FIFA is undoubtedly the biggest sports video game on the market, and one of the biggest video games in general. Although it’s popularity is without question, there are still some issues and problems it needs to fix, if it wants to maintain its place at the top of the game.
2019: Less microtransactions in Ultimate Team
We spoke at length about how microtransactions were hurting NBA 2K, but the same can be said for Ultimate Team tenfold. When Ultimate Team started, it was simply about building your team from scratch, playing games and winning coins so you can build your best team. There were always packs, but they were simple gold packs. What hurt Ultimate Team was when EA realised they can make money off gambling on packs, by releasing many different types of special cards, such as Team of the Year, Man of the Match, Man of the Tournament, even celebratory cards for holidays such as Halloween, Christmas, even No Shave November got the FIFA treatment. EA then released different types of packs, so now instead of Regular or Premium Gold Packs, you can buy Super Mega Ultra Premium Rare Players Only Team of the Year Gold Packs, and try your luck at packing that Team of the Year 99 rated Ronaldo. Much like how 2K has become less about grinding your player and more about who can buy the most VC, FIFA became about who can spend mum’s credit card the most and get the best luck in packs. EA have to go back to the old ways, or place some sort of cap on pack spending, as it is getting ridiculous with the enticement to buy packs, coaxing people out of their money, creating an uneven game and employing a system that is borderline gambling, in what is meant to be a G-rated family friendly game.
2020: Greater career mode depth
While career mode was for many the primary game mode to play in FIFA, the arrival of Ultimate Team in FIFA 10 gave players a new game mode to binge on, one that was more dynamic and engaging then the usual career mode slog. Although EA update career mode every so often and add new features, it’s largely been ignored in favour of modes like Ultimate Team. FIFA 18 did make the biggest improvement, introducing a new interactive transfers system, where players would engage real managers of football clubs in meetings and negotiate transfers and contracts for players. On top of this, they added signing-on bonuses, sell-on clauses and release clauses, among other contractual terms seen in the real game. This feature really refreshed the mode, so it’s time to continue this good momentum. Press conferences should be more dynamic, allowing you as the manager to choose what to say more specifically in cutscenes, and letting it have repercussions, such as criticising the referees, or even your own players. There is a lot of potential in career mode to make it realistic, it’s time EA make use of it.
2021: A better Journey mode
Introduced in FIFA 17, The Journey told the story of Alex Hunter, England’s latest young striker, who burst onto the scene for his favourite club, all the while dealing with agents, the press and teammates. While a player career mode is a fantastic idea, EA need to go further. You only can participate in certain matches throughout the season, and there are certain story moments that you hit, regardless of what kinds of decisions you make, such as in FIFA 18’s edition, being forced to transfer to LA Galaxy. NBA 2K has got their MyCareer down to a science, allowing you to play out the season and decide where you want to play, and what kinds of things you can say and do. The Journey still fills like scripted story, rather than an experience unique to every player. EA have to move on from the script and allow more freedom and fluidity to their Journey, if it’s going to be a longstanding mode for future FIFA titles.
2022: Improved player AI
From a gameplay perspective, there is a lot FIFA gets wrong as much as it gets right. While it feels crisp and sharp, at the same time the player AI is a massive let down especially in FIFA 18. From an attacking perspective, too often players make the wrong runs at the wrong times, either not getting themselves into space for a pass, not spreading out and creating space, or not running in behind the defence and taking advantage of pace. In defence, full backs have a horrid time keeping up with fast wingers, and the centre backs can never seem to track runs, make worthy interceptions or close any gaps in the defence. Even midfielders, an area of the pitch that needs to run like clockwork, is shambolic in the game, as CDMs especially simply do not sit back and protect the team as they should. If modern military shooters can create AI that replicates the complexities of real life soldiers and warfare, then EA can most definitely program their AI to reflect the tactics and tendencies of real footballers.
2023: Overall improvements to the core gameplay
Regardless of the features, the modes and the presentation, it still has to play well and feel smooth. It can be said that if EA focused on the gameplay as much as they focused on the presentation, it’d be an amazing game to play, but they haven’t and it shows, especially in FIFA 18. A lot of people say it’s one of the worst to play, and not without reason. The passing is off, as players routinely are off balance forcing their passes to go wayward, they can never put the right amount of weight, either going too hard or too soft, and the defence especially is suspect, as they never can put serious pressure and can never make proper tackles, interceptions or smart decisions. The gameplay has been less about skill and more about luck, and whoever can abuse the exploits the most, such as easy angles to score, or easy methods such as finesse shots or headers. If EA don’t fix the core gameplay, they may finally lose customers to PES, whom for all its flaws, at least offers realistic gameplay that takes skill to master, rather than luck and random events.