FIFA 21 has made a raft of gameplay changes while retaining long-standing issues that drag the series down (more on that over at our FIFA 21 review). But one fix made on the down-low that most players will never notice, is that FIFA 21 has got rid of the giant goalkeepers that plagued FIFA 20.
It’s an issue that has been a part of FIFA 20 ever since it came out late 2019, but it went under the radar because it was limited to a single mode – one that doesn’t tend to grab the headlines.
With FIFA 20, EA launched a brand new mode called Volta. This FIFA Street-esque mode sees up to 5v5 matches on small pitches, with skill and style the focus. Here, you create an avatar, then build your squad as you play.
In Volta, one of the ways you get new players is by beating other players’ teams, and then picking one of their players to add to your club as if loot. It’s this quirk that led to the virus-like spread a giant goalkeeper with an error message string for a name.
It’s hard to pin down exactly where it all started, but reports of giant goalkeepers popped up on social media and reddit soon after FIFA 20 launched in September 2019. Players spotted an enormous 65-rated attacker whose home turf was an error string: “SSF_WT_HOMETURF_0_FULLCHar_upper.” Players would occasionally run into this keeper when going up against other players online. His size would block much of the goal, making it tricky to score. This giant wasn’t much use for anything but staying in goal, because his stats were so poor. But in goal, his stats didn’t matter. He just had to… stand there.
Volta players wondered where this giant goalkeeper had come from, and how they might get their hands on him. There wasn’t a straight answer, but I’ve seen some players report encountering the giant during the Volta story World Championships semi-final against the AI. That’s a match played in story mode – not online. So, it appears, FIFA 20 somehow birthed the giant and then he spread as players took him online.
The giant popped up more often as the season went on. It got to the point that pretty much every team you played online would have this giant in goal. He had somehow copied himself, spread throughout Volta like a plague, then found his way into pretty much every team, an indispensable block in front of the net, standing out like a PE teacher playing football with young children. It was the FIFA equivalent of Agent Smith’s takeover of The Matrix.
Ahead of the release of FIFA 21, some FIFA 20 players dipped into Volta for the first time just to see what the mode was like. They were certainly surprised to see the giant goalkeeper between the sticks.
I spoke to redditor DarthSmiff, who played Volta intensely for two months when FIFA 20 came out, to find out what happened and what impact it had.
DarthSmiff calls the giant’s propagation throughout Volta as an “exploitation” of Volta’s create-a-player system. He’s a bug in the system. “His size limits his stats but if you stick him in goal it doesn’t really matter,” DarthSmiff tells me.
“He doesn’t make a team unbeatable, just kind of annoying and unrealistic. All he has to do is be big and he’s better than any other keeper. It’s just a copy of a copy of a copy. He keeps getting recruited online. Like a virus spreading.”
EA failed to fix this bug throughout FIFA 20’s life cycle, and as attention turned to FIFA 21, Volta was left behind. In August, EA was asked by a fan on Twitter how this bug was possible, and whether it would be replicated in FIFA 21. EA didn’t explain the process, but did say it had been fixed for FIFA 21. The giant was defeated, and the new version of FIFA is free from his tyranny.
But the giant remains, for now at least, in FIFA 20, a game that will still be played by many despite the release of FIFA 21. There he will live, an anomaly in goal, until EA either patches him out of the game, or the developers finally switch the game’s servers off. Until then, he lives on in an old version of FIFA’s virtual world, getting in the way again and again and again.