Recent leaps between console generations have seen EA focus on graphical upgrades over tangible gameplay changes, so it’d be surprising to see next-gen FIFA 21 contain a large spread of new features. Instead, expect EA’s focus to be on 8K-supported gameplay with close-to-photorealistic player faces, and a significant reduction in loading times.

As covered in our look at FIFA 21 features, the on-pitch focus for PS5 and Xbox Series X is haptic feedback and "off-ball humanisation". For instance, you'll now see players adjust their shinpads late in the game – but we're hoping that this humanisation leads to improved team-mate and opponent AI, too. More details on this are coming in August, says EA.

This focus on graphics isn’t mere laziness on EA’s part, it should be said. Developers take a number of years to fully master new hardware, particularly in the sports genre, and hopefully it’s learned its lesson from FIFA 06: Road To The FIFA World Cup. A rush release for the launch of Xbox 360, it featured a total mess of a new engine where the football barely reached Sunday-league standards, and rubber player models that looked like rejects from Madame Tussauds. Expect FIFA 22 or FIFA 23 to properly herald a new era.

FIFA 18 landed on Friday 29 September, FIFA 19 on Friday 28 September, and FIFA 20 on Friday 24 September. There's a pattern there, but FIFA 21 breaks with tradition: it's out for PS4 and Xbox One on Friday 9 October. The two-week delay is likely down to two factors. The coronavirus pandemic has hit businesses over the world hard, and game development is no exception. Plus EA needs to ensure seamless integration between current- and next-gen consoles, as you'll be able to carry your Ultimate Team and Volta data over between the two.

To snap up FIFA 21 on PS5 and Xbox Series X, you’ll obviously have to wait for the respective console launches. PS5 is out on 12 November in the US and 19 November in Europe, while Xbox Series X drops worldwide on 10 November.

This year's cover star for FIFA 21 is PSG's explosive forward, Kylian Mbappe, who will be on all three versions of the game at launch. Check out the standard edition cover down below.

Mpabbe was heavily rumoured to be this year's main cover star, and he said in a press release announcing the cover: "Being on the cover of FIFA is a dream come true. From my time at Bondy to Clairefontaine to the World Cup, this marks another big milestone. I’ve been playing this game since I was a kid and I am honoured to represent a whole new generation of footballers and be in the same group as many other amazing footballers who I now share this honour with.”

Eden Hazard was the main cover star for FIFA 20, with special editions featuring Virgil van Dijk and Zinedine Zidane also released. Cristiano Ronaldo graced the cover of FIFAs 18 and 19, while for FIFA 17 Marco Reus was the big boy on the box. The general point being that there’s no consistent rhyme or reason to EA’s cover choice.

FIFA 21 features: Volta, career mode, Ultimate Team
The small-sided Volta mode was FIFA 20’s biggest new feature and while it’s largely been forgotten about now that everyone’s built Ultimate Team meta squads, EA is building upon it further in FIFA 21. Volta Squads adds online play for 5 vs 5 (or smaller-sided) games, while in Featured Battles you'll "match up against AI-controlled star players as well as squads from the community and compete for points and rewards," according to EA.

Career mode is also a huge point of focus. A new interactive match sim enables you to jump into matches whenever you like to play key moments such as free kicks and penalties. Even better, a retooled player-growth system enables to mould your players for particular tactics (such as a strong, ox-like target man) or specific positions. Finally you can turn a right winger into a right back, should you please.

EA often takes an ain’t-broke-don’t-fix-it approach to Ultimate Team, well aware that it’s already a huge money spinner in its current format. So don’t expect wholesale changes this year. It’s come under pressure to make pack odds clearer after the sale of FIFA Points was banned in Belgium, but even the brouhaha around that has died down a little. We’d like to see more comprehensive stat tracking, like that found in PES 2020’s myClub, but that’s been an unfulfilled pipe dream for a while now - so don’t get your hopes up.

The FIFA 21 Icons list contains one new name so far: former Manchester United legend Eric Cantona. That's a massive signing.
Three of the big five leagues now boast a comprehensive selection of scanned stadia and player faces. FIFA 15 added the Premier League, FIFA 19 expanded further with La Liga, and, as outlined in our FIFA 20 Bundesliga guide, the German top flight made its debut in the year just gone. That leaves Serie A (Italy) and Ligue 1 (France) still to come.

If one of those is to make an appearance this year then the latter seems a more likely choice: no Juventus is a big blow where the Italian league is concerned. Plus three Ligue 1 stadia - Lyon, Marseille, and PSG - are already in the game, so only 17 more (a number well within EA’s reach) would be required. We’ll update this section over the coming months as new teams and/or leagues are confirmed.

FIFA 21 VAR: will it be included?
EA is always keen to include modern technology advancements in its sports games – goal-line technology was added just after it debuted in FIFA 15 – but VAR feels like a contentious issue. Fans in the Premier League have reacted negatively to its use – with handballs becoming increasingly debatable during 2020-21 – and the FIFA audience isn’t always the most open-minded. Imagine the fury sparked in a big weekend league match when you score a last-minute winner, only to have the game subsequently chalk it off. It feels like a feature that will be added eventually, but not until FIFA 22 at the earliest.