How can Fifa 2012 improve on its predecessor?
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How do you make the best...better?...
For years FIFA came runners up to the almighty Pro Evolution Soccer. It was a shock for EA as FIFA owned the rights to all the leagues, players, names etc, yet Pro continued to dominate the market. However, with FIFA 09 EA managed to equalise against the Konami giants, and finally in FIFA 10 and 11 they recorded back to back wins over its closest rivals, with FIFA 11 demonstrating the most perfected football game to date.
Now, year after year, we sit and ponder about the next instalment of FIFA. We question how it will remain the king of the sporting genre; we wonder if it will once again do justice to the beautiful game; and, more importantly, we day-dream about humiliating our mates and putting them in the fan-established 10 Club1.However, with FIFA 11 being as good as it was, one has to wonder how EA can improve FIFA 12 enough to justify fans spending another £40 on what is basically a re-imaged concept? So, rather than ponder, here are my suggestions on how EA could make me - and fellow FIFA fans - part with our hard-earned cash.
In FIFA 11, we were introduced to a revolutionary, realistic dribbling system that had never before graced the face of a football title. The adopted system allowed for 360° dribbling, making the release as close to real life as was physically possible. To put it into footballing terms, dribbling with Messi was now more fun than watching Chelsea spend £50 million on a Spanish striker who couldn’t score in Amsterdam. However, despite its 'revolutionary' status, there still remains room for improvement:
Improvement - One particularly annoying occurrence with the dribbling system was that - against defenders and goalkeepers - it was near impossible to beat them in a one-on-one scenario, unless of course you used outrageous trickery or had amazing pace. However, as the likes of Andy Reid and Craig Gardener have demonstrated, not all good dribblers are lightning quick. Therefore, in FIFA 12 one would hope that FIFA addresses this issue - after all, is there anything more humiliating between friends than to round the keeper in a one-on-one, before blasting your shot into an open net? I don't think so.
FIFA has always had the dominance of real club, player and stadium names, to the annoyance of Pro fans everywhere. In FIFA 11, they proved their licensing-dominance once more, providing even more depth in available leagues, player names and - most importantly - our choice of breathtaking arenas. However, while the choice was impressive, their generic effects were not.
Improvement - Improving the actual look of the stadiums will be difficult, therefore how about we finally get a bit of personalised atmosphere for the arenas. There would be nothing more atmospheric than taking your team into Anfield and hearing 35,000 Liverpudlians singing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’; or getting Iniesta to take a corner at the Bernabeu, only to see thousands of Madrid fans yelling abuse at the World Cup winning Spaniard. Failing that, how about a bit more passion during promotion? I know I would love to see thousands of Leeds United fans invading the pitch to celebrate their team's promotion. (What? A guy can dream.) That would be cool.
Buy, sell, manage - season mode is quite basic; but fair enough, we can hardly expect a Football Manager competitor can we? Either way, it does feel quite lacking, so what can FIFA do to improve upon this?
Improvement - It would be a lot more enjoyable if we had a sense of rivalry within the season. If you want to call Alex Ferguson a red faced t***, then that's what you should be able to do. Okay, maybe not as explicit as that, but you get the picture. Also, if it’s a North London derby, there should be more passion between the players - as the controller, you can kick away at the opposing contingency all you want (at your own risk), but it would be nice to get a bit of A.I. retaliation. A couple of scraps here, a misplaced boot there, who knows, maybe even a flying bicycle kick into the crowd - surprise us FIFA. Either way, the fact remains...nothing says a great derby more than having players sent off for violence.
Nothing is sweeter than scoring a 30 yard free kick in the last minute of a game and getting your goalscorer to run to the corner flag in order to pull of a flamboyant celebration, and FIFA lets us do this. Furthermore, for anyone who has been on the end of the "the brick" celebration, you will know full well just how frustrating and irritating it is - at that exact moment, if your competitor was sat beside you, one could forgive you for throttling him to death.
Yet despite its vast improvement on previous instalments of the franchise, I still feel there is more to come.
Improvement - Introducing a method of celebration that is so good, it gets you into trouble. For example if you have just got Walcott to score a hat-trick against Croatia in a pivotal game for England, then surely the ability to jump into the crowd and celebrate with the fans is of the utmost importance? Fair enough, we know it could result in getting booked - and we understand that said booking may have consequences - but we would love to have the choice. Also, every week in the Premiership we see some guy taking his top off and swinging it round due to pure excitement. Does he care about the booking? Does he heck!
One of the many faults of previous FIFA games had been pre-determined shots. Players experienced very little freedom with shots - due to the limited number of striking options - and this ultimately drew more fans across to the Konami based Pro Evo series.
However in the last three instalments of FIFA, this problem has well and truly been given the red card. Users are now freer than the seagulls Cantona talked about, with full choice on which shot you want to take and which part of the goal you are aiming for. Unfortunately, a number of minor problems and poor decisions prevent perfection, so how EA improve on this?
Improvement - You've just produced an inch-perfect cross for Paul Scholes, and all he needs to do is to volley it into the back of the net. However, for some peculiar reason he has taken it on his head and produced a far-weaker header, one which is now comfortably residing in the keepers hands.
On the whole, shooting and heading are straight forward but, on a few rare occasions, the ball finds itself caught in the middle and FIFA decides to make the decision for you; usually being the wrong one. Thus, for those rare occasions, we should have the ability to chose our own destiny in how we strike the ball, as sometimes you just want to wait for it to drop before smacking the crap out of it.
The FIFA Lounge was - and EA are going to love me for this - a remarkable idea. Combining unlockables, achievements and the users love of free-for-all gaming, the Lounge allowed players to relax or have a quick mess around before their actual game. By giving us a large array of fun games and challenges, FIFA turned a small idea into a fantastic addition; one that left Pro a long way back. However, the lounge is a new concept - at a very early stage of its life - so there is still much that could be added to it...
Improvement – Ever since FIFA 1998, talk has been rampant between FIFA veterans in regards to the prospect of playing indoors in a five-a-side situation. The reason 98 has such a legacy behind it was because of the amazing World Cup you could play, and also the indoor tournaments that were made available. Picking the five best players for your indoor tournament was such a buzz, and the fact that the ball could only go out of play by scoring a goal made it as fast paced as Usain Bolt on Red Bull.
Unfortunately, the indoor mode disappeared in later additions of the franchise, much to the bemusement of fans and critics alike. Yet consider this - 98 was loved because of the indoor mode present within it. It had simple graphics, basic gameplay and a number of minor glitches, but fans loved it nevertheless. So, imagine the prospect of playing it on a next generation console; imagine five-a-siding it on a console as strong as the Playstation 3!
It is Andy Gray...and Martin Tyler...and it does a good job in reporting the game. However, with recent revelations (see below), one has to wonder whether the current formula will be used, or if FIFA will look towards a new alternative...
Improvement - The first issue we have with commentary is too whether or not Mr Andy ‘females belong in the kitchen’ Gray will be making an appearance on the game. His recent derogatory comments couldn’t have come at a worse time in regards to females becoming officials in men’s football, thus one would expect the 'speak now, think later' commentator to take his bow and step aside.
However, instead of replacing him with one person why not bring in a few new faces; it would be nice to have a bit of rotation with the commentary as it can get quite predictable and tedious at times. Yet I reckon, if we were to ask fans and football enthusiasts alike who they would like commentating over their performances, it would be safe to say that one 'Chris Kamara' would be a popular choice for many. The guy is as entertaining as he is humorous, so why not?
Due to the issues experienced in previous additions, much focus was placed on goalkeeper A.I in FIFA 11, in the hopes of improving their consistency and removing those ridiculous mistakes they were prone on making.
As such, there has been a notable improvement on goalkeeper A.I. - in regards to their awareness, ability to deal with situations etc - and fans are generally happy with the end result. However, perfection is still a significant mile off, so what else can they do to improve on this?
Improvement - With outfield players, you get a certain realism that allows you to identify the strengths and weaknesses of said player. However, when we apply this principle to goalkeepers it differs by quite some margin.
Goalkeepers seem to lack any personality in the game, thus it would be better if we had goalkeepers that followed their real life counterparts. For example, someone like Pepe Reina is always sharp on his toes, eccentric and is eager to distribute the ball as quickly and effectively as possible, but we don’t see this in FIFA. Petr Cech - on the other hand - is very calm, secure and steady, so it would be nice to see these attributes coming through in the game. That way, we could identify our goalkeepers strengths and use them to our advantage - after all, a good goalkeeper is pivotal to success.
Saying that, it might be an idea to make some goalkeepers as generic - A.I.-wise - as possible. If not, playing as Tottenham would be almost impossible...with the ultimate butter fingers Heurelho Gomes between the posts.
Lower league player attributes
Maybe its just me, but any player featuring in a league outside the top flight tend to be a bit generic. Why is it that Theo Walcott's attributes are perfectly representative of his pace, yet the likes of Craig Mackail-Smith from Peterborough United is given the sort of speed usually accredited with Andy Reid? So, with FIFA 12 on the horizon, what can be done to change this?
Improvement - Just because a player plays for a team in the Championship, doesn’t mean he can’t be as quick as a Premiership player. The attributes seem to be very loosely based on the actual player when in a lower league, so it would be nice to see an improvement in FIFA 12 . Understandably, EA don’t want to have it that someone like Sanchez Watt - who is currently on loan at Leeds United - can run past John Terry freely purely as a result of his pace, and as such you can understand why they would look to make him slower in the game. However, with the technological advances to consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PS3, one has to assume that there is a way round this without diversifying too much from the truth. If a lower league player is as fast as Theo Walcott in real life, then this should remain the same on the game. Simple.
Skipping Cut Scenes
On the Playstation, you have the option of pressing ‘X’ to skip a replay or cut scene but, if rushed, it leads you to passing the ball from either the goalkeeper or the player, an action that may - and has, in my case - led to a poor corner, a free kick that goes straight to the opposition, or simple goal from a goal kick.
Improvement - Simply make it that ‘X’ - or its 360 equivalent - doesn’t skip replays. Instead, why not use a ambiguous button such as ‘Select’ - or even a directional button - so that any issues, such as the ones mentioned above, become a thing of the past?
1. The FIFA ten club is a fan-based institution, aimed at fully humiliating one's opponent. If one player scores ten goals or more, the other must write a public letter of apology for wasting their opponents time, thus ensuring further humiliation to their ten-nil defeat.
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