I think I’ve been a FIFA fan since the very beginning, I can’t remember which one was my first I ever picked up but I clearly remember putting far too many hours into FIFA 96 and I’ve made sure to get my hands on every version since.
Last year I was a little disappointed with the game not kicking on and reaching the heights I expected,but in the end it got a solid 8.4 and was still technically the best FIFA released.
And now for the first time ever in a FIFA game EA Sports have included a single player story-based campaign mode where you take the reins of Alex Hunter and move up from the academy to become a superstar in world football. Well that’s the spin you get told but the reality isn’t quite as good as it sounds.
My normal FIFA experience is to crack open the game and instantly enter into the single player seasons mode with my beloved Liverpool. I normally take them through 2 seasons and win the Champions League before entering the multiplayer modes and being brought back to reality with a cold, hard thump.
I’m not the best FIFA player by any stretch but I can hold my own and it’s the one game I go back to all year long until the next one is released. This year though I was more excited to get my hands on the new campaign and man oh man did I love it. The first 7 hours was amazing and I truly felt like I was this bright-eyed, up and coming superstar and was destined for greatness.
You get to show off your skills and see your ranking in the manager’s eyes increase while upping all of your personal stats. When you’ve trained enough your agent (who your grandad hates for no apparent reason) comes to you with a bunch of offers from clubs.
Now even though I’m a massive Liverpool fan I knew I wasn’t good enough for their team yet so I chose to join Middelsborough (MFC) to get some match time with the goal of then moving to Liverpool when the offers came in.
The first few games for MFC were good fun, I was being brought on as a substitute because I hadn’t ranked high enough yet and they had certain challenges they wanted me to meet. I played the entire Journey in player mode where you get ranked on how good your runs are, when you call for passes and which passes you choose to make.
It’s awesome seeing that real time ranking change with feedback on what the game thought you did wrong and … and well that’s where it all started falling apart really.
In the beginning I just thought I was making the wrong passing decisions or calls but after I had put in 10 hours or so I started noticing that the game wasn’t really sure what it was doing. I’d call for a nice through-ball and the player would decide against it, then dribble for a bit then turn around and then decide to try pass it. Obviously by this time I’ve moved into a new open space but he’s passing it to where I was and I’m getting punished for a bad call.
The same thing happens with passing where I pass a through-ball and the guy decides to not run for it and I get punished again. In the end I managed to keep my player ranking high enough to proceed by not trying anything clever at all. Just do short straight passing again and again to boost my ranking before I stop calling for the ball and let my team mates score.
It’s boring, but what was even worse than that was the knowledge that The Journey was entirely scripted. No matter how well you play it follows the same path of you being left out the team so the boss can speak to you about going on loan at a lower club. Then no matter how you do there you get called back up to the premier league and eventually into the England squad while your old friend now hates you and your old enemy is now your friend.