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FIFA 21's search for the most authentic football experience won't extend to empty stadiums


EA Sports pushes its FIFA series as the most authentic football simulation available, but this year's dramatic changes to the beautiful game won't be reflected in FIFA 21.

The coronavirus has forced football to change fundamentally. Stadiums that were once packed with fans are now empty, save for staff, press and of course the players themselves. Those off the pitch must wear face masks, while the players are encouraged to celebrate goals and victories with clenched fists and elbow touches.

If you watch football now in the UK, you may hear a crowd, despite there not being one in the stadium. That's because broadcasters are incorporating fake crowd noises imported from EA Sports' FIFA. But you can turn this audio off, which means you get to hear the managers and staff shouting during the game - in an eerie echoey stadium.

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In short, football now looks drastically different compared with football from earlier this year. But for FIFA 21, coronavirus doesn't exist.

In the upcoming football game, you'll see packed stadiums, fans leaping about and cheering, and the players celebrate goals in the way they used to. You won't see a single face mask, either.

This, FIFA 21 line producer Lonel Stanescu said during a recent virtual preview attended by Eurogamer, is because EA Sports wants to express football "in its best and purest form".

"Obviously every year we set out to recreate the most authentic football experience that we can make," Stanescu said.

"And we also want to make sure we express football in its best and purest form as well. So for us, that means football with crowds in the stadium, because that's what it's all about when playing this beautiful sport. And to that end, you will still experience the full-on broadcast experience that a regular football match plays within the season, in the game as well. So full-on crowds, and full-on authentic atmosphere and so on. Obviously, this is a weirder year for us as well, but luckily you can still experience all that a football match has to offer in FIFA 21."

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So, fans in stadiums, then. But what about VAR? EA Sports didn't put VAR in FIFA 20, and it's not budging for FIFA 21 either, despite it becoming an integral part of the sport.

"In a video game, what it's adding to the experience is not necessarily very important at this time," gameplay lead Sam Rivera said. "The system knows a case of a foul or not, obviously sometimes there are bugs, like in any other game.

"So we decided to focus on other areas that at the moment we consider our higher priority. That that doesn't mean that is not coming in the future though, is just at the moment there there are no plans to put it in 21."

So, FIFA 21: no coronavirus and no VAR. Sounds pretty good, to be honest.

For more, check out our FIFA 21 hands-on preview.

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