Expecting anything other than incremental updates to this year's FIFA is more than far-fetched. However, FIFA 19 manages to gently nudge the series in the right direction.
Jumping straight to the core aspect of the title: the gameplay. EA opted for a slower approach with FIFA 18 and it did not work out. Games were bogged down in the midfield where each match would turn into a contest of who could make the most interceptions. Viable attacking strategies would be mainly to get in a finesse shot from the edge of the box, or getting a fast winger to cut inside for a driven pass to the target man. Crosses were pretty much useless because of how the goalkeepers would show inhuman agility to come up and scoop up the ball. Defending felt like a chore, with the AI doing next to nothing to position your other defenders intelligently so you could focus on marking the player with the ball.
I'm happy to report that most of these grievances have been addressed in FIFA 19. For one, the game has loosened up a lot and it feels much faster. The traditional feel of FIFA games has been restored. Crosses are balanced in the sense that random, brash crosses into the box won't result in anything but carefully-timed, well-executed balls into the box have a higher chance of being a goal. Shooting mechanics are the weirdest part of the game because it feels like it's running on an RNG system. You'll notice wildly different outcomes with shots made under similar circumstances. I think this is because of the new “Timed Finishing” feature which lets you get a second button press in before the player actually lets the ball fly to increase your chances of scoring. Defending is much more intuitive as the secondary player now has a marker as well, so you know which person is going to rush the opposition when you use secondary player pressing.
That being said, I am still unsure as to how these hygiene factors are still “new” features in the game. These should've been there from the beginning. Regardless, we'll just have to be content with the fact that FIFA actually feels like FIFA now.
FIFA Ultimate Team remains largely unchanged from last year's offering, save for Division Rivals. This is basically an easier way to qualify for FUT Champions. This year, EA is disclosing the chances of cards in the packs. A good way to ensure transparency for sure.
The UEFA Champions League license has been snatched away from PES and now it's in FIFA's territory, and FIFA does not waste any opportunity to flaunt it. Match day presentation is top-notch in the UCL games with new commentators and the assets of the actual TV broadcasts.
The offline Kick-Off mode has received numerous changes as well. Firstly, there are House Rules now. You can choose to turn off a lot of conventional rules just to play around with what is possible. Turning off offside rules is definitely a great way to test your mettle, and your friendships. There are also niche rules like Headers and Volleys where your goals will only count if they call into that category. There's also a Battle Royale-esque rule where each goal you score ends up resulting in a player being sent off from the opponent team. Prepare for fights with your friends, because these rules were surely made to test your patience in more ways.
The Journey, which is FIFA's single-player campaign mode, returns for its final sending off of Alex Hunter. This time the story flows in a three-arc basis. You get to play the story of Alex Hunter, his sister Kim, or his best friend Danny Williams. The stories connected to these characters hold pretty much the same essence as the previous instalments. I'm not a big fan of The Journey anyway, but if you like it this will be right up your alley.
All in all, FIFA 19 makes positive changes to the established formula. If you're a FIFA addict or if you have a lot of friends who play the game, this is definitely a must-buy because of updated squads and continued FUT support. But if you're a sports game casual, consider borrowing a copy or just go to your friend's house to play it.
Shahrukh Ikhtear is a Management Trainee at Grameenphone and former sub-editor of SHOUT magazine. Send him business stuff or good music at fb.com/sr.ikhtear