FIFA 21 is coming to consoles this September. Oh, it’s not been officially confirmed yet - that won’t happen until late spring - but given that its predecessors have emerged in September all the way back to 1872, you can rest assured that it’s on the way. On PS4 and Xbox One, at least. PS5 and Xbox Series X details are sketchier, but we’ll get to those shortly. Below you’ll find everything there is to know about FIFA 21 at present, with further details to come as they’re announced during the course of 2020.
FIFA 21 on PS5 and Xbox Series X: what to expect?
Recent leaps between console generations have seen EA focus on graphical upgrades over tangible gameplay changes, so it’d be surprising to see next-gen FIFA 21 contain a large spread of new features. Instead, expect EA’s focus to be on 8K supported gameplay with close-to-photorealistic player faces, and a significant reduction in loading times.
This focus on graphics isn’t mere laziness on EA’s part, it should be said. Developers take a number of years to fully master new hardware, particularly in the sports genre, and hopefully it’s learned its lesson from FIFA 06: Road To The FIFA World Cup. A rush release for the launch of Xbox 360, it featured a total mess of a new engine where the football barely reached Sunday league standards, and rubber player models that looked like rejects from Madame Tussauds. Expect FIFA 22 or FIFA 23 to properly herald a new era.
FIFA 21 release date: Friday 25 September?
FIFA 18 landed on Friday 29 September, FIFA 19 on Friday 28 September, and FIFA 20 on Friday 24 September. Note the pattern? As a result, we can state with some certainty that the FIFA 21 release date on PS4 and XBox One will be Friday 25 September. PS5 and Xbox Series X aren’t out by then; so for those versions you’ll have to wait for the respective console launches, both currently pegged for ‘Holiday 2020’.
FIFA 21 cover: Liverpool player most likely candidate
Eden Hazard was the main cover star for FIFA 20, with special editions featuring Virgil van Dijk and Zinedine Zidane also released. Cristiano Ronaldo graced the cover of FIFAs 18 and 19, while for FIFA 17 Marco Reus was the big boy on the box. The general point being that there’s no consistent rhyme or reason to EA’s cover choice.
What can be said with certainty is that Ronaldo won’t return for the FIFA 21 cover. As explained in our FIFA 20 Juventus story, his club is now exclusive to PES, meaning there’s no scope for him to grace EA’s box this year. Son Heung-Min, Mo Salah and Lionel Messi all feature high on an independent vote hosted by fifplay, with Espanyol’s Chinese winger Wu Lei the surprise name to sneak into the top four. Dortmund sensation Erling Haland should also be considered an outside contender. With Liverpool charging towards title glory, Salah seems the odds-on bet from those on that list.
FIFA 21 features: Volta, career mode, Ultimate Team
The small-sided Volta mode was FIFA 20’s biggest new feature and while it’s largely been forgotten about now that everyone’s built Ultimate Team meta squads, it’s likely EA will look to build upon it further in FIFA 21. Indeed, this may be an opportune time to merge those modes: FUT would be transformed with the addition of five-a-side matches, even if for this year they are only playable as online friendlies.
Career mode also has to be a huge point of focus. It infamously launched in a broken state when FIFA 20 landed, and that simply cannot happen again. Good PR is hard to come by where the FIFA series is concerned, and while the mode isn’t as popular as in its PS2 heyday, a disaster of similar proportions to last year has to be avoided.
EA often takes an ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it approach to Ultimate Team, well aware that it’s already a huge money spinner in its current format. So don’t expect wholesale changes this year. It’s come under pressure to make pack odds clearer after the sale of FIFA Points was banned in Belgium, but even the brouhaha around that has died down a little. We’d like to see more comprehensive stat tracking, like that found in PES 2020’s myClub, but that’s been an unfulfilled pipe dream for a while now - so don’t get your hopes up.
FIFA 21: New leagues and stadiums
Three of the big five leagues now boast a comprehensive selection of scanned stadia and player faces. FIFA 15 added the Premier League, FIFA 19 expanded further with La Liga, and, as outlined in our FIFA 20 Bundesliga guide, the German top flight made its debut in the year just gone. That leaves Serie A (Italy) and Ligue 1 (France) still to come.
If one of those is to make an appearance this year then the latter seems a more likely choice: no Juventus is a big blow where the Italian league is concerned. Plus three Ligue 1 stadia - Lyon, Marseille, and PSG - are already in the game, so only 17 more (a number well within EA’s reach) would be required. We’ll update this section over the coming months as new teams and/or leagues are confirmed.
FIFA 21 VAR: will it be included?
EA is always keen to include modern technology advancements in its sports games - goal-line technology was added just after it debuted in FIFA 15 - but VAR feels like a contentious issue. Fans in the Premier League have reacted negatively to its use throughout this season, and the FIFA audience isn’t always the most open-minded. Imagine the fury sparked in a big weekend league match when you score a last-minute winner, only to have the game subsequently chalk it off. It feels like a feature that will be added eventually, but doing so in time for the advent of PS5 and Xbox Series X may be too big a gamble.