Developers are always trying to get more people to play, whether it's enticing new customers or giving new incentives for the current ones not to leave, and FIFA 19 is making some changes and adding new features to its Kick Off and FIFA Ultimate Team modes in pursuit of this goal.
Kick Off is an exhibition game mode I haven't touched in I don't know how long, but in FIFA 19 it's a standout multiplayer mode (sadly only local offline) due to the inclusion of House Rules. These are exhibition matches that take liberties with the rules of the game to create situations you wouldn't normally get to experience.
- Long Range: Goals from outside the box count as two. Fans in the back rows better watch out.
- Survival: When a team scores a goal, a random player from that squad is removed.
- Headers & Volleys: Only goals by these methods are counted.
- First To: Whomever reaches the chosen score first wins.
- No Rules: Perhaps the most fun House Rules variant where there are no bookings, cards, or offsides. Go studs up or go home.
I played these, and all of them were a lot of fun, but particularly No Rules, which as you can imagine becomes a free-for-all. Then again, if your opponent thinks they're going to run around just breaking your players' legs, you can make them pay by anticipating contact and dodging tackles, leaving them in the grass.
Kick Off also utilizes FIFA's new Champions and Europa League licenses, letting you drop into the competitions at various points such as the group, semifinal, or final stages, and you choose to play a best-of series or successive home/away legs. Finally, handicap settings offer a further layer of customization by letting you set the score at the beginning of the match as well as the intelligence of your teammates.
However you play in the mode, it's tracked via an ID system that records your stats versus A.I. as well as friends, and this can be tied to your PSN account and activated when you're at your friend's house. The ability to call up your account when you're playing somewhere else, however, looks to be only on PS4.
FIFA ULTIMATE TEAM
EA says that Ultimate Team is FIFA's most popular mode, but one of the problems for the masses that sink loads of time into it is that they're sinking too much time into it. Specifically, the competitive Weekend League, which – if you qualify – consists of 40 games in a single weekend!
At this time EA hasn't mentioned if the number of games in the Weekend League is remaining high, but a new qualification process called Division Rivals replaces the Daily Knockout qualification tournament and online seasons (which is still available offline) to address, in part, the hellacious grind.
- Players start out by playing placement matches, which puts you in one of 10 divisions. Placement matches are a one-time deal. At this time, it's unknown how many placement matches there are.
- You play within your division during the weekly competition, which includes promotion and relegation at the end of the week, and scaled prizes depending how well you do (similar to Squad Battles). Champions points are earned through division play. These are used to determine your entrance into the weekend league, and are also offered as part of a pick your prize reward.
- Champions Points can be cashed in at any time to enter the Weekend league. So if you can't participate in a particular weekend you can save those up for use when you're ready.
- Your performance in the Champions Weekend creates a feedback loop that contributes back to your Rivals score and helps with future qualification into the Weekend league.
This all sounds straight forward, but I'm curious how many games are in the Champions Weekend, because if it's still as high as 40 like the Weekend League, then this doesn't seem to be a major change other than you won't have to go through the Daily Knockout qualification tournament. Frankly, since EA hasn't made a point of announcing the number of games in the league, I fear it's the same.
In other Ultimate Team news for FIFA 19:
- No surprises here – Champions and Europa League FUT items will be added.
- New Icons for the year: Rivaldo, Johan Cruyff, Frank Lampard, Eusébio, Clarence Seedorf, Raúl, Makélélé, Steven Gerrard, Miroslav Klose, and Fabio Cannavaro.
- There are no console-exclusive Icons this year, and producer Mat Prior told me the plan is to make the previous Xbox exclusive Icons available on all systems, but he doesn't know if this is possible due to potential rights issues.
- When opening a pack there are new management shortcuts – flick the analog stick up to send a card to the transfer list and down to quicksell. The ones untouched go to your club.
- There's a Player Pick Pack giving you a choice of one out of five players.