EA SPORTS appear to have put a lot of energy into revamping fundamental gameplay and Ultimate Team in FIFA 21, adding a raft of new features for the FUT community to enjoy. But once again, Pro Clubs players feel like outcasts.
The FIFA 20 version of the game mode left much to be desired, and it was only right at the very end of the title's life cycle, really, that many creators got around to playing it regularly. Its lack of general development and growth has been abundantly clear for some time.
Several pitch notes have now been released for the next iteration. These have revealed sweeping changes for Ultimate Team, including Co-Op mode, stadium features, FUT promos, and much more. On that front, the dev team appear to have smashed it out of the park. Even the community interaction with a string of Q&A sessions on Twitter have been a revelation. That's the sort of thing people want to see.
But a few days later, on August 11, another slim set of notes fell off the hype train and they weren't pretty. It was for Pro Clubs. No trailer and no Q&A followed.
Pro Clubs needed more
The game mode has had the same division setup and player traits system for years now. It's barely changed.
Jump into other EA games like UFC or Madden and you will see a much more comprehensive create a player layout. Yet, FIFA players have been left to celebrate new hairstyles and beards as fresh 'features' for far too long. They want something ambitious to rope them in.
This year, the pitch notes unveiled two main changes. They're not bad, either. AI customization has been introduced, allowing us to edit all of those useless looking players that make up the numbers when you hit the pitch. That, and some custom tactics options so you can impose some sort of playstyle on your squad. Other modes have had this for years, mind you.
There was a trend at the end of FIFA 20, led by some of the biggest YouTubers in the space. A lot of them moved over to Pro Clubs looking for an interactive way to link up with each other, connect fanbases, and experiences. That's why people love it. It's a fun concept.
YouTuber MattHDGamer on Pro Clubs
In an exclusive interview with Dexerto, Matt' MattHDGamer' Craig – who has 2.3 million subscribers on his YouTube channel – told us exactly what he wanted to see change. He said: "Pro Clubs is the most fun you can have in FIFA, especially when there’s a lot of your friends involved. Pro Clubs needs a massive revamp.
"Clubs needs brilliant challenges that can unlock cosmetic items. It needs far more stats to see how your pro is progressing. It also maybe needs a season pass of some sort that you can grind to earn special items. Clubs deserves the attention Ultimate Team gets."
Now that we know what new features are coming, a massive revamp is hardly what we're getting.
Ultimate Team doesn't just do well because it makes the most money each year, but because more people play it. This section of the game will have a bigger development budget, larger vision, and everybody gets that. Although, as Matt finely puts it there, Clubs players really aren't asking for much. A few more tweaks and updates would go a long way.
Ironically, VOLTA Football appears to have emerged as a competing entity. Unlike last year, it will feature as an online mode in FIFA 21 and has introduced a boatload of new features. Unlockable items, player objectives, divisions, ranks, limited-time events – the list goes on.
It's a very different experience, though.
It's FIFA Street lite for those who haven't played it, and doesn't resemble usual gameplay we've come to expect from this franchise. Putting their eggs in the wrong basket here could be a mistake if the community react similarly to last year, where VOLTA was very much an afterthought.
YouTuber Manny on Pro Clubs
MattHDGamer was not the only one hoping to see the mode shown a bit more love. Fellow British YouTuber Emmanuel John "Manny" Brown, who has over 1.7 million subscribers on his channel, also wanted more.
"For Pro Clubs, I would love to see accomplishments return," he told us. "I think they made you want to play Clubs more than in the previous two games. Tournaments and match-winning incentives to get cool things for your club. For example, limited edition kits, boots or hairstyles."
Accomplishments were a set of specific achievements in previous games. By completing specific challenges, you could unlock customizable accessories for your pro.
These guys are two of the biggest streamers the community has to offer. They both play Ultimate Team consistently, like most people, yet they also see a lack of progress being made in the other modes that can provide respite to the FUT grind.
High profile YouTubers and Twitch streamers have been a focus for EA for some time, using them as a platform to promote their game features. There's no doubt that the demand is there for one of the most fun game modes to be reworked. The longer they wait for that, the more alienated they become.
There are only so many times can fans say "maybe next year," and outside of the first few weeks of playing, it looks highly unlikely that FIFA 21 Pro Clubs is going to generate interest all year round. If anything, it will just be a pitstop for those dropping off Ultimate Team and Career Mode.
Maybe that works for some people, but for the community that plays this mode year in, year out, a tad more disappointment is all they have got to look forward to.
It's the same mode with a new sticker on it. Let's hope gameplay saves the day, because there's not a lot of improvements to talk about.