Android Central Verdict
Bottom line: FIFA 21 isn't a huge improvement over FIFA 20, but as a debut effort on Stadia it's an excellent starting point. All of the franchise's highlights are here from the (actually improved) Career mode and fun arcade-style Volta Football to the microtransaction-heavy FIFA Ultimate Team, this is the entire FIFA experience. The best thing I can say about the Stadia version of this game is that I never once felt like I was streaming it over the internet instead of playing it locally on a game system—it feels shockingly authentic compared to the real sport.
Extremely realistic true-to-life gameplay
Lots of game modes to pick from
Addictive multiplayer with great performance
Visuals, audio, and overall presentation are great
Career mode feels lackluster
Refined gameplay, but not new or innovative at all
Ultimate Team is a massive and gratuitous microtransaction sink
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FIFA 21 is a good sports game releasing at a perfect time for Stadia. Following the success of Madden NFL 21 earlier this year, it's awesome to see publishers like EA continuing to bring their libraries to Google's cloud-streaming game platform. However, it's worth noting that, in the grand scheme of things, this is a pretty safe entry in the long-running soccer franchise (note: obviously referred to as football in most parts of the world) and won't go down as one of the best Stadia games. There isn't much new here, even if it's all very polished and refined, but considering the relative lack of options on Stadia it's a great starting point.
FIFA 21 Stadia review Gameplay, Modes, and Presentation
Everyone knows soccer (football) no matter where you live on the planet. It's the most popular sport out there and FIFA is easily one of the most-played video game franchises of all-time. Due to the popularity, EA is always under a lot of scrutiny each year since there is so much focus on what they do with one of their biggest brands. In recent years, FIFA hasn't evolved as much as many fans would have liked, but that's to be expected with most sports games. How many times can you reinvent the same sport seeing as how rules never change? Other than upgrading visuals, tightening up gameplay, and maybe adding a handful of new features there isn't much wiggle room.
|Developer||EA Vancouver, EA Romania|
|Play Time||10 hours|
|Players||Single-player, Local/Online Multiplayer|
|Release Date||March 17, 2021|
All the same, EA has done a pretty good job here—especially compared to FIFA 20—considering it's the first entry on Stadia to date. Out of all the sports game franchises, FIFA arguably looks and feels the closest to the real thing. It's impressive to watch the fluidity of animations as your players transition in and out of maneuvers, taking shots, passing, reacting to things on the field, and more. If someone walked in on your playing FIFA 21 there's a good chance they might think you're just watching the real deal, especially thanks to the excellent broadcast narration. I don't keep up with FIFA games each and every year, but I can say with a high degree of confidence it looks better than ever with this entry.
One thing to note though is that the Stadia version of FIFA 21, like Madden NFL 21 before it, is not the new-gen version of the game. This means you're effectively playing the equivalent of the PS4 / Xbox One version, not the PS5 / Xbox Series X version of the game. This feels notable considering the new-gen version has been out for months and only includes a very minor handful upgrades you barely can notice, such as a new lighting system and more realistic crowds. And no, just like all EA Sports titles on all platforms there is absolutely no cross-play at all in FIFA 21.
There's a more arcade-style street game mode in the form of Volta Football, which smaller scale 3-on-3 games and some unlockable customization options. It feels similar to The Yard in Madden in a lot of ways, or the short-lived FIFA Street spin-off. Career mode is back naturally and lets you take control of either a single-player to play out their life in soccer or take over an entire organization as the manager.
The Career mode actually got a lot of love between last year and now, so it's a good sign that they're investing in it moving forward.
Then there's of course FIFA Ultimate Team, the gratuitously microtransaction-filled leech attached to the back of the franchise. The concept is just like Madden Ultimate Team, in which you amass a "dream team" of players built via opening randomized card packs. On its surface, that's not a bad thing, but the whole thing is designed to pressure you into spending money and it's extremely aggressive about it. In my opinion, the introduction of "Ultimate Team" in both Madden and FIFA is one of the worst things EA Sports has ever done because it cannibalizes every other game mode as a result.
For a more in-depth analysis of the game itself, check out our FIFA 21 PS4 review here on Android Central. Now let's dive into the differences with the Stadia version.
FIFA 21 Stadia review Stadia performance and comparisons
Thankfully, FIFA 21 plays great on Stadia and I never once got reminded that I was actually streaming the game over the internet. From the moment I first launched it everything felt immediately responsive and I didn't even suffer from any minor hiccups or quality drops over 10 hours of playing. Almost all of my time was spent on a Chromecast Ultra with a Stadia Pro subscription, via Wi-Fi, using a Stadia controller. General ball movement, passing, and blocking is all seamless and snappy.
I also spent some time with it on PC via Microsoft Edge, just to test out playing over a browser, and it seemed to run fine. Personally, I always prefer playing Stadia over Chromecast whenever possible so that was my default platform option. Since FIFA requires relatively snappy reactions and real-time responsiveness on a moment-to-moment basis, it wasn't really playable with touchscreen controls on mobile. This might be different if Stadia allowed you to move virtual buttons around and remap things, but as it stands you can't and it seemed pretty unplayable to me. It worked great with a Razer Kishi and the Stadia controller on mobile though—no complaints there.
According to a SpeedTest I've got an average download speed of 595Mbps, average upload speed of 16Mbps, and average ping of 15ms on Comcast XFINITY as of this writing. Google recommends at least 10Mbps download speed for 720p streaming, 20Mbps download speed for 1080p streaming, and at least 35Mbps download speed for 4K streaming.
Personally, I opted to pay an extra fee to have unlimited data on my home network. But for those without that option, data usage is a big factor for Stadia games.
In terms of data usage, it will of course vary based on your quality settings. If you're aiming to play FIFA 21 with Stadia Pro at 4K then you're likely looking at around 16-20GB of data usage per hour. Since this is a game you can play solo, online, or locally with friends on the same Stadia connection (via Chromecast with multiple Stadia controllers or on mobile or a PC browser with multiple controllers plugged in), it's impossible to know just how much data it will suck up since hours will vary for everyone. It can pile up really, really fast in games like this though.
Unfortunately, the Stadia version of FIFA 21 does not include any Stadia exclusive features, such as State Share, Crowd Play, or anything like that. If you decide to get FIFA on Stadia, you'd do so simply to have the flexibility of accessing the game on so many devices seamlessly. Think of it as pretty much a direct port of the PS4 version.
FIFA 21 Stadia review Should you buy it?
If you're a FIFA player, you're a FIFA player. It's (currently) the best soccer game franchise on the market, edging out Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) in recent years and it's literally the only option for the sport on Stadia. I don't need to tell you whether or not you'll like this version of the game if you're a veteran because you probably already played it on PS4 or Xbox One.
All that being said, I definitely recommend this for soccer fans.
3.5 out of 5
The great thing about FIFA 21 on Stadia is that it is absolutely an authentic recreation of the world's most popular sport and a very excellent port of the PS4 version of the game. However, the downside to that is that EA Sports absolutely expects that you both know soccer very well and probably have played FIFA many times before. It's not the most friendly experience if you're new to FIFA (or soccer in general) so approach with caution if you're just curious from afar. Consider waiting for a free-play weekend of some kind if you're unsure—they did one for Madden, after all.
The World's Game
FIFA 21 isn't a huge improvement over FIFA 20, but as a debut effort on Stadia it's an excellent starting point. All of the franchise's highlights are here—this is the entire FIFA experience. The best thing I can say about the Stadia version of this game is that I never once felt like I was streaming it over the internet instead of playing it locally on a game system and it truly feels shockingly authentic compared to the real sport.