Reviewing sports games can be a surprisingly difficult task. More than any other type of franchise, annualised sports titles must remain near identical at their core to the previous year, while simultaneously pushing toward the nebulous (and often contradictory) combination of minor fixes and major overhauls that fans demand. There really is no such thing as a perfect game on that endless treadmill. FIFA 19 will never be as good as FIFA 20 has the potential to be.
Every so often, though, a series like FIFA introduces something genuinely and refreshingly new: Ultimate Team before it swallowed up the entire experience (more on that later), say, or The Journey's endearing mix of on-field action and story-driven RPG. With FIFA 20, it's a street football mode called Volta, which very much resembles FIFA Street, a product that EA used to stick in a box and ask you to pay $60 to play.
Here, it's just one more option in FIFA's suite of things to do, and it has been at the forefront of EA's messaging around this year's game. Critics are mixed about just how satisfying an addition Volta actually is, but given the generosity the FIFA proposition, pretty much everyone is happy enough to have it onboard.
"Don't expect Volta to be the headline act that EA wants it to be"
Push Square
That includes Push Square's Robert Ramsey, who declared Volta "fun and well made" despite "[failing] to leave a lasting impression."
"Volta's problem... is that it's just not as dynamic as a proper game of footie. FIFA's been building on, honing, and overhauling its regular 11 versus 11 gameplay for decades, and by comparison, Volta feels stunted and overly simplistic. It is fun and it is well made, but it's unlikely to hold the attention of those who crave proper football.
"In some ways, Volta replaces The Journey -- FIFA's dedicated story mode. You make your own character and you round up other characters for your team so that you can take the world of street football by storm. It's... Well, it's actually quite interesting and there's a degree of role-playing and freedom that The Journey never had, but it's hamstrung by some awful cutscenes, dialogue, and characters.
Ramsey added: "Partially embrace how cheesy it is and there's fun to be had -- just don't expect it to be the headline act that EA wants it to be."
With Ultimate Team also on offer, it's arguable that EA sees Volta as anything other than a fun diversion. There is only one "headline act" in FIFA these days, and several reviews criticise EA for letting the game's other modes dwindle in its long, lucrative shadow. Push Square described Career mode as being "in a worrying state" despite a handful of new additions, and Game Informer's Matthew Kato felt much the same.
"Other modes like Career (player or manager) and Pro Clubs are... stingy, including a few new elements that may solve long-standing problems or address fans' requests (like being able to practice in Pro Clubs), but which simply cannot disguise that these modes haven't been fundamentally improved.