About time, too...
FIFA 16 has taken a brilliant step by adding 12 international women's teams into the mix. Its a move that aligns FIFA games closer to what modern football is, rather than the corporate box-ticking the game can sometimes be. Unfortunately, theres still a long way to go before FIFA-the-game is an accurate representation of what football really is and not what the laughable Bond-esque villains who ru(i)n the game want to paint it as.
So, while adding women's teams is the best thing EA Sports has done in a long time - yes, even better than corner flag physics - there are some less impressive aspects of modern football that need addressing. Whether its the (ahem) 'banter' of Twitter, or ensuring the noble profession of diving is given its due reverence, here are some more tweaks EA need to make if were going to get the game football deserves.
Sideline the premiership fluff and give us Sunday league pub teams
Football might be called the beautiful game, but really its built on the hungover sweat of teams like The Red Lion Rovers and The Cross Hand Geezers. These teams have one genuinely good player and ten others who want him to pass to them. So, lets bin all the idolisation of current superstars. No more fawning over how good a job they did capturing the soulless abyss behind the eyes of pixel imposters.
Instead, lets celebrate the people who treat tackles like an invitation to commit GBH and reward themselves for a ten minute run out with a sausage roll and an ale. Because do we really need another year of the Premier League presentation in FIFA? Nah. Theres a team editor for the holdouts who absolutely need to have the correct team, while the rest of us can bask in football the way we usually play it.
Atmosphere that is deathly silent unless goals are scored
Get any game of FIFA going and the first thing youll hear is Jim Stelling blabbering on about the match. But then youll hear the roar of thousands as they cheer your gang on, every second of the game, never relenting in their vocal appreciation of whats unfurling. Even in the most turgid of 0-0s, especially when youre accidentally napping between tackles. If only it were anywhere near the truth.
This isnt to say that stadiums designed to hold a small nation's worth of people dont generate ear-ruiningly loud noises, its just they dont do it as often as FIFA suggests. Were here for realism, so someone needs to turn the crowd noise dial down from 11 to maybe 3 or 4 and ensure that only the biggest moments get the cheers they deserve. Nobody is leading a chorus of Who are ya? because youve put five passes together.
Reading tedious Twitter jokes about your team whenever you concede a goal
The Twitter population is so incredibly funny, with its lame jokes and hurried photoshops that really hammer home the fact that your team is getting scored on more times than your mum. I mean, technically that may be true (so where's the insult, really?) but it's an element of the game that FIFA the video game really hasn't included. It's in the game so why isn't it in the game?
In honour of this, FIFA 16 should round up the best of these 140 character tirades and have them flash on screen every time you concede goal. Playing as Arsenal and losing by a mile? What time is it? Five-past Szczesny LOL. Every goal conceded would bring a consuming sense of dread, knowing the Wilde-esque wit thats waiting for you. There could even be some cheat codes to unlock some Lineker/Morgan classics.
Constant poor refereeing, because how was that a foul you *&!*!
Despite the fact the world has landlords, traffic wardens and taxmen, Im yet to see a more hated profession than professional referees. These men and women are only trying to ensure a game of football doesnt devolve into a colour-coordinated brawl, yet theyre always wrong (except when the decision goes the way the fans want) and everyone hates them. However, in the FIFA games, theyre robo-eyed demigods, capable of sensing a minor infraction even when its physically impossible for them to see it.
That needs to be sacked off right away. If were going to indulge FIFAs obsession with using real names, then I want to see each referee being as consistent - or, rather, inconsistent as they are in real life. Dubious offsides, leg breaking tackles that arent noticed, and comical villainy that is ripped out of the pages of Marvel. Theres no greater pain in football than watching your team get robbed because of the ref who ate all the pies and now is the time to get the simulation right.
Giving the classic act of diving the respect it deserves
Diving is either a frowned upon evil or the figurative Liquid Snake of football depending on whether you support the team who are doing it. Its a part of the game that will never truly go away, because then pundits might actually have to talk about whats actually going on in a match. Whats surprising is that FIFA has never got out its moustache wax, given its upper-lip hair a good twirl and put a dedicated dive button in the game.
The rebellious PES does it, Sonys long-forgotten This Is Football series did it, maybe EA Sports just needs to loosen up, bend at the knees dramatically take a tumble into giving us the option to dive. Preferably with its arms flailing and a look on its face that suggests every bone in its body has just combusted. It would be worth it for the videos of sore losers being cheated out of a game alone.
Half-time Pie Queuing Minigame.
The greatest things football has given the population in ascending order: The genius of Lionel Messi; Goodison Park; the half-time pie. Overpriced and understocked, perfect in all weathers and the principal reason why people will wander off before the half-time whistle has even been blown. Yet, year after year, FIFA cruelly ignores the lukewarm joys of sinking Suarez like gnashers into a half-time pie.
Its easily rectifiable of course. All Im suggesting is that a real-time Kinect mini game replaces the current yawn-o-vision highlights. Said mini game should have you rubbing your hands trying to keep warm, moaning about the completely useless ref (with extra points for inventive profanity) and making exaggerated 'disappointed' gestures when you realise theyve sold out of all the pies. All in the comfort of your living room! Only once have you experienced something as soul-crushingly awful as losing out on a (fake) pie can you truly appreciate beating Leyton Orient 1-0 in the 89th minute.
More swearing than a Call of Duty round scripted by Tarantino
So why hasnt FIFA given us a taste of footballs universal language? Im not asking for commentators to swap their vocabulary with Ray Winstone, but the sanitized player reactions clearly need the occasional swear to really sell the idea that the game is bigger than life and death.
Fleecing you out of money every chance it gets
If you follow a football team, you and your wallet are acutely aware of just costly supporting them can be. Maybe you get this seasons kit and a ticket to one of their games. Then you realise that means no more food for the month. And if you want to go for an away trip? Well get ready for some non-essential organ harvesting...
Yep, EA needs to find a way of extracting the maximum amount of money once youve bought the game, something that will get you parting with your cash week in, week out... Hang on, sorry, I just realised Im describing Ultimate Team. As a hapless, recovering UT addict, I try my best not to think about, lest I whack another tenner on fake player cards. Fair play EA, youve been nailing this aspect of football for years. Well played. Let's exchange shirts and walk into the tunnel hand in hand.