Six FIFA 21 gameplay changes you might have missed

So EA Sports just dropped a gameplay trailer for FIFA 21, showcasing some of the main new features and improvements it’s made from last year’s game. The likes of Manual Headers and Creative Runs are currently stealing the spotlight, but there’s a few smaller changes buried in a mammoth Pitch Notes development article that could actually be huge for FIFA 21’s gameplay – for better and for worse.

These range from tweaks of existing features to completely new additions that do everything from widening skill move availability to addressing infuriating glitches and some of the biggest bugbears players had with FIFA 20. While they didn’t make the flashy trailer and get their own fancy slogan, these changes could potentially make or break this year’s FIFA title.

So bear with me as I shovel my way through a mountain of bullet points and developer jargon to bring you six little hidden FIFA 21 gameplay changes that you may not be aware of.

The ball no longer hits an outfield player’s arms or hands

This change is a bit like a tequila shot. Sounds great at the time, but you’ll probably regret it as soon as it disappears down your throat.

Player models have always been a sticking point in FIFA titles, with hundreds upon thousands of clips showing distorted limbs, players ghosting through one another, and blatant handballs which, due to the rule not being included in the game, never result in a free-kick or penalty.

To address the latter issue, FIFA 21 will ensure that the ball will always pass through an outfield player’s arms and hands. While fans will be grateful that illegitimate blocking of shots and passes with hands and arms will be no more, it does seem like a bit of a slapdash solution.

Having the ball ghost through limbs immediately shatters the illusion of realism that EA Sports often prides itself on with sports sims.

That being said, coding the handball rule into the game would likely cause even more frustration… So maybe it’s the right call after all. We’ve just got to hope it doesn’t cause any bugs to goalkeeper models who most definitely need those limbs.

Player switching improvements

How this is not billed as a bigger gameplay feature, I don’t know, because as anyone who sank some hours into FIFA 20 will tell you, the player switching was abysmal.

While the proof will be in the pudding as to whether these fixes will work, the Pitch Notes article claims that a number of improvements have been made to player switching, including:

  • Improved multiple cases where no Right Stick switch would happen, for example during some tackling situations or when quickly changing from offence to defence.
  • Resolved multiple cases of unwanted auto switches.
  • Addressed cases where players wouldn’t lock to the ball after a switch.
  • Improved L1/LB switches by prioritising players that are related to the play.
  • Stabilised the Next Player Switch Indicator to reduce unnecessary indicator movement.

This was one of last year’s biggest problems, and if it’s been properly ironed out as claimed above, it’s a huge win for FIFA players.

The Team Press Quick Tactic now has a cooldown

Quick tactics are an instant and reactive way to change your team’s strategy and dynamic without having to pause and rifle through the menus. In FIFA 20, however, they caused a lot of issues.

One of them, Overload Ball Side, received a mid-FIFA 20 patch to stop it from being abused. Another, Team Press, saw players able to time waste while making it incredibly difficult for the opposition to get the ball back. In FIFA 21, this will apparently change.

Team Press will now become the first Quick Tactic to have a cooldown, meaning it can’t be left on for long periods and constantly spammed. Get in.

All players can Rainbow Flick. But for players with low skill, they’ll be crap.

FIFA 21 will see a bunch of skill moves made accessible for all players, regardless of their skill move rating.

These include: Roulette, Heel to Heel, Feint and Exit, Stop and Turn, Drag Back Spin, and the simple variation of the Rainbow Flick. Yep, your centre back can Rainbow Flick.

While this will, on paper, make players with two or three-star skill ratings seem more usable, be warned: they’ll be crap if your player’s abilities and skill rating is too low.

This means it’s more of a gamble to try and pull off those moves with a two-star skill rated player, but that many will be tempted to do so. Bear this in mind when putting pressure on a defender.

Easy skill moves can now be chained

As a result of many of FIFA 19’s top players mastering the art of skill move combos to confuse opponents, FIFA 20 put a stop to it by making each consecutive chained skill move more sloppy and less effective than the last. This was great, but also meant a star like Neymar couldn’t do two Ball Rolls in a row, which, frankly, is pretty ridiculous.

In FIFA 21, however, EA has found the middle ground. While chaining insane moves together will still be extremely tricky, easier moves can now be “chained together without penalty.”

FIFA doesn’t give a full list of which skill moves are determined as “easy” but give two examples of the Ball Roll and Stepover.

Toxic and frustrating celebrations have been removed

While this is technically not gameplay and more a quality of life change, some of FIFA’s most annoying, rage-inducing celebrations have been sent to the scrapheap.

The A-OK and the Shush celebrations will not be available, and the overall length of celebration animations has been slashed in an attempt to stop people taunting their opponents after a goal.

There will also be no short cutscene of players walking back to the centre circle following a goal in an attempt to speed up gameplay online and as a further measure to stop people tilting.

So there we have it, these are some of the changes coming to FIFA 21 in the gameplay department you may have missed while drooling over the prospect of headers actually finding the back of the net this year.

There are also heaps more changes, fixes, and new features buried in that Pitch Notes article, so it’s definitely worth browsing before the FIFA 21 release date in October.