FIFA 21 Gameplay Features Summary: Player Personality, Agile Dribbling, Creative Runs, Positioning Personality, Smoother Encounters And More

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EA Sports has lifted the lid on gameplay features in FIFA 21 and has revealed plenty of new features that are set to arrive along with it.

In a huge Pitch Notes article, they detail how they're aiming to change this year's football game for the better.

Here are all of the details.


There's A LOT to take in here - so we've created a summary of what's discussed if you're short on time:

  • Player Personality - More attributes (such as vision, composure etc.) contribute to player actions on the field
  • Agile Dribbling - A new explosive, agile and fluid dribbling system to counter the jockey mechanic
  • Creative Runs - Manual and assisted off-the-ball runs
  • Positioning Personality - Improved positioning mechanics of players
  • Smoother Encounters- Improved player animations to limit the number of clumsy encounters with players
  • Enhanced CPU AI and Competitor Mode- A new CPU mode for Legendary and Ultimate difficulty that will emulate pro-FIFA player playstyles
  • Heading - Manual heading is now mandatory in most competitive online modes
  • Defending- Shoulder Challenges have been re-worked
  • Blocking- Has been re-written and a player's attributes will impact a block much more than before
  • Passing - Improvements to passing in many areas (particularly through passing and crosses)
  • Animation Fluidity - Animation transition system has been improved to improve responses
  • New Features - New skill moves, tactics, mechanics and actions are being added to improve the variety in gameplay e.g. bridge skill and directional nutmeg
  • More Settings - New player behaviour settings can be toggled on and off e.g. auto-shooting
  • Skill Move Improvements- Reduced penalty for chaining skill moves, adjusted older skill moves, made some skill moves all-access, add a skill move cancel option and add three new moves
  • Community Feedback Improvements - Big improvements to responsiveness of actions, player switching and wrong action inputs
  • Quality Of Life Improvements - Removal of celebrations, reduced celebration time, reduced/removed cinematic and animation lengths
  • Competitive and Core Community Feedback - Defensive awareness impacted jockey speeds, improved goalkeeper behaviour, throw-in positioning, chip shot positioning and tactics improvements
  • Kick-Off- New features such as FIFA Attributes and Rewind

Player Personality

In FIFA 21, EA is reflecting a player's stats more on their actions. When a player executes a certain action, a number of different statistics are taken into account that impacts the end result.

For example, in the past, a through pass used the Short or Long Passing attribute to determine quality. However, in FIFA 21, a through pass is a mix of Short/Long Passing, Vision and Composure attributes.

It's something that EA is heavily focusing on this year in many aspects of the game.

Agile Dribbling

Agile dribbling is a new way to keep close control of the ball in FIFA 21 - allowing players to quickly move the ball from side to side in order to burst away from defenders.

EA have noticed the effectiveness of the jockey system and have attempted to develop a counter-mechanic to balance the play by creating a more explosive, agile and fluid system.

Creative Runs

Creative Runs is the next big talking point for the attacking arsenal, an area that was rather neglected last year.

EA is giving players more controls over how their AI players move:

  • Directed Runs - You can now take full 360° control over the direction of the runs of your teammates
  • Directed Pass And Go - Decide where your teammate makes their run after a pass
  • Player Lock - When you’re locked to a player and pass the ball, the CPU AI will then take control of the on-ball player allowing you to move your off-ball player and ask for a pass back in a better position.

For all of these mechanics, there is a limited time window for you to trigger the direction of the run, in order to prevent conflicts with skill moves, knock-ons and player switching.

While up to 5 simultaneous runs can be taking place at a time, only the last 2 players’ paths will display on the screen when this option is enabled.

Positioning Personality

FIFA 21 will focus on adding deeper AI player personality in positioning, both offensively and defensively, to ensure it's as close to the real world greats as possible.

Essentially, they're promoting players are tactically more aware and giving them a bigger impact on the game.

The two main attributes that dictate how good a player's behaviour when positioning is: Positioning (attacking) and Defensive Awareness (defending).

You'll significantly notice the difference in a player's positioning the better it is - highlighting the differences between someone with an attribute of 85 compared to 90 and even 99.

It's most notable in the following attacking scenarios:

  • Onside And Offside Runs - Awareness to know when to slow down and time the run to perfectly stay onside.
  • “Passer Readiness“ Runs - Understanding of when the ball possessor is ready to make a pass so the player can time their run perfectly.
  • Decision Making Time And Intelligence - The ability to make faster and accurate decisions on where and when to move.
  • Passing Lane Analysis - Understanding of spaces to determine where the next best move to receive a pass is, providing more options for passers and teammates.
  • Open Up Space - Ability to create separation between attackers and defenders when the defence is tight or to provide more passing options.

It's most notable in the following defending scenarios:

  • Run Tracking - Ability to track a run and anticipate one before it happens, with highly aware defenders doing a much better job at staying with their runners.
  • 2-Man Marking To Prevent Counter Attacks - Ability for two high attribute defenders to mark a striker so they have limited space to avoid a counter-attack.
  • Defensive Midfielder Diligent Tracking - The ability to intelligently mark and track runs by attackers without giving up or leaving them open.
  • Defensive Midfielder Cutting Passing Lanes - Awareness to position themselves better in order to cut off passing lanes and limit the opponent’s options.
  • Active VS Passive winger behaviours - Determines how active wingers can get when having to perform defensive duties such as marking, defensive positioning, and tracking runs.
  • Full back Cooperation - Better awareness of the teammate full back’s positioning, allowing them to better work together when marking.

Smoother Encounters

EA is focusing on promoting smoother game flow in FIFA 21 by creating new animation systems and combined them to better decide how players interact physically.

Enhanced CPU AI and Competitor Mode

A new mode called 'Competitor Mode' will be added when selecting Legendary or Ultimate difficulty.

This mode will force the AI to emulate the play styles of some of the best FIFA pro players in the world by giving them a better understanding of skill moves, dribbling, spacing, tactics, and it will constantly look to create better scoring opportunities.

You can expect aggressive passes, complex skill moves, and even a change of tactics and mentality if you are leading against them, for example.

Overall, the team has improved the behaviour of AI players to emulate for humanoid responses.

General Gameplay Improvements


Heading has been adjusted in FIFA 21 by adding 'Manual Heading'. This will allow a player to take more control over their player's heading ability and tactics.

When playing with this option, your headers will not be assisted in any way, with the aim and power used when performing the header determining the initial target for the header before the header is than potentially impacted by error.

This will be mandatory in the following modes:

  • All FUT modes, including FUT Champions, FUT Rivals and FUT Squad Battles
  • All Pro Clubs modes
  • FIFA Seasons, FIFA Co-Op Seasons and FIFA Online Friendlies


Shoulder Challenges have been re-worked to create better contact between players, and avoid the defender overshooting their opponent.

Seal Outs are when a defender puts themself between the attacker and the ball to take back possession or shepherd the ball out of play, and they have also been re-engineered to create a better positioning between the player and their opponent.


Blocking has been re-written and added to the Controlled Tackling technology, creating more reliable and realistic blocks when defending shots and passes.

Attributes will play a bigger part in the effectiveness of blocking including how far away from the ball a player can block, how long it takes to start the block animation, how well you can react and transition into a different block animation if something changes and how long it takes to recover from a block.


EA's goal was to create a more intelligent passing game.

  • Through Passing - This system was rebuilt from the ground up to improve possible pass targets, receiver selection and increased Player Personality. In addition, new concepts were introduced like:
    • Pass Openness - Providing smart passers with the ability to open up the pitch by leading the receiver away from opponents.
    • Pass Complexity - New passing trajectories and targets are possible, allowing for killer through balls that will put the receiver in a great scoring opportunity.
    • There is also a new Semi-Assisted Through Ball Assistance setting that takes into consideration your controller input angle to decide the target of the pass and give you more control, more on this later in the article.
  • Crossing - This system was remodelled to create more unique crosses that help players get the most out of their build-up.
    • Whipped Cross - Inspired by Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold, these fast and dangerous crosses travel through the box and are perfect for a teammate to just ‘put their head in the way’.
    • Driven Cross - Similar to whipped crosses, this cross is fast and dangerous, but tends to travel at waist height, is ideal for a volley or shot.
    • Ground Driven Cross - An extremely fast cross that travels on the ground.
  • Updates to the Cross Assistance setting:
    • Assisted - This is now the default setting, and is similar to how the Semi-Assisted setting worked in previous FIFA titles.
    • Semi-Assisted - We have updated this setting to bring it more in line with how the other Semi-Assisted settings work, making it more manual, with less assistance than in previous FIFA titles, but also more rewarding as you will now have more control and the benefit of a reduced error on crosses.
  • Combined with the already existing standard crosses trajectories, we have multiple crossing options for you to try.
  • Other improvements:
    • Adding the Pass Openness concept, as covered in the Through Passes section, to Ground Passes.
    • Improvements to the targets and trajectories of Lobs and Lobbed Through Passes.
    • Ability to perform last second animation transitions allowing you to change directions for your Lob or Lobbed Through Pass.
    • Multiple new animations that provide quicker and more efficient passing plays.
    • Better trajectories for clearances to avoid teammates, opponents and your own goal.

Animation Fluidity

We improved our animation transition system, allowing for faster transitions which support a more fluid and responsive experience, especially in passing, shooting, ball control, dribbling, and player movement.

New Features

  • Bridge and Nutmeg Skill Moves – New ways to beat an opponent in 1v1
  • Cancel Foul Advantage - Allows the player to ask for the foul instead of keeping the advantage of the play, providing you with more agency to decide which option is better suited for each moment.
  • Instant Hard Tackles - The ability to perform Hard Tackles instantly, without having to hold and power up the tackle button.
  • Set Up Touch 2.0 - Improvements to Set Up Touch, including faster animations, keeping the ball closer to the player, and performing more accurate shots.
  • Improved Finesse Shots - The Curve Attribute will now have significantly more influence over a Finesse Shot’s ball curl. There has also been a focus on using Player Personality for these shots, along with a cleanup and rebalance of all Finesse Shot animations.
  • Call Players into Box on Goal Kicks - Allow teams to start the build-up play in a safer and more controlled approach. Some teams may have defenders in the box by default as this is based on tactics. For example, this happens when playing with teams that use the Possession tactic.
  • Improved Super Cancel Mechanics - Added a variety of ways to cancel actions, giving you more control over your moves on the pitch. Great for situations where you want to surprise opponents that are able to anticipate your moves by paying attention to your player animations.
  • Hard Super Cancel - Allows players to go into free move in any situation, except when dribbling with the ball the previous Super Cancel still exists but is more restricted due to button conflicts.
  • Pass/Shot Cancel - Allows you to cancel any pass or shot request, and continue dribbling with the ball. Another way to cancel a shot or lob is by pressing X/A similarly to a fake shot, but after the passing animation has started.
  • Skill Moves Cancel - Allows a user to cancel specific skill moves during the move, more info on which moves can be cancelled in the Skill Moves Improvements section below.
  • New Goalkeeper antics on Penalty kicks
  • New celebrations such as the "Finger Swipe" and "Selfie" next to adboards
  • Player signature celebrations for Kylian Mbappé, Erling Haaland, Steven Bergwijn and more to come

More Settings

  • Auto Flair Passes (On by default)
  • Auto Clearances (On by default)
  • Auto Shots (On by default)
  • Player Lock (On by default)
  • Contextual Agile Dribbling (On by default)
  • Assisted Headers (On by default)
  • Through Ball Assistance (Assisted by default)
  • Cross Assistance (Assisted by default)
  • Directed Runs Indicator (On by default)

Skill Moves Improvements

Improvements have been made to skill moves:

  • Reduced the penalty and error for chaining Skill Moves.
  • Increased the number of complex Skill Moves that you can chain without the ball getting away to 3, up from 2 in FIFA 20.
  • Easy Skill Moves (e.g. Ball Roll or Stepover) can be chained without penalty
  • Remapped Drag Back to be L1/LB + R1/RB + Left-Stick in 180° of player-facing angle.
  • Technical improvements to create a more reliable Skill Moves detection system.
  • Ball distance was made closer for Rainbows and Flicks.
  • Greater leniency to allow the triggering of a Skill Move when the combination of the Right Stick/Left Stick inputs, combined with the direction the player is facing, are not exactly perfect.
  • Prioritized Skill Move execution over sprint requests.

All-Access Skill Moves

All players can now perform Right Stick Skill Moves, but their effectiveness depends directly on their Skill Move Rating and Attributes. Lower rated players will perform slower and more error-prone variants of some of these Skill Moves.

These include:

  • Low-Skill Roulette
  • Low-Skill Heel to Heel
  • Low-Skill Feint and Exit
  • Low-Skill Stop and Turn
  • Low-Skill Drag Back Spin
  • Low-Skill Simple Rainbow

Skill Move Cancel

Some Skill Moves can now be cancelled

  • All Fake Shots
  • Feint Forward and Turn
  • Three Touch Roulette
  • Lane Change
  • Turn and Spin
  • Stop And Turn
  • Fake Pass Exit
  • Scoop Turn

New Skill Moves Added

  • Feint Forward and Turn (RS back + RS back)
  • Drag to Heel (L1/LB + RS back then RS left/right)
  • Ball Roll Fake Turn (hold L2/LT + RS forward then RS left/right)

Community Feedback Improvements

  • Skill move responsiveness improved where inputs were not being registered properly
  • Improve player switching where right stick switching would not work correctly
  • Improved cases where players would not lock to the ball after switching to them
  • Resolved issues of unwanted switching
  • Improved player switching with L1 and LB
  • Improved animation transitions after controlling the ball
  • Reduced sensitivity of R2/RT to prevent unwanted knock-ons
  • Improved instances where a player would perform the wrong action (tackle instead of shot)
  • Improved responsiveness of shot or tackle inputs

Quality Of Life Improvements

  • Removal of some celebrations, including Shush and A-OK FUT Celebration
  • Removal of the walk back cinematic after a goal in Online matches
  • Reduced the length of goal celebrations
  • Reduced the waiting time for multiple set pieces, which had all been set to 30 seconds at the launch of FIFA 20.
  • Auto Skip some animation sequences when ball goes out of play in Online matches
  • Reworked logic to improve detection of when the half and end of match should finish

Competitive and Core Community Feedback

  • No ball collision with hands - Outfield players’ hands, and forearms, are now ‘permeable’ and should not collide with the ball, preventing “hand-ball” situations from influencing the play in any way.
  • Quick Tactics: Team Press Timer - We saw feedback around players being able to waste time in sometimes unrealistic ways and that it was difficult for the defending team to try to get the ball back in these situations. To address this, we revamped the Team Press Quick Tactic to no longer result in a Constant Pressure defensive tactic. It now triggers a temporary Auto Press behaviour on demand and with a cooldown timer that prevents it from being overused.
  • Manual Switch To ‘Offside Trap’ Player - Allow manual switching to a player that is performing an “Offside Trap”.
  • Ground Pass Assistance - Changes to minimize the avoidance of an opponents’ players when making an assisted ground pass, specifically in situations where the pass, due to avoiding the defender, would end up going behind a running receiver.
  • Jockey Acceleration/Deceleration - Players with a lower Defensive Awareness attribute have reduced Jockey effectiveness in order to encourage Jockeying with actual defenders as opposed to forward players.
  • Goalkeeper Save Consistency - Improved multiple goalkeeper behaviours, including:
    • When to punch versus when to catch the ball.
    • More consistency on reflex saves.
    • Situations where the goalkeeper decides between rushing out, clearing the ball, blocking the attacker or taking control of the ball.
  • Goalkeeper Positioning - Changed goalkeeper positioning behaviour to better cover near post, in order to more consistently save near-post shots.
  • Throw-In Positioning - Better positioning to provide quicker targets for faster and more urgent throws.
  • Chip Shots Accuracy - Improved chip shot targeting system to improve the consistency and accuracy of these shots.


FIFA Attributes

This feature modifies players’ attributes to provide an enhanced and friendlier gameplay experience. When turned on, the increase in relevant attributes makes players feel more responsive and accurate, providing a similar experience as when playing FUT with high chemistry.



A feature that allows players to rewind up to 30 seconds to replay a certain moment in a game.

For more articles like this, take a look at our FIFA 20 and FIFA 21 page.