Are yearly updates really worth it?


FIFA Soccer

After a decade of playing second fiddle to Konami's then-awesome Pro Evolution Soccer series, FIFA is back to being the game the UK GR office plays every lunchtime. But why? Surely it can't just be for the luxury of real player names? It's not. But let's look at the new features first.

Biggest changes over last year:

- Improved AI
- 360 degree dribbling
- 50 new improvements in management mode
- Erm…

Fortunately, it doesn't matter that the list of improvements is almost completely invisible when you're looking for bullet points to coo over on the box. It's all in the gameplay.

It's been a classic Roy of the Rovers-style turnaround. The game has come from several goals down to Pro Evolution Soccer to breaking level last year and then smashing home a wondergoal to take the lead. Where PES has faltered since moving to next-gen systems, FIFA has gone from strength to strength. And regardless of the updated player roster that used to carry sales despite underwhelming gameplay, everything here is an improvement over last year's effort making it a worthy game in its own right.

Above: FIFA 10's boxart. Walcott, Rooney and Lamps look mighty hungry

Improved ball physics, tighter dribbling control and the (nearly) completely fixed lofted through-ball defender spasm – it's getting much better. Not perfect, mind, but noticeably better with each new iteration. Hopefully FIFA 2011 will get rid of the pinball games in the penalty area and the way you can lose possession when your player leaps over a horror challenge. We're still certain there's scope for an even better game to come in, but until then, FIFA's king of the park.

Is it worth the upgrade? Absolutely. And if current form is anything to go by, FIFA 11 is going to be spectacular.


Smackdown vs RAW

This is another example of a once-great series run in to the ground with year after year of minimal progress. It's simply gone stale.

You could argue it's the opposition that's done it. After all, if you want violence, there's the Ultimate Fighting Championship to get under your nails. If you want to see the Divas in a bra and panties match, there's the better-looking Rumble Roses XX to ogle. And the fighting itself is deeper in pretty much any dedicated one-on-one fighter.

But that's not the problem, is it? It's this:

Biggest changes over last version:

- Story designer
- Clothes customisation
- Share customised characters online
- Customise your story and characters and share them online

User-generated content may well have been the buzzword(s) in console gaming over the last couple of years, but shouting about it as a game's biggest (only?) new feature doesn't bode well for the rest of the game. Mind you, who could resist this?

Above: What would you have him say? A: "Really? Did you throw it back?" or B: "I think your expectations are unrealistic". YOU decide!

Is it worth the upgrade? No. Or perhaps just this one time so you can create future updates yourself. You see, the character rosters in these games are almost always out of date even by the time the game hits the shelves due to the real life soap opera of drama and change, so the best character creation mode is desirable.

But don't expect anything major to change in the near future. The last ten years has taught us that, not to mention the average score for the game today is the same now as it was four years ago. Sigh...


So then...

What have we learned? Brands can lose their appeal through over-familiarity no matter how different the content is each time (just look at Need For Speed for proof of that). Publishers are damaging long-term brand reputation by milking their most-prized series for short-term gains (see Guitar Hero). The law of diminishing returns is well documented, so perhaps they'd do better in the long-run if some time was left between sequels so gamers really notice the difference when the genuinely new version finally comes along.

With broadband access now fairly commonplace and people familar with the idea of DLC, we see no reason why games shouldn't be given update patches to keep player rosters accurate and add new game modes if needed. Compared to making a whole new game, we'd imagine the cost/profit ratio is highly inviting for publishers.

Burnout Paradise's extra content (bar the Big Surf Island expansion) was all delivered for free, when it could easily have been a few hundred Microsoft Points. Would we have minded? Probably not. Especially if it meant our existing games are kept fresh for a few pennies instead of being made obsolete with a full-price purchase required every 12 months.

The publishers would be happy, the devs would have more time to craft a masterpiece and us gamers would have cheap, fresh content.

Makes sense to us. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

12 Jan, 2010

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  • Spybreak8 - January 15, 2010 5:59 a.m.

    Oh I forgot to mention, release the new game franchise in between your other succesful franchises in order to keep things fresh. We see this with Valve, Blizzard (bad example?), and Rockstar.
  • Spybreak8 - January 15, 2010 5:57 a.m.

    @nik41507 "The devs should take time on their games think about it our favorite developing studios are the ones who take time, and want to make a good game over profit And for anyone who played the original C&C games, I'm talking about Westwood" Amen brother, man I just have a sour taste in my mouth with EA's C&C games. On one hand I love C&C but on the other hand EA programmers and game design decision makers are sooo lazy! That's probably why I buy most of the C&C products for my PC, let the modding community fix it like they always do! Felt I should read this article because I just got done playing COD: WaW and NFS: Shift today and find both games enjoyable (helped I got em fairly good price as well). With the fact that all the other good games keep coming out I still haven't picked up FIFA10. I do have an old PES 360 game though.
  • GR_JustinTowell - January 14, 2010 9:31 a.m.

    @michaelmcc827: OK, just for you, replace it with: But alas, we still feel the pang of a most vexing yearning, causing us to perambulate with haste to the nearest vendor in order to procure the proceeding annual installment in a vicious, confounding and spiralling circle of monetary expenditure. Ad infinitum! Better?
  • kor2disturbed - January 14, 2010 5:39 a.m.

    I was done with the madden series by 07! 10 is my second favorite but nothing has topped 07. Also need for speed does not need updates. Hot pursuit 2 is and always will be my favorite. Shift was an interesting change but will never be as good as the classic. SHIFT can go fuck itself!
  • michaelmcc827 - January 14, 2010 4:16 a.m.

    Kind of irritating to have the vocabulary dumbed down for "us gamers", ie saying "to the point of nausea"...good article though. Where was Tony Hawk btw?
  • xenon - January 13, 2010 9:09 p.m.

    You should distinguish between actual yearly updates (Madden) and more of the same (COD). The second has much more of a right to exist, IMO. No one says there should be one football game, one basketball game etc for each console generation... Just go the Fight Night route and release a game when it's ready and when it's interesting, not when it's November.
  • garnsr - January 13, 2010 4:24 p.m.

    At what point do you decide that it's time to revamp a game, rather than just update rosters with DLC? Several people said every other year, but is that long enough? Could they get by for three or four years just updating the roster, then release a new game? That seems like a long time, only one or two games per generation (which would bring them in line with most other franchises, though.)
  • rxb - January 13, 2010 1:39 p.m.

    I love NFS Carbon, I thought it was a great NFS game.
  • Seabread - January 13, 2010 9:45 a.m.

    I've taken a stand in recent years and stopped buying annual iterations based (mostly) on the same 'facts' you've laid out here - FIFA being the main culprit. ok, EA have added some nice new things this year but i'd much rather have just had a live season update to keep my squads up to date. and even if this is available i couldn't use it properly 'cos they've shut down servers and i can't seem to play any of my friends online anymore. i'd even go as far as to update the squads myself (which i have done on more than one occasion) but it messes up the game eg. a suspended player in be-a-pro mode won't be available for selection again until the NEXT season. what gives?
  • Cwf2008 - January 13, 2010 5:02 a.m.

    @crumbdunky: No. And are yearly updates worth it? Well in the case of every game on this list, no. Not even MW2. Why? BECAUSE SPEC OPS SUCKED. If it had Nazi Zombies it would be a definite buy. As of now all those damn glitches are making it unbearable to play. But i do love running around with an RPG and noobtube so i play it...and its fun still
  • mentalityljs - January 13, 2010 4:35 a.m.

    Oh, and to answer the question in my opinion, no, yearly updates are DEFINATELY not worth it!
  • mentalityljs - January 13, 2010 4:28 a.m.

    With the constant and rapid advances in technology, i could understand how devs would want to push out games and sequels annually just to be on top of everything, graphically. Cuz let's face it, part of the reason we buy certain games is based off the way they look, and they know that. And unless there's a demo, or an unbiased website or mag that can cut past all the bullshit and give an honest review of the game, we'll never know how shitty it is until we buy it. With that said, i feel that if a particular game sells well (ie CoD4, MW2, L4D, HL2) and makes a hefty profit, then it should be the developers AND publishers duty to work together and agree that, instead of spending millions of dollars on new projects that could potentially flop, to work on more DLC, therfor keeping their customer base happy, THERfor ensuring future profits. But they MUST listen to the readers, they MUST listen to the reviews, or they'll end up like 3D Reals!
  • GrotesqueBurlesque - January 13, 2010 3:39 a.m.

    While the constant stream of new yearly updates being pushed out, we as a consumer have to remember that products such as those listed amongst many other will CONTINUE to be pushed out as long as we keep buying into them. So, the simple resolution, quit buying subpar sequels and developers will catch on.
  • Silvermech - January 13, 2010 2:07 a.m.

    Not enought people are hetting their ideas through. We need developers to have an open script week. Anybody with ideas, i recommend copywriting, can come and try to get them published.
  • Defguru7777 - January 13, 2010 1:15 a.m.

    What do you mean Halo's sequels are "pseudo-ish." It's only had two outside the main series, with one in development. And ODST was (despite your opinions on the price) an expansion pack. You have to wonder how much of the problem is the developers and how much responsibility lies on the publishers. I'm looking at you Activision (Call of Duty and Guitar Hero).
  • Lurkero - January 13, 2010 12:48 a.m.

    The least amount of time between sequels should be 2 years. At that point I have confidence that there will be significant quality and features put into the newer game. Anything more and I experience franchise fatigue.
  • nik41507 - January 13, 2010 12:22 a.m.

    The devs should take time on their games think about it our favorite developing studios are the ones who take time, and want to make a good game over profit And for anyone who played the original C&C games, I'm talking about Westwood
  • JackSkellingtonsSkin - January 12, 2010 11:13 p.m.

    If anyone played Ratchet & Clank this year they'll know that the game did nothing more than move the story forward. You'd think that Insomniac might improve the gameplay a bit, invest in an original idea, make the game a bit longer and realise that no one wants to play the game without Clank (additionaly no one really likes to play as Clank, although it did work in the first game.)
  • CARLINNIT - January 12, 2010 10:47 p.m.

    The good thing about FIFA recently is it's actually improved in terms of gameplay. It's not just team updates and new kits etc... it's a brand new game!
  • NinjaJamez - January 12, 2010 9:32 p.m.

    one every 2 years would be acceptable.... with some dlc obviously

Showing 1-20 of 28 comments

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