What do the following things have in common? The iPhone. The Twilight movies. FIFA.
Well each has a new version released on an almost yearly basis, with very little in the way of drastic change, yet each is absolutely lapped up by their devoted public regardless. It amazes me, it really does. I mean lets face it, why are you even reading this? If you have even the slightest interest in FIFA, then you’re no doubt gonna go buy it anyway, just like you will have done for the past 5 years. Just like you will do whether it improves from last year’s version, and just like you will even if it doesn’t.
Such is the cycle of these annual sporting sims.F The same people buy essentially the same product, each and every time. By and large developers add minor changes at best, content to stick with the tried and tested formula and content that less demanding gamers will buy in droves. As reviewers, we ask the same question each time. Is it better than last years? Is there enough new content to justify the purchase? And in this case, is it better than its rival, PES?
Regardless of the answers, gamers will already have no doubt decided which of the two they’re gonna buy already, so for the large part, this review will fall on deaf ears. But for the sheer sake of argument, lets crack on with it anyway! So what’s different?
well for a start, there’s the addition of a first touch control system, as well as improved AI for off the ball players, as well as building on the number of game modes available. User interface has been improved, the dribbling system slightly adjusted, and the whole thing overall seems a little better presented than last year.
It’s a tough cookie, because to radically change the formula for no other reason than to radically change the formula, would piss off fans left, right and centre. You know what you’re buying when you purchase the latest copy, and I guess it’s our job to let you know what you don’t. Last year, FIFA was generally regarded the better of the two key football titles. This year, it’s more of a blur. Slight changes by themselves can’t keep you afloat for long, and next year a little more effort will have to be made, lest EA lose the momentum they had going into this season, but for now, it’s just enough.
It’s the well presented and highly glossed package fans of the series have come to love and demand… and little else. Which is more than enough for many gamers already, and you may as well stop reading now. But looking at this year’s release through a more critical eye, it stands on a less impressive pedestal as it did before, even more so when compared to the improved PES this year too.
I do like the first touch control system, one of the key new additions, which is EA’s attempt to add an extra touch of realism to the game, varying the skill of that first touch to each individual player’s respective skill. The better the player, the better your control with them. This also applies to things like shooting, and passing, the accuracy and precision of which depends on the player behind the ball. Likenesses of real life players extends to their skill set now, not just their appearance and mannerisms. Realism in sports sims is largely hit and miss. It certainly helps you feel closer to he real life game, but sometimes, the outcome of a simulated encounter should depend on the gamer’s skill, not that of the person he’s controlling.
The addition of Complete Dribbling is effective too, allowing players to keep their speed up even when on ball, again though, dependent on the player behind it. I wouldn’t go belting down the pitch with Nikola Zigic and not expecting to hoof it out into the stands if I were you. Also, the much discussed Tactical Defending system makes what will no doubt be a somewhat critical return, but is easily turned off if need be. Most gameplay elements that were key to last year’s impressive outing are still intact, with new adjustments only building on that successful formula. Which is no doubt all many a fan wanted to hear.
FIFA’s realism takes another step forward too, with the inclusion of Match Day. This draws directly from the present day, matching skills, attributes and real life scenarios to those of the real world game, ensuring that the distant divide between what you watch and what you play needn’t be as vast as the medium insists. Likewise, this feature can be turned off if you don’t want real life affecting your play, ie: certain managers holding grudges, never playing your preferred player, whose game ranking subsequently drops as a result. It’s a neat addition that keeps the game relevant, adding to both its present day worth, and potential longevity.
As stated, presentation is as top notch as expected, with graphics and audio as technically sound as they’ve always been, if not better than ever. Crisp, bright stadiums will light up those HD monitors, with even more smooth, player animations to bring the action to life. The usual solid commentary too serves as a constant reminder that it’s not just a sport, it’s a lifestyle for many gamers, with charismatic play by plays accompanied by real world facts about the teams, players, even the cities themselves.
By and large, FIFA is more like an expansion than a whole new game, but an expansion of a really great sports title nonetheless, being the most realistic football simulation, with both great controls and presentation. Judging it is always tricky. But like a great football team itself, FIFA already had all the players on board for a winning season, and with a few minor signings under it’s wing, it slightly improves itself without spoiling the mix. Certainly, it’s enough to just keep it top of the league this year, but looking ahead it might need a little more next season as the improved PES is fast catching back up, and only loses the premiership trophy this year by a few minor points.
8/10 – Review by Andy Buckdawg