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Thoughts on FIFA's Gameplay Video, Career Mode Features, and that Exclusivity Thing Stuck
Posted on August 30, 2013 at 02:50 PM.

After PESbusy week, it’s now FIFA’s turn to draw the headlines.

First, it’s the 30 minutes or so gameplay video, then a reveal of Career Mode improvements, and finally news from the PES camp that there will be no Spanish stadia because, erm… because EA, basically. Sure, the producers of each game can still “respect our competition very much” and all, but the gloves are very much off as each side looks to build momentum as we head into release month.

FIFA’s Gameplay Video

The problem with watching videos featuring two human players is that, for whatever reason, the powers that be always seem to find folks who play that over the top, aggressive, speed-burst-or-die style. To be fair, the ones who played in this particular video were nowhere near the worst I’ve seen, but still, take the action with a grain of salt, especially regarding the pace of the game.

Visually, with this being played on a current-gen console, there weren’t any giant improvements from FIFA 13. There were some animations that did look smoother, but some of the clunkier ones, like that fast (and awkward) leg sweep passing motion that goes against the player’s body momentum, also remained. As for the crowds, they do look better rendered, but as you can see from that penalty shootout in the first match, they still don’t react much to whatever’s going on on the pitch.

The one thing that really stood out to me was the jostling. There were numerous instances when two players came together as they approached a loose ball, jostling and fighting for position. Sure, there were also the odd quirky collision, but on the whole, players look like they can (and will) be more physical, which is good news since it can make FIFA’s midfield gameplay a little more scrappy.

The AI defending also looked more aggressive than its predecessor. Whereas in FIFA 13, opposing strikers can receive the ball, make himself a cup of latte, turn, and still have space to run at a defender, the AI defenders in the video seemed to be smarter about when to close down. However, I've still yet to see players pressuring as a team-- funneling play to a particular area of the pitch. There was also the odd occasion—once in a whole match, mind you, so it doesn't look like it’s frequent or anything close to that—when the AI isn’t conscious of what’s going on on the pitch. For example, around 33:10 in the video, when PSG is on the counter, the City centerback is very late in picking up the player running in—the ball carrier’s only option at that point. Whether that was because the AI defender “sensed” there were two players on (or rather, chasing) that PSG player and that was enough, or maybe it just didn’t trigger the programming until that point, I don’t know, but it will be interesting to keep an eye out on this once the demo comes out.

I was also curious to see the effects of the new player momentum. From what I can gather from the video, it doesn’t look to make defending any harder, which is a relief, as it was tough enough in previous years to prevent wingers from cutting inside. The players do look like they stumble more, and generally need to take a split second longer to regain their balance compared to previous FIFAs.

Finally, I’m a fan of the new shot mechanism and ball physics. The shots definitely feel like they have more “weight” to them, and just generally look more realistic. Players will adjust their feet and shuffle their strides in order to get a good shot off (Yaya Toure at 31:25), and shots themselves (low ones, especially) feel like there are more power behind them. I do wish this was extended to lob passes though, as currently they’re still a touch too floaty.

Career Mode

Ooooh, that new UI is slick, isn’t it?

Dashes of silver and gray, a sans serif font, and voila—the only way it can make you feel hipper is if you were playing it in Portland with a microbrew in your hand.

Seriously though, the interface looks cleaner and better organized, and hopefully it takes less clicks to get to actual screens than the last one. Personally, I’m just glad I won't be forced into the email screen and then, once closed, have no way of accessing it again until the next turn. It will be interesting to find out whether the lag times in transitioning between menus have decreased too as a result of the streamlining.

In terms of nuts and bolts changes, the biggest one is probably in the scouting aspect. If I’m reading the article right, it looks like we won’t know a player’s Overall rating unless he’s at the human-controlled club, and that (emphasis mine) “until you scout a player you can’t see any of their (other) stats”.

I like the lesser reliance on the overall rating, though I’m not so sure about the decision to mask every player’s attributes until I’ve scouted them (again, if I’m reading it correctly). While that makes sense for most players to a certain extent, it doesn’t for the biggest names. We all know how good a Ronaldo and a Messi is, so masking them, and making us take that extra step to scout them anyway, seems like work for work’s sake. At the very least, the range of possible values for their attributes should be shrunk heavily at the start, as opposed to being masked all together.

Pardon the tangent, but it would be great to see in future FIFA a reputation system like the one in Football Manager, and that players with a high enough rep will not need scouting. Come to think of it, FIFA already has something like that, when you click on a player and that little icon in the corner tells you they’re one of the best at their positions. Superstars, really, shouldn’t need to be scouted as extensively, unless the game delves deeper into player personality and mental attributes like, again, Football Manager.

And one last quibble: while I’m fairly certain that these scouts’ stats will be dependent on the club you’re at and its finances, it sounds like every club will still only have three scouts to assign to look for players at clubs around the world, much like the way youth scouting is set up. That’s the part where it’s still a bit unrealistic to me—the advantage of being at a big club is not only in the quality of its scouts, but also the reach of its network, and it would be great if in future FIFA, there will be varied number of scouts, depending on the quality of your club.

But ultimately, it’s still a good sign to see Career Mode getting some love, especially when Ultimate Team looks to become more and more integral to EA’s stable of games. The mode looks like it’s striving to be Football Manager-lite, and that’s no easy feat. If they can continue to head in that direction, a deep managerial experience is going to add massive value to the game.

The Gloves Are Off

Ah, exclusivity.

The word from Adam Bhatti, PES’ Community Manager, is that due to EA’s exclusive license with the Spanish league, PES had to remove the country’s stadia right before release, and kill the game’s stadium editor. The first part, however disappointing, is okay given that we can just import user created—oh, right. Yeah, no, it sucks.

Bhatti also hinted that the reason behind the axing of the stadium editor is due to EA’s licensing deals (behind the scenes pressure, perhaps?) and said that the team is determined to “fight back” next year. So I’m guessing that means PES will look to grab some exclusive European licenses of its own and lock teams out of FIFA in retaliation.

Whose fault is it? The easy target is, of course, EA. But let’s be real, they’re not here to foster competition. These exclusivity deals are a cold, but ultimately incredibly effective, way to cut PES at its knees in its attempts to make a realistic Master League mode with real players. After all, who’s going to be interested in a career mode with only several leagues and their players? Yes, PES has survived for a long while with fake players and teams back in its PS2 days, but you also have to consider the fact that FIFA at the time was just… bad. Now that the latter has picked up its game, it’s much harder for PES to survive on the sole mantra of gameplay gameplay gameplay.

And just to be that fearmonger for a moment, if—assuming that, again, it is indeed the case—the stadium editor was killed due to EA’s pressuring, what about option files? Chances are they will be in danger was as well.

As long as there’s better money to be made, I won’t hold out hope for these exclusivity deals to be ending any time soon, either. I see some well-intentioned folks from the Winning Eleven Blog started a petition of sorts to end them. Well, good luck to them. Ultimately, the only practical thing that we, as fans, can really do, is to vote with our wallets. But will your average soccer game fan care (or even know) about these things? Or will he/she just buy the game with his/her favorite teams and leagues in it? I think we know the answer to that one, and it’s probably not the one we’re hoping for.

Yeah, I’m not too optimistic at the moment.
# 1 Lovesports @ Aug 30
I do agree with yoy and think that EA enters these contract out of pure fear of the competition.
As for the game itself, if they don't add supersim its a no buy for me
# 2 seeuatthemovies @ Aug 31
I have to claim ignorance on the issue. Is there anything special about the Spanish stadia? I'm kind of surprised they were licensed separate from the team that plays there. I guess I've never really given much notice to each stadium in the hours I've devoted to FIFA 13.
# 3 DBMcGee3 @ Sep 3
They are taking advantage of their enormous bankroll to strong-arm the competition any way possible. It's a sound business plan, but personally I boycott EA because of it. Luckily this boycott is super easy, since Madden has been mediocre for years now, and Konami and 2k are making better games in their respective genres.
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