“As you can see, we’re not afraid to polarize fans,” said one FIFA team members as a dabbing unicorn tifo appeared in the stands of a customized stadium in FIFA Ultimate Team. Dabbing unicorns aren’t my aesthetic, but outlandish customization, new house rules (that can now be played online), and ridiculous trick shots in FIFA Volta all have me hyped for FIFA 20: a game that’s sure to be the goofiest entry in the series.
Sports sims aim to capture realism and FIFA 20 is no exception. In fact, the team watched real-life games and FIFA 19 matches side-by-side while brainstorming what changes needed to happen in FIFA 20. But the pursuit of realism isn’t stifling the team’s creativity when it comes to celebrating the sport and taking advantage of the medium: after all, FIFA 20 is still a video game.
This year, FIFA is embracing fun even if it means breaking some rules in order to create unlikely matches, like Dortmund and Athletico Madrid in a 3v3 game of street soccer with a final score of 6-7. These star-studded, what-if scenarios used to be relegated to conversations at the bar during halftime or debates you’d have while kicking a soccer ball during a tailgate session. But in FIFA 20, you can try these out yourself thanks to FIFA Volta which can be played with any of the teams available in classic 11 v 11 gameplay or with a squad of created athletes.
While FIFA Volta isn’t programmed with any arcadey gimmicks or wild power-ups, I watched a player get down on all fours and headbutt a ball into a wide-open net and loved it. FIFA Volta is more AND 1 basketball than it is NBA Street which is to say its flair is fun and foolish while still feeling realistic. It’s a perfect way for this franchise to experiment without feeling like a complete departure from what fans love.
FIFA 20 is building on the ridiculousness FIFA 19 started when it introduced House Rules. Last year, this included five local-only modes such as Survival where every time you score a goal, a random player from your team (excluding the goalkeeper) is permanently ejected from the game and cannot be replaced.
House rules are back with four new game modes, now offered in FIFA Ultimate Team (note: 2 of these new modes are exclusive to FUT).
Swaps (FUT exclusive): Swaps three players from your team with three players from your opponent’s team. The most asinine thing I’ve seen since UNO introduced swap hands to the deck. I love to hate it.
Max chemistry (FUT exclusive): Build your squad however you like and their chemistry will still be great. This means you can put strikers in every position and things will still work out.
King of the Hill: Talk about holding the ball! In this mode, a square spawns on the pitch and your goal is to dribble the ball within the square for a few seconds. The longer you’re in the square, the more points the next goal you score is worth (with a maximum score boost of 3).
Mystery Ball: When possession changes and a new ball is tossed onto the pitch it will have a different attribute boost. For example, a ball might have a speed boost, dribbling boost, or net you extra goals if you score with it. This gives me major flashbacks to NBA Street’s game-breaker basketball and the electric ball from, the more modern take on streetball, NBA Playgrounds.
Of course, not everyone finds these goofy additions as exciting as I do. Even the person presenting these modes admitted there are members of the team that roll their eyes at House Rules because it’s “so far from real soccer.” Luckily for fans, all of this is optional. There’s no need to score a goal worth triple the points with a 16-bit soccer ball if you don’t want to. But I for one, never wanted anything more.
The team draws most of their inspiration from the sport itself but they’re clearly not afraid to learn a thing or two from ongoing games that keep players engaged with seasons and rotating cosmetics. And fans will be happy to know that FIFA Volta is completely free of microtransactions (at least at launch, fingers crossed that it stays that way). I’m excited for FIFA 20 and hope that FIFA continues to push the boundaries of realistic sports sim by introducing goofy elements that are only possible in video games.
Janet Garcia is IGN’s associate guide editor. For more about soccer, video games, and soccer video games follow her on Twitter @Gameonysus.