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Not Just a Game – A Career

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Photo: phalinn

With the 2014/15 football season pretty much done and dusted, football fans will be looking ahead to what next season will have to offer. Speculation is already rife in the football world. Is Pep Guardiola going to take over from Manuel Pellegrini? Will Arsenal make a move for Gonzalo Higuain? Is there to be a return to the Premier League for Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale?  Along with the real life football season coming to an end, gamers will have worn out their copies of FIFA 15 by now, having already won all the trophies available and taken their League Two sides all the way to the Champions League finals. That means it’s time to start thinking about what new features FIFA 16 may have to offer. The release date is yet to be confirmed, but it will probably be out around September time. Even now, gamers will be getting excited about the new instalment to the hugely popular FIFA franchise.

Speculation

A lot of the people that play the FIFA games would have had dreams about being a professional footballer at some point in their lives. If the rumours are true, the new game will have a story mode added. This story mode would allow players to create a character, train him, and try to get him playing in professional football clubs, all the way climbing the ladder to try and be the best. If this feature, which has not yet been confirmed, does come to fruition, it will allow gamers to live out their childhood fantasies. EA have already made the move to this player story mode in their Basketball series; NBA 2K15 and their Baseball series; MLB The Show 15, so there is some support for the speculation.

The previous games already have a game mode where gamers can create a player or choose an existing player, and play a career only controlling that one player rather than the whole team. It seems that the game’s developers have taken into account some feedback from the public and realised that this feature just isn’t extensive enough. The problem with the feature in its current format is that you can place your player in any team and you don’t really have to work that hard to make the big time. There also isn’t much scope for training your players. If the new game was to improve this feature and make it more like a real life career it would be great. Because after all, most gamers see FIFA as being more than just a game. They see it as a way of life. They already play the manager mode and view this as a career. The thing with the FIFA games in the past is that once gamers have completed a few seasons with their favourite team, the single player modes get a bit boring. If they had another enjoyable single player mode alongside the manager career, it would give the game much more longevity.

Over the many years that EA have been making the FIFA series, the games have improved every year. That should go without saying really, because the franchise wouldn’t be so popular if it hadn’t. Each year there are new features and old features that have been tweaked to be even better. There is always room for even more progression though, and the developers can only really realise what needs doing after they get feedback from the current games. Technology has progressed as well, and now the games look almost lifelike. You wouldn’t believe how far they have come until you check out one of your old games from twenty years ago! The old ones are so dated now, but remember at the time when you thought they were the best games ever? Have a look at the video below to see just how far the games have come over the years. Imagine what the games will be like ten years from now. Gamers will probably put on special suits, actually enter the game and play for real! Ok, so maybe we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves. But let’s take a brief look at how the games have progressed up to now.

A Brief History

The FIFA video game franchise began in 1993 and was originally called FIFA International Soccer. This was so they could sell it on the global market and appeal to Americans as well. Although there were other football games around at the time such as Sensible Soccer and Kick Off, this was the first to have an official licence from FIFA. In 1996 it also became the first game to use real player names. The cover stars on the debut game were David Platt and Piotr Swierczewski. The latest version has Eden Hazard and Lionel Messi on the front.

In 2010 it became the best-selling sports video game franchise in the world, selling over 100 million copies. FIFA 12 sold more than 3.2 million copies in its first week and EA sports said it was the most successful launch in their history. The main rival to the FIFA franchise is Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer. It seems that FIFA have the edge now with sales rising up to 23 percent each year.

The latest game in the franchise, FIFA 15, was the first in the series to be fully licenced by the Premier League. It received positive reviews across all platforms and was thought of as one of the most entertaining sports games available. However, it did meet some criticism over the relatively unchanged game modes, commentary, and the quality of artificial intelligence. Hopefully the developers will have taken these things on board when designing the new game.

Another great thing about the FIFA games over their history is the quality of the music on the soundtracks. The first game to have a soundtrack was FIFA: Road to World Cup 98, and soundtracks have been used ever since. Each game contains a selection of tracks from contemporary album releases of the time, generally revolving around indie rock, electronica and world music. Kasabian, Muse, Oasis and Blur are among some of the successful acts that have featured on the games.

 

Main Rival

EA Sports’ main rivals in the football game world are Konami with their Pro Evolution Soccer. Although it hasn’t sold as much as FIFA over time, it is still one of the best-selling video game franchises in the world. It has been going since 2001 and like FIFA has vastly improved over the years. Some gamers believe this to be the gaming fans’ football game, and FIFA to be the football fans’ game. One of the biggest flaws with this game that just makes it less appealing than FIFA, is the fact that it doesn’t have as many rights to names. The games have historically lacked the sheer volume of licences present in the FIFA games. Most notably not having the Premier League or Bundesliga. This is due to EA sports’ affinity to purchasing exclusive rights for the FIFA series.

The good thing about having such a popular rival, is the fact that FIFA have to do more to raise their game. Some people believe that Konami’s latest offering is actually better than FIFA 15. Gamers have argued that the gameplay is more tactical and feels more real. It also allows a lot more customisation when creating players and teams. FIFA just doesn’t offer gamers as much freedom in this regard, but hopefully this is something that the next game will rectify.

Typically, gamers will only buy one game or the other. Once one of the franchises has appealed to a person they will normally stick to that game for at least a few years. So every year both games must try very hard to be the best.

Player Ratings

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Photo: Ben Sutherland

When a new game comes out it is always interesting to see what the player ratings are. Sometimes FIFA gets this absolutely spot on but sometimes it is very wrong and it can cause a lot of arguments amongst fans. In 2014 Luka Modric was given an overall rating of 85 even though he’d only scored 3 goals in 33 appearances the previous season and the newspapers were calling him one of the worst signings of the year. In recent years the games have been online so team and player stats can be updated to give a realistic gaming experience. But if you choose not to update the game, some of the results can be quite interesting. On FIFA 15 Harry Kane’s original rating was 68. He then went on to have an amazing season, won the PFA Young Player of the Year Award and was one of the bookies’ favourites to get the golden boot. Now on the updated stats he is 77, which just shows how wrong the developers were at the start of the season.

On the new game who will be the big stars? Messi was the best on FIFA 15 with an overall score of 94 to start with. It will be interesting to see what Hazard’s stats are now after he won the PFA player of the year award. On the last game he started on 88 but he must be around 89 or 90 now. Players like Charlie Austin and Saido Berahino will probably have massively improved stats as well. It will be interesting to see what kind of stats the developers give the likes of Mario Balotelli and Radamel Falcao after the exceptionally poor seasons they have had. Falcao was one of the top rated players on the previous game, can one poor season justify a big drop in stat points?

How would you play the new story mode?

After looking back at the games of the past, it seems that this proposed story mode could be one of the most innovative things the developers have done in years. Never before have gamers been actually involved with a storyline on the FIFA games. People are already speculating that there will be many other characters that the player can interact with. It may even involve cut scenes, something that has also never been seen before in this franchise. On the last game, a new feature was introduced where the players on the pitch would show some emotions. For example, teammates would get frustrated with greedy players and not want to pass to them.

In FIFA 16 it is expected that this emotion feature will be developed even further, and the player’s character will display emotions on the pitch that relate to what is happening in the story mode. This would really be taking football gaming to the next level. Player involvement would be at an all-time high.

So what might this storyline be like? The writers may have found some inspiration from films like ‘Goal’ and ‘Bend it like Beckham’ where unrecognised footballers rose to greatness. Hopefully there will be lots of original ideas as well. The most important thing will be for gamers to get a shot at getting their player into the first team at their favourite club. What would you do? Would you try to become a club legend like Jack Charlton? Or play for as many of the big teams as possible like David Beckham? From a gaming perspective the latter option would probably be more enjoyable.

A few months left to wait

All this talk about FIFA 16 has been very exciting, but unfortunately there are still a few more months left to wait. Gamers will have to try to relax and continue to ponder over what amazing new features will be on offer. Hopefully in the next few months EA will release a trailer and some more information about what will be in store. Until then, carry on playing FIFA 15 or start planning your career mode in preparation for what is set to be the best football game of all time.

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Former Producer/On-air Co-star for the Ed the Sock Show (G4, City-TV, MuchMusic)

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