I'm not saying it's the most OP, or the most broken of many poorly functioning mechanics. But I get the sense that just the fact that it even exists in the game speaks volumes about how poorly the defensive mechanics are in FIFA.
Just the idea that a sports game has a button you can hold down to essentially do your job for you is totally f-ed up. It's bad alone for the game, but especially has no place in a game that's being marketed for eSports and competitive play.
For me, it's proof that EA haven't invested enough in manual defending, player switching, tackling, etc like they should. Because why else was it even included to begin with? My theory is they recognized how poor the manual defensive mechanics were, so they threw this in as a crutch and rolled with it.
IMO, the only answer for how to fix this whole "AI Defending is OP" dilemma is to finally invest again in the defending mechanics. Think about it – ever since Tactical Defending was introduced, what else have they done to really improve defending? The only back of the box feature I can remember is the charged tackle feature (I forget the name) and who the hell actually uses that? Meanwhile, every year they've added more and more tools in attacking play.
Attacking play is sexy and easily marketable, but this game is suffering from the defensive side of the game being so poor. I would say the top priorities should be something like this:
- A huge increase in tackle animations and improving the result of tackles. Think about all the weird tackle animations you see that make little sense. Those that make you say, "well if that's what you were going to do, I'd never have hit the tackle button." Personally I think one of the biggest issues is that we have loads of touch, skill, and dribbling animations, but relatively few tackle animations. In addition to this, I think we can all agree that right now tackles do not result in what should be happening, often punishing well timed tackles and rewarding the attacking player undeservedly. A corollary to this is ball physics, which also needs improving.
- Improve player switching. PES does it a lot better, so it can be done. There's too many issues with player switching to get into, but it needs to be smarter and more responsive. If we have it set to Air Balls Only, then that's what it should do. In 50/50 balls, we shouldn't be locked into one player. If I use the bumper to switch, in most cases it should always switch to the nearest ball side defender to the ball. There's more but you get the drift.
- 1-on-1 Marking needs to be better. The general 1-on-1 experience is nothing like it is in football. This should be a duel, every time, and defenders should be able to stick close and track dribblers far better than it is now (without using contain). Everyone who's played football knows that getting tight and marking a dribbler is NOT the hardest thing in the game, yet it pretty much is in FIFA. This is probably the biggest reason we have a contain button – the disparity in movement means that dribblers are "slippery" and are too tough to close down and stick to. Until EA get this right it's hard to imagine that they'd remove contain.
- Better defensive AI. No, I don't mean more active AI, but I mean there's still too many times that your players do nonsensical things, like literally running away from the ball. Midfielders should be better at tracking back. Player instructions should have more influence (right now the track back instruction is broken for wingers). Defenders right now are also giving way too much space to forwards since the last patch or two, allowing for easy clearances/long balls to start a counter attack, and because of this it requires very little skill to move the ball forward and into dangerous areas. Fullback positioning is also whack. I know people don't like talking about improving the AI, but we have to be able to trust our teammates if we're going to be manual defending. If I'm constantly trying to get my guys in position and run tracking, I can't mark the dribbler myself.
Personally, aside from improving the servers, I'd say overhauling the defensive side of the game needs to be EA's priority. In my experience, not many people are actually decent at defending (at least when it comes to manual defending) and there's SO MUCH room to increase the skill gap on this side of the ball. If defending is improved so that people are not choosing to rely on the AI as much, and if defending is a bit more solid so that there's a little more skill required moving the ball forward, getting into dangerous positions, and creating chances, then the skill gap (and realism) can be increased on both sides of the ball.
What are people's thoughts? We hear consistent complaints about defending, but not many solutions. What's the fix to these problems? Disagree/agree?
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