If you asked members of the public what their favourite day of the year is, I’m pretty certain what the majority would go for. Christmas Day and the respondent’s birthday would likely be the top two picks, while New Year’s Eve, Halloween and maybe even Valentine's Day wouldn’t be too far behind. But if you were to ask me, I’d give you a completely different answer.
Because for me, one sacred day eclipses the other 364 and is etched in my calendar for months beforehand. Every year without fail I enjoy the same kind of fervent excitement in the weeks and days leading up to it as I do during the festive period, surely the most hyped up and hotly anticipated period of the year for most.
In my mind, and I’m sure in many others, nothing comes close to this day. For me, the best day of the year (usually, but not this year) falls on the last Thursday of September. That day is when millions of people around the world share the same pure, unadulterated joy. That day is when the latest edition of FIFA is released.
Like many twenty-somethings, I’ve grown up playing FIFA, and I’m not ashamed to say it’s played a big part in my life. While for a few golden years PES was undoubtedly the football game to play, EA finally got its act together circa FIFA 09 and arguably hasn't looked back since.
From then onwards, FIFA has become so much more than a game. FIFA is countless best-of-threes and bragging rights among friends. FIFA is randomising the teams and trying to win using a German second division side whose strike force averages 62 pace. FIFA is scouting a “potential to be special” player on Career Mode and watching him blossom into a star, or that feeling when you first put a new signing into your XI. FIFA is pre-drinks before a night out, or the next day where anything that distracts you from your pounding headache is the best thing on earth.
As FIFA 21’s release day has approached, my excitement levels have soared. Not even the disappointment that was FIFA 20 (in my opinion at least) can dampen my enthusiasm.
Described by one publication as “a wasteland of bad gameplay, questionable “fixes,” and predatory monetisation” - a description I’m inclined to agree with - it admittedly didn’t stop me incessantly playing it anyway. And just like every other year, all the teases and new pieces of information about the upcoming FIFA have ratcheted up my anticipation, especially the trailer and ratings reveals. And the disappointing decision not to release a demo has only further heightened my excitement for when I finally play the game.
Like many others, I cling to the hope that surely FIFA 21 can’t be as bad as FIFA 20. And in fairness to EA, the snippets released for this year’s game have left me feeling optimistic. In fact, it looks like it will be a genuinely good edition (famous last words, I know).
In particular, the new game’s agile dribbling and creative run gameplay features look potentially game-changing, and are alterations that players like myself have been calling out for, for years. And it appears that EA has finally got around to at least attempting to fix Career Mode, which was actually unplayable for a while after FIFA 20’s release. So, I for one can’t wait to see what FIFA 21 has to offer.
FIFA’s importance to fans means that the day the latest edition is unveiled to the world is a pretty big occasion. FIFA players spend release day as if it was December 25th, eagerly anticipating the moment they finally get their hands on the new game. Outside shops across the globe, people traditionally queue up in the middle of the night waiting for the exact moment it’s released. And though such scenes are unlikely in 2020 amid a global pandemic, you can be sure that millions of people have scrambled to play FIFA 21 at launch this year.
There is always something so special about unwrapping a fresh new game of FIFA on release day. Nothing can beat that once-a-year feeling of inserting the disc and watching the intro for the first time, or hearing those immortal words: “EA Sports, It's in the Game” (you heard that in your head just then, didn’t you?).
Then, there are those goosebumps moments before the inaugural kick-off, and the sheer delight of playing your first few matches using the team you support, with the players, kits and stats all updated from last year’s game. And perhaps best of all, the soundtrack songs haven’t had a chance to get annoying by this point.
So today, I'll be basking in the excitement of FIFA 21's release. My favourite day of the year.
Are you also a FIFA fanatic, or are you more of a PES fan? Let us know in the comments.