EA Sports’ best-selling football video game prides itself on being as realistic as possible, but will it have the controversial video assistant?
FIFA 21 is out this October and fans of the EA Sports franchise will be counting down the days until they can get their hands on the new game to test out all the fresh features.
Every year, gamers discuss the pros and cons of the game, noting what sort of additions or improvements they’d like to see included in the next title.
VAR – Video Assistant Referee – is one gameplay feature that has been discussed ever since it was trialled as an augmentation of the officiating team a number of years ago.
So will VAR be in FIFA 21? Goal takes a look…
Will FIFA 21 have VAR?
VAR will not be a feature of FIFA 21 despite the fact that it is now firmly embedded into the fabric of professional football across the world.
Part of the reason for the decision not to include VAR in the new game is down to a question of priorities, with the EA Sports developers privileging other aspects of the gameplay.
“Regarding VAR, it’s a very good question, but the answer is no,” Sam Rivera, EA’s lead gameplay producer told gamesradar.
“In a video game, what it would be adding to the experience isn’t very important at this time – the system knows if a challenge is a foul or not, so we decided to focus on areas which we consider higher priority.
“That doesn’t mean it won’t arrive in the future, but there are no plans to include it in FIFA 21.”
As alluded to by Rivera, adding VAR would be a purely aesthetic touch since the game’s AI is not liable to the same sort of human error that a real-life referee is.
Its omission from FIFA 21 means VAR has not been a feature of three successive FIFA games since the technological referee aid was written into the Laws of the Game in 2018.
Interestingly, FIFA 21 will not feature empty stadiums in order to reflect the new reality of the sport in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic either.
According to developers, the goal is to create a game which shows football “in its best and purest form”.
Will VAR be included in the next FIFA game after FIFA 21?
The longer VAR remains a fixture in professional football, the more likely it seems that it will be included in future FIFA games.
Indeed, one of the chief considerations for games developers tasked with creating a new edition of FIFA is the immersive experience – making the game as true to real life as possible.
Persisting with no VAR in FIFA naturally contradicts that principle, so it is only a matter of time before it is brought in – in whatever form the game takes.
However, it is unclear how exactly VAR will be integrated into the game, given the fact that the computer does not make errors regarding issues such as fouls or offsides.
One simple way to bring VAR into the game would be by including a cut scene, which wouldn’t necessarily interfere with the flow of the gameplay.
Another method of integration would be to weave it into Career Mode as a feature of a campaign – a controversial season-changing moment in the headlines, perhaps.
Of course the existence of VAR in football continues to attract criticism from many in the game and, while it will remain a part of the game for now, there is always a chance that it could be discontinued in the future.
Figures such as Gary Lineker have been vocal in their analysis of the video assistant referee along with other rule changes, including the handball and offside rules.
VAR at its absurd worst rules out a @SheffieldUnited equaliser for offside which is impossible to see one way or the other. WTF are they doing to our game?
— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) November 9, 2019
The former England international has given his views to the IFAB, but they have thus far been met with bemusement.
“I told them what I think VAR should be,” Lineker said in an interview with the Guardian in January.
“The referee on the pitch needs a mate sitting with all these monitors. He’s watching the game and he lets it go, lets it go, and then he says: ‘Mate, you absolutely f*cked up there. You’ve got to change that otherwise you’re going to look a complete d*ck.’
“That stops the Maradona/Thierry Henry handballs. The absolute howler. That’s all you need VAR for.”
So, for now, it is not clear whether VAR will become a feature of the next FIFA game, but EA Sports will be keeping their eye on developments of the game to make sure they live up to their ‘It’s In The Game’ motto.