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FIFA 21 Early Career Mode Preview

All I play is career mode in the yearly EA Sports drop, let’s dig in.

The new “interactive match sim.”
EA Sports

Every year EA Sports releases a new edition of FIFA on various gaming consoles. And every year Career Mode, the only mode I play, gets silly surface level updates and I’m left wanting more. But like a fool, I purchase it every year anyways.

Well, it sounds like FIFA 21, may actually be fixing long broken or incomplete parts of career mode. Limited information is available right now, but EA put out some teaser information with weekly releases of information coming in August. It looks like Career Mode is second on the list to get an information drop.

Interactive Match Sim

The first change will be the ability to simulate only a portion of a match or drop into a match (or out of one).

“Experience a whole new way to play out your season with the new Interactive Match Sim. Jump in and out of matches to influence the course of the action, or take charge of key moments including penalties and free kicks to change the outcome of the match. Monitor match data and make changes directly from the sim based on the match stats and your players’ performance levels and stamina.”

I personally am on my ninth (!) season of FIFA 20. I played five season as Sporting Kansas City after inserting them into English Football League One and winning promotion to the EFL Championship and eventually the Premier League. But I played very unrealistically and manipulated the long broken free transfer system to get ridiculous players on my team, even when I was still in the EFL Championship. Jaylin Lindsey is the only player I still have and he’s still a backup. Sorry Jaylin!

Then I’ve played another four seasons as the Forest Green Rovers (my daughter liked their crazy jerseys) getting them from League Two to the Premier League, except I only used their original roster or scouted for players (my nerdy tracking of that can be found here on Reddit).

All of that is to say, I play a lot of matches. The ability to drop into a tight match to see if I can make the difference or to simulate a match that’s gotten out of hand would be a welcome addition. The thing I’m most excited about, which will come to no surprise to The Blue Testament readers, is my ability to make subs. When I simulate a game, EA goes full Peter Vermes and makes one or no subs sometimes. Rest those legs!

Revamped Growth System

“Manage your players’ development in greater detail with a revamped growth system. Turn right backs into right wingers, defensive midfielders into center backs, and more to fill gaps in your team, and monitor player attribute changes during training to see how your squad is progressing.”

I love trying to develop youth talent in FIFA (as if this doesn’t make it obvious). The ability to change positions of players would be huge as sometimes your scouts just never seem to find the player you are looking for.

New ‘Match Sharpness’ Attribute

“Get more insight into your squad’s performance levels with match sharpness, a new attribute that indicates how likely your players are to perform in the most crucial moments during the course of a game. Increase your players’ sharpness with a new Active Training System that gives you the ability to set up group training sessions to improve the likelihood of your strikers putting big chances away or of defenders making key tackles.”

This is intriguing. It feels like some sort of ‘being in form’ or ‘out of form’ stat. I’ll also be interested to see what the new “group training sessions” are as I tend to simulate training to not get an unfair stat boost from doing all the drills (not that anyone wants to do that many drills).

Training Overhaul

In addition to the above mentioned group sessions, training on the whole appears set to change, though details are sparse.

“Plan your team’s training schedule with a new activity management system. Decide when to train and when to rest during the week as you balance your players’ sharpness with morale and fitness to make the difference between winning and losing.”

As it stands now you can only do training drills once every seven days. It’ll be interesting to see what impact training has on stamina and the new match sharpness attribute.

EA will have to fix their scheduling in the game though, as at times if you are playing in the Premier League, you may have league games, Champions League, FA Cup, or Carabao Cup competitions putting 3-4 games into a single week. There would simply be no time to train. Here is a stupid example in someone’s MLS season.

thxibv on Reddit

It can get even worse with some games being double headers on the same day.

Transfer Market Improvements

As mentioned above, the free transfer system is broken. No matter how good a player is, I’ve never had problems getting them to come to my team, even when I’m not in the top flight yet. No word on if that will be fixed but enhancements are coming.

“FIFA 21 Career Mode enhances transfer realism by providing both human and AI-controlled teams with new ways to sign players. Make Loan to Buy offers with optional or mandatory future transfer fees to secure new talent for your team, and respond to AI manager-initiated player swap proposals as you look to master the transfer market.”

You could already sell a player with a sell-on clause, but I could never tell if I actually received that money. Now adding in loan with the option to buy will be nice. The player swap thing feels a bit odd, as player for player trades seem rare in most parts of the world but will be good for leagues like MLS in the game.

Possibly the “Authentic Transfers” will fix some of the above referenced issues.

“Customize your Career Mode with new initial set-up options. Get a more true-to-life experience of negotiating signings on the transfer market with Authentic Transfers, or boost your team’s starting budget to help you build your squad with Financial Takeover.”

Homegrown Talent Pre-Order Bonus

Usually all pre-order bonuses are around FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) but this year, two versions have a Career Mode bonus.

“The new Homegrown Talent pre-order benefit will automatically assign a local youngster with world-class potential to the first club you choose to manage in FIFA 21 Career Mode. The player’s nationality will correspond to the country of the league in which you’re managing. The Career Mode Homegrown Talent pre-order benefit will apply to every new save you start on your profile. It will carry over from PlayStation 4 to PlayStation 5 and Xbox One to Xbox Series X.”

It sounds like a pretty lame bonus as you can already do that once a season with the “Scout Future Star” catalog item with your in game coins (unless that’s being removed and turned into a pre-order bonus only, which would be lame). And often that “star” doesn’t have as good of potential as players you can just scout on your own.

Hopefully scouting will get an overhaul as well, along with your youth team. Currently you can only have only 16 youth players before you have to sign or cut them. It’d be nice to have youth teams at least from U-15 through U-19 but ideally even younger. Often you’ll scout a prospect who is already 17 or 18 and they’ll demand a first team deal within weeks when their stats are pitiful. And if you cut them, they just disappear from the game. “No first team deal at 16? I guess I’ll just retire.”

Instead if you could get them at 12 or 13, you could develop them over time in your system and they could be ready to contribute at 16 or 17. If we are getting crazy, it’d be amazing to have your second team in the game to loan players to and let your youth players get minutes besides the imaginary youth games they must be playing in the background.

While we are dreaming, I’d love to see more depth in general in career mode. I can’t handle Football Manager depth but FIFA doesn’t even scratch the surface. Career stats, full youth teams and second teams, assistant coaches, trainers and other staff, plus actual controls around ownership (team relocation, stadium improvements, etc.) would be great. Games like Madden and NHL already have some of these things, no reason not to get them into FIFA.

Other Changes

Career mode finally appears to be getting some attention, but of course other modes are getting enhancements as well.

  • Gameplay Changes: Agile Dribbling, Positioning Personality, Creative Runs, smoother encounters and Competitor Mode
  • FIFA Ultimate Team: New Co-op Mode and customization of your teams look
  • VOLTA Football (I’ve never touched this mode, but I may have to check it out)

EA Sports FIFA 21 comes out on October 9, 2020. If you buy it on Xbox One or PS4, it will automatically be able to be upgraded to a Xbox Series X or PS5 version once those have been released. One bummer is any Career Mode progress will not carry over but, of course, FUT will. Now, if you are a career mode enthusiast, you’ll need to decide to not get a new console right away, wait to start your career mode until they are out or potentially start a second career mode later after the next generation consoles release.

Do you play FIFA or have you in the past? Are you a career mode enthusiast? I simply love playing matches but having a better career mode will make it that much more satisfying. I currently play on Xbox One. Let’s talk FIFA in the comments below.