as a figurehead for the wider world of sports gaming. Thus far, reviews have largely stood in favour of EA Sports, and we may soon reach a point where the controversies and difficulties posed to the developer upon the release of FIFA 20 are no longer at the forefront of our minds.

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