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FIFA 19 review: A champion effort that will divide the best from the rest

15:01 EAT 19/09/2018
FIFA 19
The latest instalment feels notably different, but that's not a bad thing

The appeal of FIFA in years gone by has been the ability to pick it up and feel comfortable within a few touches. Whether you played it every day or once a year, the game was attractive for its accessibility. 

FIFA 19 however has the potential to divide with more realistic and ultimately rewarding mechanics giving this entry a noticeable learning curve.

While every edition of FIFA takes some time getting used to, this one takes things to another level bringing with it initial frustration and in the long run genuine satisfaction.

From more attuned passing, to an AI that can actually make interceptions, FIFA 19 forces you to adapt your game - something that may annoy casual gamers but is sure to please those willing to put in the time to master the changes.

After years of being accused of being the same game with a better coat of paint, this FIFA is different enough on and off the pitch to justify the investment.

A different way of playing

Leading up to its release, the gameplay change that has sparked the most interest has been the introduction of timed finishes which allows you to gamble and turn an ordinary strike into either a spectacular one or an effort that flies into the stands. 

A completely optional approach, a timed finish requires two presses of the shoot button - one in the build up and one just prior to making contact with the ball. 

Time it right and the keeper stands next to no chance of making a save, time it wrong and you'll be left red faced.

Skeptical initially of the idea, I found myself embracing it after getting used to the timing required and when was the best time to take the risk.

Corners are an ideal situation to have a crack at a timed finish with an otherwise tame header potentially turned into a top-corner bullet. While, when one-on-one with the keeper you'll want to avoid them and be careful not to press the shoot button twice in the heat of the moment which can very easily ruin your shot.  

The introduction of timed finishes also mean regulation shots aren't as a satisfying - to generate that extra burst of power from distance you really do need to take the gamble on a timed shot.

Though this change in the final third is significant, subtle changes across the pitch also fundamentally change the way you play.

In previous editions, you could often pass your way out of trouble with Pep Guardiola flair, regardless of the team you were playing with. That's not the case anymore, with passes no longer gliding along the pitch as if it was ice and opponents far more adept at getting a touch on the ball as it goes past them.

Players are generally much more responsive on the pitch, able to put out a foot when in the past they'd stand statuesque in place as the ball flew past them. This means a lot more shots are blocked inside the box, forcing you to really split defenses apart rather than just shoot straight through them.

Physically, players also collide, jostle and tackle with a far greater presence. Approaching the ball from the right angle is vital to ensure you win a challenge and even then, the ball won't magically stick to your foot with 50/50 encounters living up those unpredictable odds.

Overall, FIFA 19 sets itself apart from previous entries on the pitch by being so much less predictable. In the past, you could manipulate the same plays and expect the same results. But football isn't that binary and FIFA 19 looks to reflect that as it forces players to mix up their approach and really learn the best way to play depending on the situation. 

This required investment won't please everybody, especially after years of FIFA winning casual fans over for its pick-up-and-play mechanics, but FIFA 19 does finally give players that spend hours honing their craft a distinct advantage. 

UEFA Champions League done right

Authenticity is an ace up the sleeve FIFA has long had over its fierce rival PES. From the players and teams to the stadiums themselves, EA Sports have grabbed all available football licences and FIFA 19 finally sees them snare the biggest.

The UEFA Champions League is the second biggest football tournament in the world, behind only the World Cup, and FIFA have finally got their hands on it.

From the iconic anthem, to the electric atmosphere of an elite club competition, FIFA 19 has gone all out to bring the Champions League to life.

A unique broadcast style presentation complete with a new commentary duo of Derek Rae and Lee Dixon gives the competition its own voice, very much separate from a normal league game.

The crowds themselves also seem extra vocal in the cauldron of European competition making the overall experience genuinely special. 

Graphics and music shine once again

Two things you can count on with each new addition of FIFA are improved graphics and another killer soundtrack - with FIFA 19 once again delivering in those departments.

Players look as real as ever with physical movements less rigid and body parts not as likely to bend or twist in ways they shouldn't. The fans look just as good too, with the days of them being cardboard cutouts long gone. 

Music wise there are some great tunes that really complete the FIFA 19 experience. From Childish Gambino's 'Feels Like Summer' to the Gorillaz 'Sorcererz', this soundtrack really stands out from previous years and gives the game a great vibe off the pitch.

Another unexpected but welcome edition includes a revamped kick-off experience with the introduction of house rules allowing you to drastically change how a game is played.

The Journey mode also comes to end in FIFA 19 with Alex Hunter's journey coming to a conclusion for those that have kept up with his club-hopping exploits since FIFA 17. 

Overall rating: 9/10 

FIFA 19 isn't going to be for everybody as EA Sports look to add some depth and realism to its gameplay, but for those willing to put in the time and embrace the challenge, this latest entry isn't one to be missed.