For now what we'll be doing here at Operation Sports is posting a quick look detailing some of our initial thoughts on sports titles at E3. Once we play more of these games throughout the week we will post more fleshed out hands-on impressions this week and next.
In addition, if you have questions about the game you would like us to ask developers, feel free to post them. We can't guarantee we'll get them answered -- and it's probably better to not get too crazy specific -- but what we do get answered we'll post here on OS as well at some point. The same goes for if you just want to hear more about something we talked about in the article(s). For example, "hey dude, you talked about how the dribbling feels different, can you talk more about that?"
FIFA comes into this season with the standard issue of having a good gameplay formula that needs to be refined and improved without chapping the base group of fans. Of course, when you have millions of people who play your game, it's always hard to know who makes up that base, but right now FIFA is toying with the formula in some interesting ways.
-The new driven passing system -- activated by pressing the pass button and RB/R1 -- certainly feels like the biggest change. Obviously soccer is a game built around passing, so speeding up passes is a core change. With that in mind, it feels solid to this point. It's something that I think hinges partly on attributes and partly on how much improvement there really is to the defensive awareness. What I mean is that guys both receiving and trying to pull off those passes should have strong ratings in those areas. And on defense, defenders really do need to be better at cutting down angles and being properly aggressive to keep it all balanced.
-So is the defense stepping up more often and cutting down those lanes? Yes, so far it seems that way. I think FIFA could use a bit of mucking up in the midfield, and both against the AI and another human there was some noticeable muck. It could be both sides getting used to the new passing mechanics and so forth, but it's a good sign right now.
-However, with that aggression comes consternation of sorts as it relates to the physicality in the game. It's more pronounced playing against a user rather than the AI, but I still feel like I'm getting abused on the ball and not seeing enough calls (much like in previous years). Controlled aggression should still pay more dividends than ruthless aggression, and sometimes I just don't feel that's the case.
-Feinting is probably my new jam. I'm a huge fan of being stationary and doing moves, so this adds another layer to it all. It should fit naturally into the toolbox of those who like doing moves already.
-In addition, if the long-run bursts of speed through the entire team by the likes of Aubameyeng feel less like a thing so far, I'm okay with trading it with a new "exploit" of using feints and quick bursts of speed to get around defenders in small spaces. Obviously, I hope both are balanced, but the latter feels more skill-based than the former.
-Shooting is really hard to get a feel for so far. That is not a positive or negative thing, it's just a thing. I can see shots coming off the foot at new angles and so forth right now, it's just hard to gauge what that means for the game other than it looks better looking than the old shooting overall.
-If headers were too easy two years ago and then too hard last year, then I think early signs are that it's moving back towards being easier. I'm not saying this is a negative or positive yet -- I saw a beautiful goal off the head of Kagawa in one of my game's today -- it's just something I'm noting for now.
-You can immediately tell that the lighting and faces both mimic more of a "real" look in this version, which is good, but overall FIFA still feels like the weakest EA Sports game in the graphics department. It will always be an uphill battle due to the default camera angle being so far away, so on some level I wish the surrounding areas (crowds, sidelines etc.) looked more alive to make games feel a bit grander in scope.
I really think the best thing you can say about a game like FIFA when it reaches the level of being with The Show's of the world in terms of gameplay quality is that it's not "messing anything up." Maybe that makes me out to be someone who does not appreciate risk-taking or trying to innovate, but on some level my argument will always be, "well why would you want to mess something up that does not need to be overhauled yet?" Instead, so far it feels like FIFA is making the right gambles by trying to create the need for more midfield play and improve the ability to stop something like the elevated through ball. In other words, the game is trying to kill issues it has now rather than create new ones it does not yet need to worry about.