FIFA continues to lose form

Aro Majumder

Let’s face it, for the last few years FIFA has basically recycled the same video game. The physics may improve slightly, and there may be a few more obscure leagues, but the overall feel has grown stale. In addition, Electronic Arts doesn’t respect the player feedback which makes it difficult to continue playing the franchise.

Gameplay is the most important aspect of any sports video game. It lays a groundwork for the success of the product, and this is where FIFA has a fundamental problem. Although overhauls are not expected on a year-to-year basis, every new edition should be moving towards more realism. For a product sold as a simulation of soccer, the players don’t seem to accurately reflect real-life actions. The ever-present bugs are also a huge problem. Matches can be ruined by one bug that leads to a bad goal, and most online players can recall a time when inopportune lag frustrated them.

Pro Evolution Soccer, made by the Japanese company Konami, magnifies these issues even further. It doesn’t have the same licensing prowess of FIFA nor the budget to compete, but over the years it has polished its gameplay to perfection. Passing requires a delicate touch, and speed is not the only factor while attacking. Playmakers deep in the midfield take a central role, much like in real life, and the wonderful moment when you create the perfect through-ball cannot be matched.

PES especially shines in the variety of ways to play and the vast array of tactics available. Players can create strategies that fit their style and the managerial battles become exponentially more intricate. Defense can become a prominent force in determining the outcome of games, and sitting deep defensively becomes a viable option unlike in FIFA where pace and attacking play rule the day. The new “fluid formation” tactic also adds a whole new dimension. Now the Artificial Intelligence on your team will move seamlessly from defense to offense and even have the capability to change formations on the fly when in possession and when not in possession.

That’s not to say that FIFA is a bad game. The full licensing and stunning graphics continue to set higher standards, and players are treated with many game modes to choose from. However, this is not enough to please a true fan of the beautiful game. While it’s nice to look at from a distance, and the casual gameplay is easy to get into, it lacks that finishing touch. Consumers want a product that emulates what a real soccer match is like. The AI as a whole is poor and defenders seem absolutely clueless in certain situations. Lobbed through-balls seem too powerful and a slower passing game is almost non-existent. Whereas PES takes the time to try and emulate different teams’ strategies, FIFA appears to be locked into a one-track mind.

The attention to these fine details is what separates a good game from a great game. Yes, FIFA does hold licensing and the presentation is unparalleled, but until it moves past petty gimmicks such as including a handful of women’s national teams, EA will not be able to please the countless players who want to see change. If and when it does listen to the feedback, FIFA will undoubtedly become a clear number one. However, until that day, it is tough to say with any certainty whether FIFA is worth buying over PES.