EA have tossed realism out of the window for this year’s FIFA. And why not? Football’s started to get on our nerves lately, so it’s great to see all semblance of ‘accurate simulation’ given the boot in favour of a lightning-paced, thrill-a-second arcade goal-fest. The game looks great, it’s enormous fun to play and despite our previous concerns, there’s a mass of stuff to occupy you.
The main mode is Battle for Glory, which is a little like Manager mode from previous seasons but without the protracted transfer negotiations, securing of sponsorship deals and so on. You can play as whoever you like from the myriad official leagues from around the globe. (We couldn’t be bothered to count them all, but rest assured: you name it, they’ve got it covered. Australia’s Hyundai A-League is in there, for example.) We plumped to take the job at the Championship’s Plymouth Argyle and found a fully integrated league and cup campaign to tackle, with the promise of promotion/threat of relegation at the end of the season.
As manager you’ll still pick the team, choose the formation (tactics and positional settings are minimal) and dabble in the transfer market (which is nice and simple) but the main job is offering up pre-match predictions to the media. Before kick-off you’ll be given three choices, each with a points value that will add to your team’s stats in the next game should it prove to come true. You might declare that you’ll win by three goals to earn two points, or up the ante by saying you’ll net five goals without reply to get five points. Obviously, it’s up to you to make the prediction a reality by your actions on the pitch.
So then, six games into our campaign and we’d scored two points and only narrowly got past Rochdale in the first round of the League Cup. Rochdale! This was on the medium difficulty setting; those cartoony visuals don’t mean that the game’s a piece of cake. Opposition defences are tough to break down and you’ll have to work hard to keep yours from being breached. Anyway, we switched over to the easy setting – purely for the purpose of taking some exciting screenshots for this review, you understand – and found life a lot simpler. ‘Beating Manchester City 8-0 in the Cup Final’ simpler, actually.
Goals. That’s what this game is about, lots of lovely goals. In fact, you could call it a celebration of goals, and specifically the more outrageous Goal of the Month type of goal – the 30-yard screamer, the bicycle kick from the edge of the area, the diving header and so on. While you can still play an attractive passing game, looking to pry open defences with neat interplay, you’d just as well shoot it whenever there’s a sight of goal, as shots are more or less always on target, and if the ’keeper makes a save there’ll probably be a rebound to compete for.
There’s a range of fancy effects when shooting that exaggerate the action. As you waggle the remote to shoot (or use the pointer and click A if you’re on the All-Play set-up rather than the remote-and-Nunchuk system), the game briefly slows the action down… then unleashes it again complete with screen-shaking and a vapour-trailing ball. It’s decidedly silly and tremendous fun. Like we said, it’s a celebration of goals, and goals are why we love football (or don’t, when our teams can’t seem to score any).
Away from Battle for Glory there are single competitions to play in, be it the Premiership, La Liga, The FA Cup or dozens of others from around the globe. Hit the Pitch allows you to play a single game or a ‘best of’ series between two teams, ideal for playing with a mate, or three mates if you fancy some co-op play (which is a feature of all game modes). There’s also versus online play, too, which worked well in our online playtest with the devs.
Cynics and snobs might label this a footy game for people who don’t like footy games. And while they might have a point, what with the relatively simple nature of much of the game from the shooting to the managing, it’s missing the point. The game has been reworked so that enjoyment and spectacle are top of the agenda, not overly fussy realism or exploitation of the Wii’s capabilities. Great stuff.
Oct 13, 2009