FIFA has existed since 1993, when it debuted with FIFA International Soccer. During the years that followed the series has been through many ups and downs, and it was only in 2008, with the launch of FIFA 09, that the series managed to find its footing firmly and consistently. FIFA had finally beaten PES both in terms of quality and sales, and EA seemed well on its way to a strong start in the new generation, but that's not what we're seeing. After a promising debut on new-gen platforms with FIFA 14, EA Sports has seen decline with FIFA 15 and FIFA 16. And we're not the only ones saying this, just check other media scores or fan feedback. These two games are the lowest rated FIFAs since 08.
The situation is even more serious for FIFA if we consider that the consensus on Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 is a very positive one, although the game also had its fair share of problems. While we hope that PES will also continue to grow, we believe there is still hope for EA Sports' football simulator, and we decided to identify five changes that can reverse the situation and the series back on top if they're addressed in FIFA 17 (assuming, of course, that EA Sports makes another game in the series).
1) Adjusted Difficulty
FIFA, and virtually all football games, try to offer a challenge for all levels of players, but there is always some criticism that the game might be too easy, even on the hardest difficulty. That has changed. FIFA 16 on the higher difficulties can be a very difficult game, and in that sense EA Sports has fulfilled its purpose. Unfortunately, not necessarily in a good way.
The difficulty of FIFA 16 seems to affect all teams equally, regardless of the value of their players. Worse, it seems to be governed by outside forces, such as morale, match importance, and pure luck. This means you can have a 'easy' match with an opponent of equal strength, and then suffer at the hands of a much weaker team. This does not make any sense. Sure, it can happen in real life, but it should be the exception, not the rule. In our opinion, FIFA needs a "realistic" difficulty. One difficulty in which player attributes really are the decisive force, not external factors.
A match with a weaker team should almost always be easier than a game with a team of the same value or superior, than yours. Yes, there are other elements that can influence the performance of the teams, such as morale, but it should never be a bigger influence than the team stats or even the player's ability and skills.
2) Balance between realism and fun
EA Sports' goal with FIFA is to make it the most realistic football simulation ever, but the last games may have gone too far, particularly in terms of gameplay and AI. The introduction of different ball receptions (sometimes really clumsy), somewhat random shooting directions, and dribbling based on inertia, may have made the game more realistic, but also made it more frustrating and random. Luck and other non-player factors are too important in the current game and should be reduced. EA needs to give the player more control.
Another big change came with the artificial intelligence, which now seeks to win games at all costs, including practicing some non-fairplay measures, like circulating the ball in defence, wasting time. The problem is that, even if you try to press high, it is very difficult to get the ball back, because almost all AI teams act like they have 100% accuracy when passing. If the AI is winning near the end, it will even run across the field to the corner flag, waiting for the player to challenge for the ball (good luck with that). This happens in real life, we all know that, that's bad enough, so at least keep this frustrating part of the game off of our virtual fields. When the game stops being fun and starts being frustrating in the name of realism, something is not right. Oh, and good luck having more ball possession than the AI team, no matter how good or bad they are. Pursuing the ball for more than half the game is not fun.
3) Polished gameplay
In order to announce new features with nice buzz words, EA tends to introduce new features every year, and it usually causes more problems. Instead of new ball controls and changes to the controls, what FIFA 17 really needs is polish. There are still too many physics errors, bad collision issues, and poor animations that need to be fixed, and that should take priority over anything else.
We understand that this may not have the same media impact for the marketing department, but that's what FIFA needs. Polished and finely tuned gameplay. This is about extracting the most fun and enjoyment from a product that shows glimmers of world class potential.
4) Improved Career mode
Every year EA adds new features to FIFA's career mode, and the last edition was no exception. Among the new feature highlights were the weekly training sessions and pre-season tournaments. We liked these additions and they add to the feel of it being a manager simulation, but there's a lot that can still be improved.
The career mode has been stagnant for too long and needs a serious shake-up. The introduction of new features is not enough, the mode needs a complete overhaul. We don't expect FIFA to go all Football Manager, but there's a lot it can do to become more dynamic and fun, especially throughout the year, not just during transfers months.
The scouts and the entire youth system also needs to be renewed, because at this point it is practically useless. And finally, the artificial intelligence in the management of clubs must be improved. Although competent during the first years, after three or four seasons you can see a decrease in the quality of the biggest teams, this being due to poor management.
5) Renewed Ultimate Team Mode
Ultimate Team Mode is the goose that lays golden eggs for EA Sports, and every year it raises trucks full of money from the card packs that players buy with real money. The mode itself gets new features every year, but has not changed that much since the first time it appeared, and we believe it can become something much better.
For starters, we reckon there are too many types of cards available, and the experience could be slightly streamlined. All injuries should be cured with one single card, and there should be only one quality of contracts, for example. We also think there's too many Team of the Week, and the Season, and the Year (etc) type cards. We believe that a reduction in the type of cards could make the game more enjoyable for all.
Ultimate Team Mode also needs a major renovation in the mode structure in terms of competitions. The cups and leagues should become more dynamic and more appealing to competitive players. The current format is simply a little dull and isn't much better than a competition created by the player. Finally, we would like to see a change in the amount of coins that players receive in every game, because at this point it doesn't always properly reward players for their efforts.
Don't get us wrong, FIFA 16 is a decent football game, but it is clearly in need of some improvements. Hopefully this year will truly mark a return to form and we'll get a proper new-gen game, even if EA needs to leave the last gen behind. In fact, that's when FIFA truly became great on PS3/360, when EA dropped full support for the PS2 and Xbox era consoles. Perhaps that's what needs to happen again.
All screens are from FIFA 16
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