Playing FIFA 19 a few weeks ago was by far and away the most fun I’ve had with a FIFA preview event in years. It’s all thanks to the new Kick Off 2.0 mode that brings more in-game meaning to the pick up and play head to head matches, while also introducing some playful new game modes… if you can call vicious sliding tackles playful, that is.
Kick Off isn’t just about standard matches anymore, but lets you dress these head to head tussles up as a Champions League final, Europa League, home and away matches over two legs, or go for a ‘best of’ series to the length of your choosing. Alternatively, you can dig into the House Rules modes that take the regular laws of football and turn them on their head.
Easily the highlight is the ‘No Rules’ mode, which does exactly what it says on the tin. Sprinting through on goal from an offside position? Don’t worry about any flags getting waved at you. Come crashing into an opponent and wipe them out without even vaguely trying to go for the ball? No problem. It’s brutal, but it’s also a huge amount of fun. It’s a way to let off steam, to just laugh at the absurdity of it all, alongside the tension that you might feel in other, more conventional modes.
In some ways it doesn’t go far enough. While rules aren’t being enforced, the referee is still running around on pitch for some reason, and the AI hasn’t fundamentally changed to accommodate this freedom. There’s no goal hanging, the goalie won’t pick up a back pass, you can’t set up your free kick defence to literally be 11 players stood on the goal line. Even without that, it’s still quite astonishing that FIFA have given EA the freedom to do something like this.
It’s far from the only non-conventional mode in the House Rules section. Do you remember playing Headers & Volleys with a tennis ball during break and lunch at school? It’s here on a full sized football pitch, forcing you to get those crosses into the box and chip balls for you score to count. Long Range gets you double point for long range shots, which led to a moment of VAR and Hawkeye-esque frustration where my shot was from a point just grazing the edge of the penalty box. ‘First to…’ then puts a limit on the score, in addition to the 90 minute time, letting you make sure that there’s no run-away matches of 5-0 – also helping in that regard are the advantage settings that can give someone a goal headstart or more intelligent AI.
Much more interesting is Survival mode, where every time you score a goal, one of your outfield players is randomly then taken off the pitch – sadly, they don’t just turn into dust and float away in the middle of the pitch, but walk off like a substitute. It’s a fascinating twist, because it suddenly shifts the advantage in the direction of the losing team, most likely opening up holes in midfield and defence for them to exploit.
Whatever mode you play, Kick Off 2.0 never forgets. Unlike previous games, your results and all the match stats no longer disappear into the aether, but are logged and build up over time. This is done through creating a Kick Off name on the console or PC, and then optionally tying this to your PSN or Xbox Live account. It’s tied to a platform, but you can keep your head to head record going even if you’ve been on PS4 in the office at lunch and then want to pick things up again on your home console, as well as being able to use for online matches. You can dig into the player stats, showing the different conversion rates, number of goals scored, the last five matches, placement stats, possession, and on and on and on.
Alongside the changes being made to make the gameplay and animation feel that bit more fluid and freeform, thanks in particular to the new Active Touch system that you can read about in our last preview, Kick Off 2.0 just injects a ton of fun for the kind of pick up and play head to head matches that take place when someone comes to visit or during lunchtime in the office, and No Rules in particular is an absolute riot. Literally.