With the highly anticipated FIFA 19 demo hitting consoles last week, we sat down with UCFB Etihad Campus students and eSports Awards finalists Brandon Smith and Richard Buckley, who recently tested the full game in Berlin, to get their first impressions of the new game.

The FIFA franchise is an unrivalled behemoth amongst sports video games and with every new version comes a frenzy of gamers flocking to Xbox Live and PlayStation Network to check out new features and take on their mates with the likes of Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

It’s not all fun and games through. Competitive FIFA is a serious business and this year’s FIFA eWorld Cup saw Saudi gamer Mosaad Aldossary take home $250,000 after defeating Stefano Pinna at London’s O2 Arena. As the rising stars in eSports commentary and regulars on the circuit for the hugely successful EA Sports game, Brandon and Richard were there to call every finesse shot, lobbed pass and last ditch tackle.

We spoke to the pair, who both study BA (Hons) Multimedia Sports Journalism, to get their thoughts on the latest iteration of the game and how its new features might affect the competitive scene.

How have you found the demo so far, what are the major changes and improvements?

Brandon Smith: “As you know I’ve been in Berlin for the last week playing FIFA 19 on full game mode, so I’ve been able to really experiment with everything. The changes this year in the game are first touch, custom tactics, passing and a lot more manual defending.”

Richard Buckley: “The demo feels very smooth and the gameplay is quite crisp. Passing feels very responsive and the defensive AI has had a big improvement, making it feel more lifelike once again.”

Do you think those changes could affect the FIFA competitive scene?

RB: “I think a few of the changes implemented will make a change in the FIFA competitive scene. The new tactics, where you can change your tactics on the fly, make it another level for pros and once again make the skill gap larger. The new timed finishing is going to be huge for pros; this means that you can produce a shot with more power and ‘swazz’ if the timing is perfect. If not the shot will balloon over the bar!”

BS: “I think those are the changes that will affect the competitive side. I think overall it will still look the same but feel different when playing.”

Who’s your pick to play as this year?

RB: “For me it’s Juventus. Their attackers are deadly with Paulo Dybala, Douglas Costa and Ronaldo in the final third. Defensively, Georgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci are tough and they are very, very solid with a midfield of Blaise Matuidi, Sami Khedira and Miralem Pjanic.”

BS: “For me, as a team I would say PSG. With the likes of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe and Edinson Cavani, they’re deadly!”