I’ve been playing the FIFA series for a good 15 years now, and have seen the growth and evolution of the brand over that time. With the introduction of the PS4 and Xbox One, the expectations for the franchise will increase exponentially from year to year as EA and its development teams begin to fully understand and harness the technical capabilities of the new platforms. Now, maybe this is a good time, but I think it’s only fair that I first disclose something to you all; I’m not the biggest FIFA fan as of late. To be completely honest, I feel that EA has become complacent, bordering on lazy, when it comes to the evolution of the series. Thus, this article exists. And in this article I’m going to focus primarily on how FIFA can improve the one player experience and modes such as Be a Pro and career mode.
Now, I’m not delusional. I fully understand that EA could do absolute nothing to improve the series and it would still be the #1 selling sports title in the world. Konami’s yearly offering, Pro Evolution Soccer (PES), while superior in terms of gameplay, has absolutely no chance to realistically compete with the one size fits all behemoth that is FIFA. This is David and Goliath, but this time David doesn’t walk away alive.
But for as big and successful as FIFA is as a brand, it can be better. Prior to the release of FIFA14, EA touted all the new enhancements that fans would find in its release. What was found was slightly slower gameplay, players that moved with more weight in an attempt to be more realistic, and more freedom off the ball. As negative as my tone sounds, I did find the gameplay to be an improvement over FIFA13, and generally a step in the right direction. In addition to those tweaks, FIFA’s biggest problem is that from a gameplay standpoint, it is becoming stale. For quite some time I’ve asked myself why I prefer PES over FIFA and one thing keeps coming to mind; FIFA has become predictable.
Yes, predictable. I’m no longer wowed by the goals I score. I don’t have any special “FIFA moments” like I do with PES. I fully expect the same skill moves to work, and they usually do. Playing against Man City or Arsenal? Doesn’t matter, they all play the same. As great as the game looks on the outside (trust me, I have issues with that too), it’s all the same on the inside. And perhaps this is because EA makes the game accessible to everyone. It’s a one size fits all game; the TGIFridays or Applebees of the soccer gaming world, where anyone and everyone can find something they like in it. But to me, that’s not good enough. So how do you fix it? How do you make the game less predictable? Well, the first thing I would do is bring back unique player personalities in the manner that PES 2012 did with their PlayerID concept. Essentially, they modeled over 50 world stars so their computer counterpart played as closely to their real-life model. This then had a direct influence on how you played against them. You feared what CR7 would do on the counter attack. You understood the danger of Messi with the ball at his feet. That would be my first change.
My second change would be to the entire graphical engine. The game looks exactly the same as it did 3 years, albeit now in 1080p and with slightly improved textures. The lighting is still too bright, the colors too saturated, and the players still verge on the cartoonish. If you haven’t seen PES2014 and the modified Fox Engine, you need too. That engine understands lighting, understand player models. It’s damn gorgeous. Also, the celebration system and the ability to celebrate however you want should be thrown out. YES, I said it. Unless you are playing your own pro in Be a Pro, the real life player celebrations should be computer controlled, and modeled after their real life signature celebration.
With respect to game modes, Be A Pro has always suffered from inconsistent player options. For example, in manager mode the computer players can demand and negotiate their contract, but in Be a Pro, the user doesn’t have the ability to renegotiate or even negotiate an initial transfer or contract offer. In addition, besides requesting a transfer, you have no other interaction with the CPU coaching staff. You cannot request more playing time, a position change, or demand a wage increase. I’m also not keen on how EA has created the catalogue where you can buy new boots, stat increases, etc. I think it should be tied to your in game salary that you make as a pro. That salary then allows you to buy stat increases, boots, equipment, etc. Bring more of an RPG feel to the Be a Pro mode, because honestly that’s what it is trying to be.
Again, it’s not all bad. FIFA is incredible when it comes to allowing the user to pretend to big a manager at a big club. The introduction of the global transfer network was a needed change-up to the standard transfer practice. Contract negotiations are solid, and the new menu system, although overwhelming at first, becomes fairly natural to navigate over time. My only other main criticism for manager mode is the lack of influence on specific players. Maybe they should take a page from the Football Manager playbook, but I think EA should think of ways to allow for the user to nurture computer players, managing the personalities of the locker room and the superstars within them. That would be another layer to their role as a manager of a big club like Real Madrid as an example.
In the end though, these suggestions are desired based on my personal tastes. FIFA has a long standing tradition as being the best soccer game on the market, but over the past few years the gameplay has seen little improvement. Hopefully EA will focus on the pitch experience and less on their bottom line.
Thanks for reading, great points made by our contributor Lachlan. Comments below are always appreciated.