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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  • Eenieboy - January 12, 2010 5:15 p.m.

    I'd say you should only get buy a game each year if you REALLY do enjoy them quite vigorously and play them a lot. My opinion is now over
  • Bossco - January 12, 2010 5:58 p.m.

    I wish develpoers would spend more time coming up with original game ideas rather than churning out endless updates.
  • OmNomRomRearghNergh - January 12, 2010 6:07 p.m.

    The DLC instead of sequels would work so lovely. Valve has proved that. But of course, money > logic.
  • breener96 - January 12, 2010 6:08 p.m.

    And this is why I stopped buying FIFA/PES and Wrestling games every year! I just don't see it as worth it.
  • teke367 - January 12, 2010 7:03 p.m.

    Games like COD aren't that big of a problem, assuming the story (single player) progresses or is new altogether, but if you're really only getting updated online action, then it's a waste. I remember years ago, seeing a PC football game that professed to not need to be re-released every year. I don't think it was DLC (too early for that), but that each year there would be a $5 upgrade available (I'm guessing at the price). I thought that was a great idea, considering that only the rosters changed. Not sure if because it wasn't on a console, orif it wasn't Madden, but obviously that didn't take.
  • revrock - January 12, 2010 7:25 p.m.

    I thought Madden 10 actually lost a lot this year (no hot route selection on the fly, you can't highlight a new "main receiver' before the snap, no option to do the "blocking mini-game" on a run play, and I actually liked the player icons they were using until this year). But what about NHL 10???? Wasn't EA bragging about it being the "Orange Box" of sports games before it's release? It is hardly discernible from NHL 09. but the best and worst offender has to be the MLB "The Show" franchise... don't get me wrong, I love the graphical and gameplay upgrades (EA could learn much from this) but they did away with the King of the Diamond mode and most importantly the free hat for purchasing the game!
  • crumbdunky - January 12, 2010 9:07 p.m.

    Here's an idea for Acti and treyarch making next years (oh, well this years then) COD worth getting and easily improving the online by changing just one simple thing:Pkill the P2P nonsense and give us ALL dedicted servers and while at it allow console gamers to cook and bring over PC mods like we can with UT3. And while you're at it get Valve and MS to ensure the same so L4D on 360 iss finally something like as good as it cheaper(how?why?oh the humanity)PC brother. This is why I know better than kotick and IW put together:I care about the amount of online issues you all get! And I don't like being limited to 9V9 and hammered by the lad fairies when games like Warhawk allowed me to rid myself of more lag by having dedicateds on PS3 in 2007-and, fyi, that one isn't the worlds best selling shooter ever(TM)now is it? Not that I'm not a fan of Warhawk(I am -it's great)but, y'know, MW2 really needed them to move ahead of COD4 in any meaningful way but the penny pinchrs that IW have become don't care how crappy your online experience is as long as those evil PC gamers don't ge the chance to, gasp, play their game for longer by tweaking it in imaginative ways thereby meaning even more would play for longer providing a market for your own DLC maps and modes. I've long said that Maddens and fifa and PES should only remake the game proper every two years(by law!) and on the off year just sell a DLC(or even on disc )patch to update the little changes and team rosters. This would be cheaper for the gamer and mean EA/Konami would have longer to work on the next proper game and could feel a lot better about not ripping us all off so badly in the process of the yearly BS. Everyone wins.
  • Yeager1122 - January 12, 2010 9:30 p.m.

    ^LONGGGGGGGGGG but anyway i agree to a point that they shouldnt come out once a year it really depends on how long the franchise has been out.
  • NinjaJamez - January 12, 2010 9:32 p.m.

    one every 2 years would be acceptable.... with some dlc obviously
  • 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!
  • 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.)
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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!
  • 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
  • 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?

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