FIFA 21 Gameplay: Pitch Notes – Player Personality, Agile Dribbling, Fundamentals, Smoother Encounters & more

We have our first look at what FIFA 21 is going to look like in-game, here is everything you need to know!

Tom Young by Tom Young
FIFA 21 PITCH NOTES FEATURED

The FIFA 21 Gameplay trailer is here, and there is plenty to get stuck into?

EA have released a full set of pitch-notes which goes into detail about all the new changes that we can expect in the upcoming title.

Here is the most important things that you need to know!

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Player Personality

FIFA tends to get more realistic each year, and that trend is set to follow suit in FIFA 21 with the introduction of player-specific personality traits.

For instance, Kevin De Bruyne is well known for his incredible range of passing. Rather than just focusing on a short or through ball, EA have added extra attributes in order to ensure his in-game play reflects what he does on the pitch in real life.

As per EA’s pitch notes: “For example, in the past, a through pass used the Short or Long Passing attribute to determine quality. However, in FIFA 21, a through pass is a mix of Short/Long Passing, Vision and Composure attributes.”

Agile Dribbling

For those of you who like to run at your opposition and take them on one-on-one, the new agile dribbling feature should be music to your ears.

By using the jockey mechanic, EA are looking to create a dribbling system that’s “more explosive, agile, and fluid, while still ensuring it remains similar to what is seen on the real life pitch.”

fifa 21 player lock
NEW & IMPROVED: FIFA 21 looks set to be the best yet

Its intention is to allow you to quickly move the ball from side to side in order to get away from your marker. This means that those players with fast footwork will be able to create space more effectively than ever before.

Creative Runs

FIFA 21 will also give you the ability to control what your players do off the ball more effectively than in previous titles.

There is a range of new off the ball commands that you can assign to your players in order to create space.

READ MORE: FIFA 21 FUT – Everything you need to know

As per EA’s pitch notes, these are as follows:

  • Directed Runs – You can now take full 360 control over the direction of the runs of your teammates by flicking the Right Stick after triggering a run (L1/LB then flick Right Stick), or after calling a teammate short (R1/RB then flick Right Stick)
  • Directed Pass And Go – Decide where your teammate makes their run after a pass by immediately flicking the Right Stick in the desired direction. This feature works with any type of pass; Ground Pass, Lob Pass, Through Ball, and even Crosses (Ground Pass example: X/A then flick Right Stick).
  • Player Lock – Press in both sticks (L3/LSB+R3/RSB) at the same time to lock to your current player when in attack. When you’re locked to a player and pass the ball, the CPU AI will then take control of the on-ball player allowing you to move your off-ball player and ask for a pass back in a better position.

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Positioning Personality

This is another big addition. In FIFA 21, those players who are more tactically aware will have a bigger impact in-game.

The AI will be able to position themselves more effectively in order to have the desired impact. For instance, Virgil van Dijk is known for his ability to block the ball with his body, expect to see him throwing himself in front of goal-bound efforts in FIFA 21.

Smoother Encounters

Now this is something we needed to see. The addition of new, smoother encounters will help to improve the way players interact physically with one another.

READ MORE: FIFA 21 Career Mode

This will prevent the mass number of unnecessary collisions that we have seen in FIFA’s past and will again help to improve the reality of the EA title.

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Headers

FIFA have admitted that they nerfed the ability to score headed goals in FIFA 20. But that changes in FIFA 21.

Manual Heading has been added into he game in order to “improve the viability of scoring with headers, whilst keeping a skill gap in the game.”

This means that heading won’t be assisted at all, meaning that you are in charge of the aim and the power in order to give you full control on where you want your header to end up.

This will take some getting used to, but if you can perfect it, we could see those target-man style strikers return to the forefront once more!

Defending

Another area that will be enhanced by the new Player Personality features is defending.

As mentioned earlier with regards to passing, more attributes will be taken into account when defending in order to create a hyper-realistic scenario.

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AUTHENTIC: FIFA 21 aims to bring an even more realistic touch to the game

“For example, when performing a standing tackle we will now use a combination of the Standing Tackle, Defensive Awareness and Aggression attributes.”

There have also been amendments to Shoulder Charges and Seal Outs in order to make both more effective and realistic.

Blocking

We will see a completely new blocking system on FIFA 21.

EA has re-written the blocking system and have added it to the Controlled Tackling technology.

This should make blocking more reliable and increase the effectiveness of shot-blocks.

READ MORE: FIFA 21 Next Gen – Everything you need to know

Blocking will also be affected by the attributes of the individual player and Positioning Personality too.

Passing

Understanding space appears to be a key area for EA this year.

Through Passing has been given a complete overhaul, with three further elements introduced.

Pass Openness and Pass Complexity will create new ways to find a way through your opponent.

With new pass trajectories available, there will also be semi-assisted through balls to find the best pass for your teammate.

Crossing

Crossing was largely ineffective on FIFA 20, but EA have remodelled it for the new game.

Per EA’s Pitch Notes, there are a number of new crossing trajectories in FIFA 21:

  • Whipped Cross – (R1/RB + L1/LB + ⬜/X) – Inspired by Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, these fast and dangerous crosses travel through the box and are perfect for a teammate to just ‘put their head in the way’.
  • Driven Cross – (R1/RB + ⬜/X) – Similar to whipped crosses, this cross is fast and dangerous, but tends to travel at waist height, being ideal for a volley or shot.
  • Ground Driven Cross – (R1/RB + ⬜/X then ⬜/X ) – An extremely fast cross that travels on the ground.

Assisted Crossing will now be the default setting for FIFA 21, and it will work in the same way as Semi-Assisted Crossing has in the past.

READ MORE: FIFA 21 Xbox One vs Xbox Series X

Semi-Assisted Crossing will now be more in line with other semi-assisted settings, with more manual control over your cross.

Animation Fluidity

EA have improved their animations which will allow for “faster transitions which support a more fluid and responsive experience, especially in passing, shooting, ball control, dribbling, and player movement.”

Player Personality will also affect reaction times more, with great players having faster reaction times.

Giving Players More Control

There’s a ton of improvements listed above, but let’s get into the mechanical improvements that will give even more control to players in the game.

Increased Control

It looks like players will have even more control than ever before, with a number of improvements to skills moves. This also extends to defending, where players can initiate instant hard tackles!

Take a look at the full list below from EA.

  • Bridge and Nutmeg Skill Moves There are now new ways to beat the opponent in 1v1
    • Bridge Skill – R1/RB then R1/RB (only forward direction)
    • Directional Nutmeg – L1/LB + R1/RB + RS any direction
  • Cancel Foul Advantage – L2/LT + R2/RT – Allows the player to ask for the foul instead of keeping the advantage of the play, providing you with more agency to decide which option is better suited for each moment.
  • Instant Hard Tackles – R1/RB + O/B – The ability to perform Hard Tackles instantly, without having to hold and power up the tackle button.
  • Set Up Touch 2.0 – R1/RB + Right-Stick flick in a direction – Improvements to Set Up Touch, including faster animations, keeping the ball closer to the player, and performing more accurate shots.
  • Improved Finesse Shots – R1/RB + O/B – The Curve Attribute will now have significantly more influence over a Finesse Shot’s ball curl. There has also been a focus on using Player Personality for these shots, along with a cleanup and rebalance of all Finesse Shot animations.
  • Call Players into Box on Goal Kicks – R1/RB to call for support – Allow teams to start the build-up play in a safer and more controlled approach.
    • Some teams may have defenders in the box by default as this is based on tactics. For example, this happens when playing with teams that use the Possession tactic.
  • Improved Super Cancel Mechanics – Added a variety of ways to cancel actions, giving you more control over your moves on the pitch. Great for situations where you want to surprise opponents that are able to anticipate your moves by paying attention to your player animations.
    • Hard Super Cancel – L2/LT + R2/RT + L1/LB + R1/RB – Allows players to go into free move in any situation, except when dribbling with the ball
      • The previous Super Cancel still exists but is more restricted due to button conflicts.
    • Pass/Shot Cancel – L2/LT + R2/RT – Allows you to cancel any pass or shot request, and continue dribbling with the ball.
      • Another way to cancel a shot or lob, is by pressing X/A similarly to a fake shot, but after the passing animation have started.
        • Note that this will make the game more responsive than ever, while keeping clean visuals.
    • Skill Moves Cancel – L2/LT + R2/RT – Allows user to cancel specific skill moves during the move, more info on which moves can be cancelled in the Skill Moves Improvements section below.

More Settings

FIFA 21 has fine-tuned and improved its settings, to make the game more accessible from every angle. Here’s which setting will be on by default.

  • Auto Flair Passes (On by default):
    • ON = Players will perform Flair Passes contextually in appropriate situations.
    • OFF = Players will never perform Flair Passes unless the flair modifier is held (LT/L2).
  • Auto Clearances (On by default):
    • ON = Players will perform clearances contextually in appropriate situations.
    • OFF = Outfield players will never perform clearances unless the clearance button is pressed.
    • This setting does not apply to Goalkeepers, as they have their own clearance system.
  • Auto Shots (On by default):
    • ON = Players will perform automatic shots contextually in appropriate situations.
    • OFF = Players will never perform automatic shots.
  • Player Lock (On by default)
    • ON = The Player Lock feature described in the ‘Creative Runs’ section of this article will be available for use.
    • OFF = The Player Lock feature will not be available for use.
  • Contextual Agile Dribbling (On by default):
    • ON = Enable contextual Agile Dribbling for Left -Stick dribbling in one-on-one situation.
    • OFF = No contextual Agile Dribbling unless button is held (R1/RB).
  • Assisted Headers (On by default):
    • ON = Enable header assistance for passes and shots for a more casual gameplay experience.
    • OFF = Disable header assistance so that headers for passing and shooting are manual and potentially more accurate.
    • As covered earlier in the article, there are a number of modes that will have this set to ‘Off’ to ensure fairness in competitive FIFA modes.
  • Through Ball Assistance (Assisted by default):
    • SEMI = Pass receiver selection is the same as assisted passing, but the target of the pass depends on the direction and power of your input.
      • For a full breakdown of what pass receiver selection is, check out this previously released Pitch Notes article.
  • Cross Assistance (Assisted by default):
    • ASSISTED = Cross direction and power will be assisted to help you cross into the receiver’s path, unless aiming away from the box
    • SEMI = Cross direction and power will only have a little assistance and depend more on where you point and how much you hold the cross button. This option has less error involved.
  • Directed Runs Indicator (On by default):
    • ON = Show the directed runs indicator when a player performs a directed pass and go or a directed run.
    • OFF = Will not sure the directed runs indicator.

Skill Moves Improvements

There have been some very important changes to skill moves in FIFA 21. You’ll no longer be penalised for chaining together some of the moves!

General Improvements

  • Reduced the penalty and error for chaining Skill Moves.
    • Increased the number of complex Skill Moves that you can chain without the ball getting away to 3, up from 2 in FIFA 20.
      • Complex Skill Moves examples include ElasticoDrag Back and La Croquetta.
    • Increased the number of normal Skill Moves that you can chain without the ball getting away to 6, up from 3 in FIFA 20.
      • Normal Skill Moves example include Stop and Turn, Fake Shot and Heel to Heel.
    • Easy Skill Moves (e.g. Ball Roll or Stepover) can be chained without penalty.
    • Note that the numbers above represent the values possible if you execute exactly what is laid out above, and will vary slightly in other situations. For example, chaining up to 6 normal Skill Moves is possible, but that value would change if one of the Skill Moves was a complex Skill Move.
  • Remapped Drag Back to be L1/LB + R1/RB + Left-Stick in 180° of player facing angle.
    • Added Player Personality to Drag Back, making it slower for lower Skill Move Rating players.
  • Technical improvements to create a more reliable Skill Moves detection system.
    • Details around some of these changes can be found in the (Online) Gameplay Responsiveness section below.
  • Ball distance was made closer for Rainbows and Flicks.
  • Greater leniency to allow the triggering of a Skill Move when the combination of the Right Stick/Left Stick inputs, combined with the direction the player is facing, are not exactly perfect.
  • Prioritized Skill Move execution over sprint requests.

All-Access Skill Moves – All players can now perform Right Stick Skill Moves, but their effectiveness depends directly on their Skill Move Rating and Attributes.

Lower rated players will perform slower and more error-prone variants of some of these Skill Moves. These include:

  • Low-Skill Roulette
  • Low-Skill Heel to Heel
  • Low-Skill Feint and Exit
  • Low-Skill Stop and Turn
  • Low-Skill Drag Back Spin
  • Low-Skill Simple Rainbow

Skill Move Cancel – Here are some of the Skill Moves can now be cancelled (L2/LT + R2/RT)

  • All Fake Shots
  • Feint Forward and Turn
  • Three Touch Roulette
  • Lane Change
  • Turn and Spin
  • Stop And Turn
  • Fake Pass Exit
  • Scoop Turn

New Skill Moves added

  • Feint Forward and Turn (RS back + RS back)
  • Drag to Heel (L1/LB + RS back then RS left/right)
  • Ball Roll Fake Turn (hold L2/LT + RS forward then RS left/right)

General Improvements + Community Based Feedback

EA has been taking into account the FIFA community feedback and you can see some of the improvements they’ve gone for below.

(Online) Gameplay Responsiveness Efforts

These changes below apply to all forms of gameplay in FIFA 21, offline and online.

Skill moves will now be detected much better than for, meaning your input will be registered even when moving the right stick fast.

There are switching improvements, which extend to resolving unwanted auto switches and addressing cases where players wouldn’t lock onto the ball after a switch.

They’ve also reduced right trigger sensitivity to prevent unwanted knock-ons, and addressing of situations where shots or passes weren’t registered.

Quality of Life Improvements

Here are some of the improvements to the overall enjoyability of the FIFA experience. Highlights include removal of some celebrations and reduced waiting time for set pieces.

Full details below.

  • Removal of some celebrations, including Shush and A-OK FUT Celebration.
  • Removal of the walk back cinematic after a goal in Online matches.
  • Reduced the length of goal celebrations.
  • Reduced the waiting time for multiple set pieces, which had all been set to 30 seconds at the launch of FIFA 20.
  • Auto Skip some animation sequences when the ball goes out of play in Online matches.
  • Reworked logic to improve detection of when the half and end of match should finish.

Competitive and Core Community Feedback

These are some changes as a result of feedback from the competitive and casual FIFA community.

A big change is that hands and forearms won’t get in the way with the ball anymore.

Take a look below for the in-depth details:

  • No ball collision with hands – Outfield players’ hands, and forearms, are now ‘permeable’ and should not collide with the ball, preventing “hand-ball” situations from influencing the play in any way.
  • Quick Tactics: Team Press Timer – There was some feedback around players being able to waste time in sometimes unrealistic ways and that it was difficult for the defending team to try to get the ball back in these situations. To address this, we revamped the Team Press Quick Tactic to no longer result in a Constant Pressure defensive tactic. It now triggers a temporary Auto Press behaviour on-demand and with a cooldown timer that prevents it from being overused.
  • Manual Switch To ‘Offside Trap’ Player – Allow manual switching to a player that is performing an “Offside Trap”.
  • Ground Pass Assistance – Changes to minimize the avoidance of an opponents’ players when making an assisted ground pass, specifically in situations where the pass, due to avoiding the defender, would end up going behind a running receiver.
  • Jockey Acceleration/Deceleration – Players with a lower Defensive Awareness attribute have a reduced Jockey effectiveness in order to encourage Jockeying with actual defenders as opposed to forward players.
  • Goalkeeper Save Consistency – Improved multiple goalkeeper behaviours, including:
    • When to punch versus when to catch the ball.
    • More consistency on reflex saves.
    • Situations where the goalkeeper decides between rushing out, clearing the ball, blocking the attacker or taking control of the ball.
  • Goalkeeper Positioning – Changed goalkeeper positioning behaviour to better cover near post, in order to more consistently save near-post shots.
  • Throw-In Positioning – Better positioning to provide quicker targets for faster and more urgent throws.
  • Chip Shots Accuracy – Improved chip shot targeting system to improve consistency and accuracy of these shots.

General Improvements

There are a couple of new features that are exclusive to Kick-Off mode (FIFA Attributes and Rewind), and some other improvements for FIFA 21.

FIFA Attributes – Kick-Off only

This feature modifies players’ attributes to provide an enhanced and friendlier gameplay experience. When turned on, the increase in relevant attributes makes players feel more responsive and accurate, providing a similar experience as when playing FUT with high chemistry.

These attributes are modified depending on each player’s positions, details below!

  • Attackers (Forwards and Wingers)
    • Acceleration +6, Sprint Speed +4
    • Positioning +10, Finishing +8, Shot Power +4, Long Shots +6, Volleys +4
    • Agility +4, Balance +2, Reactions +4, Dribbling +4, Composure +4
  • Midfielders (Central, Attacking, Wide)
    • Acceleration +6, Sprint Speed +4, Positioning +8
    • Vision +10, Crossing +2, Short Passing +8, Long Passing +6
    • Agility +4, Reaction +4, Dribbling +4, Composure +4
  • Defenders and Defensive Midfielders
    • Acceleration +6, Sprint Speed +4, Aggression +2
    • Vision +2, Short Passing +4, Long Passing +2, Reactions +4, Composure +4
    • Interceptions +8, Defensive Awareness +10, Stand Tackle +8, Slide Tackle +4
  • Goalkeepers
    • Diving +6, Handling +4, GK Kicking +4, Reflexes +6, GK Positioning +4, Reactions +6

You can find a setting on the menu that allows you to turn this effect off (Classic option).

Rewind – Kick-Off only

You can now rewind time to play certain moments again, using this feature.

The Rewind UI is shared with the Replay UI, and there are two ways to access it during the game.

  • Rewind Command – L2/LT + R2/RT + Options/Menu
  • Pause menu and choose the Instant Replay/Rewind option

There are some limitations to this, however.

  • Cannot go back to a previous half, or after the full-time whistle has been blown.
  • Cannot rewind to before certain events like injuries, substitutions, penalties, shootouts, and fouls that result in warning from the referee or in a card.
  • The system does its best to recreate the current play, but there will be some points in time (the middle of an animation, for example) that will prevent you from getting in the exact requested starting point that you’re trying to re-play – in these situations, the system will go back to the nearest valid moment. 

Many More

There are lots of other mechanics and smaller changes added this year, besides everything mentioned above. To mention some:

  • Hundreds of new animations to refresh and polish multiple areas.
  • New Goalkeeper Antics on Penalty Kicks.
  • Turned off the trainer as default for all difficulties except Beginner.
  • New Rules settings to call a handball for Goalkeepers when handling the ball outside of the box.
  • Turned off Timed Finished mechanic for Beginner through Professional difficulties.
  • Multiple new celebrations, including the “Finger Swipe” and the “Selfie” next to adboards.
  • Player signature celebrations for Kylian Mbappé, Erling Haaland, Steven Bergwijn, and more to come.

So that’s the round-up of the most recent pitch notes from EA.

For everything FIFA 21 be sure to check back in with us.

Tom Young

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