Pretty solid and comprehensive article I thought. Covers all bases from how bad the gameplay is, how game is no longer fun but a chore/obligation, how FUT has meant that other game modes suffer and ultimately is a con/money making machine because of packs.
* Why I can’t go back to FIFA 19
For a fleeting moment EA Sports surprised everyone, seemingly returning FIFA to its glory days, before familiar problems, coupled with some novel new ones, consigned it to the bin.
You may recall the review I put together for FIFA 19 in October, awarding it an 8/10 and using phrases like ‘a massive step forward’, ‘something for everyone’, and ‘sublime.’
I predicted great things and saw hope in features like the improved collision engine. Random outcomes? Sign me up! A timed finish button? That’ll add a skill gap!
Well, after countless hours I dearly wish I could get back, it brings me no great pleasure to admit I was wrong. So very wrong.
Getting lulled in by the collision mechanic was foolish. This isn’t real football, it’s a simulation. If I time a tackle perfectly, I want to come away with the ball. Instead we’re forced to accept that being true to life means you don’t always get the rub of the green.
It’s not great, is it? There were times I’d decide just to accept it and for a passing moment everything was fine until I remembered a dog with a controller would have just as much luck completing a tackle as me and my opposable thumbs. Not a great user experience, truth be told.
It’s easy to get caught up in things that annoy you, but I’m always asking myself whether I’m getting fulfillment from playing a game of FIFA. I do this with most games to be honest, and when the answer becomes ‘no’ more than ‘yes’, it’s usually time to quit it. Alarmingly I can’t remember saying ‘yes’ once during FIFA 19, and that goes back before the discovery of a lot of the problems I’ve mentioned.
Games are meant to be fun. That’s pretty much the whole point of them. That and a challenge.
A challenge isn’t taking on an opponent, your bafflingly stupid computer teammates, and the game’s hidden features such as momentum and scripting (both unconfirmed, both very much a thing). And fun isn’t finding a meta and exploiting it time and time again. We’re surely at a point with game development that we shouldn’t have one very obvious exploit totally dominating a game as big as this. It’s nonsense.
Unfortunately that’s where we’re at with the FIFA series. What was once a good laugh you could sink hours into has now turned into something that feels like a chore – a grind, which in itself is another alarming trend. But that’s for another day.
The constant feeling that you’re fighting against yourself is not only frustrating, it’s patently a waste of time. What’s the point spending ages fine-tuning my tactics if that perfectly laid plan is botched by a ricochet through to their striker all in the name of ’50/50 battles’?
It’s not just the obvious stuff either. There has been a woeful lack of attention given to huge parts of the game. AI defending these days is laughable and the bizarre phenomenon seemingly new to this year’s edition, of the ball passing straight through player models, is a pitiful indictment of the programming and Frostbite engine.
Then you have the plain stupid. Did you know that some of the FIFA esports tournament matches have to be played at night? It’s not for the atmosphere or the presentation, it’s because the shadows cast onto some of the pitches in daylight are so disorientating that players found it hard to see what was going on.
It wouldn’t be a fair critique of FIFA without mentioning its main attraction. Ultimate Team remains its most popular mode and that’s largely where it will be judged. Forget House Rules, forget Career Mode and Pro Clubs, which ironically is forgettable given the disdain the developers have treated it with… just look at where the money is and where the player base is.
Call it a conspiracy theory but since the rise of Ultimate Team, the rest of the game nosedived. Once EA realised the huge money-making potential of FUT and FIFA Points it made perfect sense to plough their resources into it and the product they have now is sleek and sophisticated.
It is of course, an enormous con. Kids, teens, and adults spend money they probably don’t have on packs just for the thrill of getting an elite player. The odds are horrendous, of course – so much so that Belgium has implemented a country-wide ban on the sale of loot boxes, and in this case FIFA Points.
But the juggernaut ploughs on in the rest of the world. Updated cards are released throughout the season, new promos are unleashed on the market and the cycle continues. They rake in fortunes but you’d be forgiven for wondering if that money is invested back into the game. Recent evidence suggests it isn’t.
Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe it’s because I have less time for games nowadays but I’ve reached my limit with FIFA. I’d seen it coming in the last couple of years but FIFA 19 was the dagger. If I could give EA one bit of advice, it would be to rip it up and start again. Use a new engine, don’t dedicate all your resources to Ultimate Team, there’s so much more you can do. It’s lazy.
Why not reintroduce a FIFA Street style game mode? Why not look at a three-a-side format similar to Triple Threat in 2K? All-star games, anything to inject some energy into it.
I doubt any of this will happen in time for the next installment but for as long as the format remains the same, FIFA 19 will be the last one I play. I can’t even bring myself to fire it up for a farewell game.*
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