FIFA 21 may be an underwhelming entry to the long-standing series, but for those of us who use Stadia, it couldn't be more exciting — it's the first game in EA Sport's football (okay, soccer) franchise to make the jump to Google's game streaming service, hot on the heels of Madden NFL 21. Following the initial announcement in early February, FIFA 21 is finally available on Stadia for $24.59 (£25.19) today.
I had the opportunity to go hands-on with FIFA 21 on Stadia, and I found that it mostly feels like it does on any other platform, though compression artifacts do seem a little more aggressive than on most other titles available on the Google game streaming service. If you're used to crystal clear fonts in the menu and scoreboard from other platforms, you might be disappointed by the fuzzy graphics that get worse the faster the camera moves and the quicker gameplay becomes. Soccer and sports in general are just unforgiving when it comes to image compression, as you may know if you've ever watched a match over the internet as opposed to cable. For me, the issues never got so bad that they interfered with gameplay — it's more an aesthetic question than anything else.
But as always, Stadia absolutely excels when it comes to making games accessible and mobile. It's the first time I could play FIFA on my laptop, and it's even possible to give it a go on your phone — though I wouldn't really recommend that for extensive sessions due to the small screen. Stadia's compatibility with other controllers is an absolute delight, too. I was able to hook up a Stadia and a PlayStation 4 controller to my laptop for a local multiplayer session, and the on-screen button key dynamically adjusted to fit each controller as needed.
I fear that your FIFA online gaming experience won't be too great on Stadia, though, ironically enough. Given that EA Sports hasn't added cross-platform multiplayer support for Madden, it's pretty unlikely that we'll see something like it in FIFA. And as you know, Stadia isn't the screaming success Google had hoped it would be, so you might be left with a ghost town if you want to play online — which is a problem Madden players are already running into. You're probably better off getting a PlayStation or Xbox and paying for their respective online gaming fees if you want to take advantage of the game's multiplayer features in any serious capacity.
FIFA Ultimate Team might suffer from the same lack of players in the long term if the game really doesn't catch on. While you can collect coins (and spend real money on in-game purchases) when you play offline, you might have trouble playing the online Rivals mode and qualify for Ultimate Team Champions Weekends and other events.
However, if you're someone like me who loves playing FIFA on the couch from time to time and don't feel like shelling out money for a next-gen console and an online subscription, FIFA 21 for Stadia might be perfect. Once you get over the compression artifacts and the fact that online gaming is mostly a no-go if you don't have any friends on Stadia with FIFA, you might quickly start enjoying being able to jump into a quick match without occupying the living room TV.
FIFA 21 is now available on Stadia for $24.59 (£25.19) for everyone, even if you don't subscribe to Pro — pretty much on par with the versions for other platforms on Amazon. Open the Stadia app on your phone or head to stadia.com to get your hands on the title.