RealOpinions: FIFA 20’s balance between attack & defence is all wrong

Do goalfests make for an exciting game? Not on FIFA 20 they don’t and EA must address this.

Phil Pangalos by Phil Pangalos

FIFA 20 is here at last. After months of hype around new features, improved gameplay, and better graphics, I was going in to FIFA 20 with some preconceptions. It’s fair to say my hopes were high regarding certain aspects of FIFA’s new instalment. But have EA improved gameplay overall?


Playing the demo allowed a feel of the new features compared to FIFA 19, but after playing the full version I’ve formed much stronger opinions over different aspects of gameplay, and it is safe to say that EA Sports have got the balance way off this year.

READ MORE: FIFA 20 Review round up – all the scores & words on the new game


Attacking can be mastered…

My initial feeling was EA have once again slowed gameplay down in an attempt to subdue fans’ cravings for added realism.

Passing is much slower and there’s more scope for misplaced passes, as FIFA have made first-time passes, pressured passes, and passes on the turn less accurate. When I first experienced this I felt as if FIFA had completely ruined playmaking as the once-dominant tiki-taka seems to be a thing of the past.

And yet passing’s not all that bad.

Weirdly, I have found myself enjoying having to be more intelligent in my build-up play. Taking a touch and looking for a good option does slow the game down, but it also feels more realistic and rewarding.

There’s a sense of achievement when you string together a smooth passage of buildup play leading to a goal as you have had to work that much harder for it.

READ MORE: FIFA 20 vs PES 2020: Who is winning the football war?

Once you’ve got the hang of passing, shooting comes next. Shooting is tougher this year, despite FIFA claiming it would be more consistent and accurate. There is less scope for error, with simple shots going either too wide or too close to the keeper.

In addition, timed shooting is almost impossible as they’ve reduced the frames in which you can hit a perfect shot. In my opinion they should have just binned timed shooting after everyone complained that it was overpowered. But I must admit, that I miss the good old-fashioned long shots of FIFA’s past.

The new passing and shooting mechanics are certainly trickier, but they can be mastered. Unlike defending.

…But Defending is a nightmare

Defending is downright awful. You have to throw out everything you ever knew about defending on FIFA and start from scratch. Using jockeying and right analog player selection as your main two defensive strategies is the best way to go early on. I have seen an improvement when practicing defence this way, but I still find it very hard.

You cannot afford to be aggressive in the slightest and so I always find myself tracking back and waiting for the right moment to tackle. Of course, this grants your opposition more options and chances, somewhat undoing the added element of skill and forethought in attacking.

I ended up lowering my difficulty to World Class on Career Mode just to see if I could go a game without conceding. Spoiler – I couldn’t.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about the FIFA 20 Web App

In my experience, you can concentrate on being defensively sensible for an entire match, but one lapse of concentration or one misplaced pass and you’re punished immediately. I’m not sure whether this is due to manual defending or FIFA’s new decisive moments feature, either way something’s not right.

FIFA 20 have got the balance of defending completely wrong on this game; the fact that you should be scared to get assertive and put in a bone-crunching tackle doesn’t bode well for the overall enjoyment level of FIFA 20. Manual defending is evidently an attempt to keep defending in line with the realism-orientated focus of FIFA 20, but it’s just that one step too far.

Redressing the balance

Of course practice will make you better; I have already seen improvements in defence, albeit one single error leads to conceding more often than not.  The main issue is the better you get at defending the more limited attacking play becomes.

To effectively defend on FIFA 20 you have to be cautious and ensure you do not interfere with your backline’s shape. That means I am far less inclined to opt for a quick counter once I’ve dispossessed the opposition. This is because one misplaced pass and the opposing team is storming through my scrambled defensive shape, leaving me with the option of fouling and risking a card or praying that my goalkeeper makes a save.

If FIFA want to get defending right, they have to strike a balance between enabling players to sit back and defend or pressure their opposition in to giving up possession. There should be a level of responsibility for the player so that they are accountable for their own defending, but not so much that it hinders other areas of the game.

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In the end, FIFA 20 is still a football game, no matter how realistic the game developers seek to make it. This means there needs to be a level of enjoyment to playing the game and frankly that means prioritising attack over defence, but not to this degree.

There’s no better feeling that breaking away on a counter, stringing together a great bit of play and finding the back of the net, but FIFA 20’s obsession with delivering a realistic defensive mechanism limits players’ attacking options and ultimately hinders the overall enjoyment of the game.

A 5-4 result might make for a great Premier League highlight reel, but it will quickly push players away from FIFA into the waiting arms of PES.

READ MORE: Which game should you buy – FIFA 20 or PES 2020?


Phil Pangalos

First Console: GameBoy Color / Favourite Game: Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood / Currently playing: UFC 3