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The FIFA Series is a fantastic example of how current gen games get things wrong. A rant (about FIFA 19 mostly).

Gamingtodaynews1f - The FIFA Series is a fantastic example of how current gen games get things wrong. A rant (about FIFA 19 mostly).

I will start by saying that I have an incredible itch for soccer games that I had suppressed for about six years before giving in again last year. I had just bought a Switch and the thought of being able to play FIFA on the go was just too good, so I went and bought FIFA 19. I've clocked close to 300 hours in it and enjoyed myself quite a bit, which is funny because I still think the game is incredibly broken and to some extent a straight rip-off.

FYI, all of my thoughts here are about career mode.

At it's core, FIFA is a fun game. If you had never played a football video game before, you would enjoy it, perhaps even love it. That's how I still managed to get 300 hrs in it. If you have played some other football games, then you might have a mixed experience. For people who have played previous versions of FIFA for 1,000s of hours, however, the game is an absolute mess. With every new version, the game has remained the same. EA's change log for each new version between FIFA 11 and 15 reads almost exactly the same "improved graphics, better collisions, enhanced ball physics, new defending system, realistic AI transfer activity…". At this point the game had become a reskin. After FIFA 14, I skipped on FIFA 15 and went some years without the game before getting to FIFA 19. Seeing how little the game had changed in 6-7 years was a huge disappointment.

After some thought, I have come to believe that the game is developed by a team of people who bear a deep-seated hatred for soccer and have therefore dedicated their lives to making sure that soccer fans never get a video game that is worth it. In it's current shape, FIFA is worth USD 20 max. Whatever else you pay for that is an additional fee for the exclusive rights to leagues, competitions, player names etc

This is what's wrong with FIFA:

1. The developers are lazy

This isn't meant to be an insult. It's just my honest assessment of some of the things wrong with the game. For no real reason, the game has basic errors and issues that can easily be fixed, but EA won't do anything about them.

Some of the errors are:

  1. The time scaling in the game is poor. This has made injury time useless. If the referee gives you 3 mins, it doesn't change the game in anyway. In one of my matches, the AI keeper held onto the ball for the entirety of injury time. 5 mins can be useful, but only if one of the teams launches a rapid attack. If the referee gives 1 min, it will be over even before the announcement is over.

  2. The referee ends more than half of the matches before injury time is over. 3 mins is always called at around 2.40. 5 mins at 4.00. etc. You can actually use this to your advantage by time-wasting if you're in the lead. Also, the ref is far more likely to allow the full period to pass if the AI is advancing in your half.

  3. The money management aspect of the transfer system in manager mode is full of errors. If you sign a pre-contract with a player to join your team in the next season, it takes away their portion of the wages immediately. If you sign a loan deal with the buy option, it also takes away the transfer allocation immediately. I suspect this was introduced to plug exploits where you could sign players like Messi on loan, by pledging to buy them for a trillion, but this now places the player at a disadvantage.

  4. The game makes basic arithmetic errors when tracking stats both for the match and the season. e.g. a keeper will make 4 saves, but only get credited for 2. Your entire team will misplace only 3 passes out of around 60, but the pass accuracy will show 75%. Sometimes a player will get 3 assists in a game, but in the leaderboards, the figure only goes up by 1. This most likely happens for assists from corners.

Aside from basic errors, half of the games dynamics don't work well at all.

  1. EA's revamped physical system is great for strong attackers and defenders. On the other hand it means that players are constantly getting body tackled and the referee never gives those fouls.

  2. Corners and crosses are a roll of the dice. Defenders will inexplicably fail to clear crosses when unchallenged or put them out for another corner. Your 6' 2" defenders will also lose most of the aerial challenges against 5'8" strikers, even when they were standing right in front of them.

  3. Goalkeepers have two modes. God mode: they will stop any and every cross, shot, or pass that is within reach. Blind t-rex mode, they will flail and flap around and do moronic things like tackling your defender who was just about to clear the ball.

  4. AI-assisted passing is a nightmare. It seems the expectation is that you will pinpoint the direction of the pass with perfect accuracy. Any deviation and the pass goes to another person or into free space. Pass power is a roll of the dice too. Sometimes a long press will lead to a short pass, sometimes a tap of the button will play the ball halfway across the field.

  5. Player progression in career mode is bizarre. Players rot like milk when they're 30 if they're not played. They also lose skills like shooting, crossing, passing, and free kick accuracy, which are not fully connected to their physical condition. This has killed one of the better strategies from previous versions, where you could sign aging players cheaply and then use them for a season or two as you developed your club.

  6. Strikers and defenders will sometimes take an unnecessary touch when in key positions. This sometimes has to do with the player's skill level (which is illogical). Mid-tier strikers, for some reason, will take one extra touch instead of hitting the ball first time. Defenders will softly bring down a cross, so that the opponent's striker can smash it in.

  7. The AI transfer activity is senseless. Bayern will sign three top-tier GKs in one season and lose both of their central defenders without replacing them. Barcelona will sell their 3 best defenders and replace them with one decent winger. The top clubs will always try to sign your best striker, if he did well in the previous season, then stick him on the bench because he's rated 78 and their attackers are all 88-90.

  8. The scouting system stops discovering players at some point in your career mode. Standard searches like 'Any position' 'First Team Quality' fail to return any results.

2. The developers are not creative.

I can think of a litany of features that would be amazing for manager mode, which the developers could add at zero cost and with little effort, but haven't. While 6 years ago, consoles were perhaps not advanced enough to support these features, we've seen other developers take full advantage of current gen platforms to do amazing things.

  1. A full stats tracking system. This would run in the background and track the stats for all players in all leagues and store them in a database. Then you can track the careers of interesting players or your youth gems. As it is, as soon as a season is over, all of the data is lost in cyber space. As an extra touch, it could track historical transfer activity.

  2. Contracts for managers and user players in player career mode. I have wanted this for years and it would be the easiest thing to add. When you sign on with a club in career mode, you should have a contract like the other player. It can then expire, allowing you to move where you want. This would be amazing for player careers, instead of leaving you trapped in one club until it sells you.

  3. Better commentary. I started a career mode with Nottingham. My goal was to restore them to Champions League glory. In my first season, I got automatic promotion to the Premier League. In my second season, I finished 3rd and qualified for the Champions League. In my 3rd season, I beat PSG i my first Champions League match. None of these remarkable achievements have been mentioned by the commentators. The commentators can also use the stats system to provide more interesting commentary, like how you just signed the top scorer from Serie A in 3 consecutive seasons. etc.

  4. A shifting club prestige system. Still on Nottingham's remarkable rise. There needs to be a club prestige system that shifts as a club performs better or worse. A better prestige system would mean easier negotiations with players and vice versa.

and finally, a couple of personal gripes I have with the game:

  1. The game just won't progress. One of the new features announced for FIFA 21 is a match sim mode that allows you to take control of simulated matches. This feature was there as far back as FIFA 07, before being removed for no reason. Now it's been returned and shamelessly lauded by EA as a new feature. Still on the regression, one of the previous versions used to track all stats across the season showing you who has the most tackles, passes, crosses, shots etc. They removed this because God-forbid the career mode retains any interesting and engaging features that prevent you from playing FUT.

  2. The press conference option remains virtually the same 6 years on. (this also falls under the laziness category).

  3. EA added physical referees as a feature around 2011. Great! Now midfielders constantly bump into the ref when trying to chase a crucial pass. The AI, however, rarely ever does this.

  4. If you're in more than two competitions in the final half of your season, you will inevitable have a week where you're scheduled for 3 matches, with a small chance of 2 matches on the same day or on consecutive days. This is then likely followed by 2 weeks with no games.

  5. FFS, bring back the 3rd kit.

Thanks, for reading my rant. I can't believe you came this far.

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