EA SPORTS…LIKE A FIFA IN THE NIGHT

Before I begin I will take time to clear a few things up: Do I consider myself to be a ‘hardcore’ gamer? No I do not. Do I claim to have knowledge of multiple game systems, platforms and hardware? Nope, don’t do that either. Am I the messiah of multiplayer games? No, definitely not. Have I beat this site’s founder on FIFA by five goals with one thumb? Well, actually, I have done the last one…

Nevertheless, the point I was attempting to make is that I don’t really have games I get lost in (prime example is that I’m yet to complete GTA V and I haven’t even booted up the multiplayer…we digress), but I do have games that I buy religiously. It’s one of those few games that I have recently come to blows with. I say the game…it’s my controller which has suffered more. That game, people of the Gamiverse, is FIFA 14.

Like many like minded 15 year old lads, when I was coming through school it was all about Pro Evolution Soccer. There was no FIFA in our 6th Form common room. There was Pro Evo 2008. This all changed when I went to uni and had to adapt to suit the surroundings! Ever since FIFA 09 I have opted for EAs token football game. And I will tell you…there has been money well spent.

Fifa 2

The best thing about this series of games has always been it’s accessibility…someone could pick up a control and have a game and enjoy the thing. It’s always looked and played sleekly and since 09 has continued to develop. It’s a fun game…a game which you could get drubbed 6-0 one minute and then hold out for a 1-0 win with Crewe Alexandra the next. Something that everyone could enjoy! Combine the fun factor with the ability to play with teams from 33 leagues and add in the already impressive and you would expect FIFA 14 to deliver yet again, right? Wrong!

I had the idea to write this piece when I texted Aston at around 11 at night. Sat in my room with phone in one hand, controller on the bed and cellotape in the other ready to perform surgery on said controller…

FIFA 14 is different from it’s yearly counterparts in a sense that it isn’t fun. It can infuriate. It frustrates more than any other game I’ve had the displeasure to play. It doesn’t run smoothly. There is little to shout about in game play department. And for some reason, Gervinho is stronger than Thiago Silva. I won’t go further than that to just rant, I will provide some justification for my injured controller…

’ll be honest. The game play on FIFA turns me into a disgruntled child. The reason? In my opinion, EA have tried to add to the game (as expected) but overlooked the little details that would improve the play in general. I appreciate that timing, weight and speed of the is vitally important on the game. However, this only seems to apply when you pass the ball on the floor. It’s staggering that they have missed one of the most fundamental issues on the game…the fact that you can smash the ball with your keeper to general vicinity of you striker, and, 7 times out of 10 you’re clean through on goal. The ‘lofted through ball’ or ‘Stoke pass’ as it’s affectionately known as in my house is absurd. Defenders have a mind of their own and due to the players travelling in the same direction as the player you’ve just controlled, they just wander up the pitch to leave a chasm of space behind. Chances of redemption are slim to none as the controls don’t seem to adapt to a change of direction very well. I have genuinely seen milk turn faster than 80% of the centre halves. How a game can be considered the ‘best’ of it’s kind in it’s field and make such huge mistakes in defensive game play is beyond me!

fifa 3

Ultimate Team is fantastic. I can’t argue that it isn’t. But this year’s game has been hampered by the inability to make player ratings mean anything. I have an 87 rated team with 98 chemistry. You would expect this team to be difficult to beat. Seems not. You see, in Ultimate Team, pace means you are the greatest player on earth. Is 77 rated Victor Ibarbo more successful than 90 rated James Rodriguez? Of course he is. It makes no sense. I could accept that, in a foot race, the player easily outpaces the defender/midfielder. But no, not in EA Sports land. The quick players are unstoppable…you might as well hand them a 2 goal lead. Combine that with the ‘Stoke pass’ and you have a team to rival the 1970 Brazil squad. This is something they seriously need to look at before the next game.

There’s just two more I promise…

Corners and throw ins. Two of the most simple set pieces in world football. Can EA at least get that right? Nope. For some unknown reason, the best way to score on FIFA is via a corner. More often than not, the keeper won’t react to anything unless it is right above his head, the defenders are lethargic and don’t attack the ball and the opponents seem to have a team of Hagrid’s who don’t even need to jump. It was because of a throw that my controller began an intimate relationship with my bedroom wall. That’s how frustrating they are. EA have tried to make it so you have to assess the flight of the ball and make a decision. But because the game selects the player you should use, your reaction time is immediately hampered. Defending 101 in the real game of football goes out of the window and you’re left with Sergio Ramos stood on the penalty spot, whilst Raheem Sterling towers above him to power a header home. Cracking stuff.

Throw ins have been, and seemingly always will be wrong. The fact is, the players do not react, make runs or do what you tell them to…it needs sorting. Simple as that! Options, movement and the ability to shield the ball would add so much. Instead your player ends up emulating Aaron Rodgers and chucking the ball out of play, seemingly looking for a touch down.

fifa 4

Finally, the first touch engine. This is the thing that has caused me the most stress over the last 8 months. It isn’t rocket science that being a footballer is difficult. Nobody has the perfect first touch everytime. But this game takes mistakes to a new level. It is possible (I know because I can do it) to touch the ball and turn with it in the same motion. Not in EA land though. Too many players are heavy footed and have the turning circle of an articulated lorry…Arjen Robben included. That just doesn’t happen! The ability to run with the ball in a straight-ish line is lost, and instead you snake your way round the pitch as though on the world’s most poorly crafted railway.

EA have tried to make first touches ‘more about the player than the AI in the game’ and ‘make you think about your next move’. That’s all well and good…heck I agree. But it just doesn’t deliver that way. Instead you have a player who takes 4 touches to turn in a circle. Unless of course you’re one of EA’s chosen players (lord knows how they select them (Nani is a fine example)) and you can somehow dribble round a whole team, the ref, both linesman and the terribly 2-Dimensional fan in the stand and rocket one in from 40 yards.

They need to sort a lot out for FIFA 15 and I really hope they get it right. Early sightings suggest they’ve gone for style over substance. I hope they don’t.  I don’t ask for much…but please EA…put the fun back into FIFA… At the moment I’m one Hatem Ben Arfa goal away from a nervous breakdown! PS. If you disagree, feel free to comment below or on our Facebook page…I kind of hope it’s not just my cynicism. But a general consensus!

JOE FISHER

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