Football games have always been a big part of my life, as I’m sure I’ve said before on many a blog post and game review. What I loved about the old games was the fun you could have with a friend. You could play all sorts of teams, try out different formations and players. On PES you could build your Master League in your own time and then face off against your friends. And what I just remembered yesterday, you could edit and play around with the World XI teams (One of the old PES games let you choose your team before every game, which was fantastic fun) again creating Barcelona like teams that make every other team pale in comparison.

Now let’s fast forward to yesterday where Scott and I were playing our ritualistic three games of FIFA. Only three games because one of us always gets annoyed with the game. He goes Classic XI and I go Current World XI. His team boasts greats like Pelé, Cantona, Maradona… no wait, there’s no Maradona (I think this is due to image rights). But that’s nothing when compared to my team, I have Lampard and Berbatov, for crying out loud. Both great players but why are they first team players and not the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Forlan, Torres(ignoring his current form), Robben , Pato amongst many others. Even worse is the fact that there is only five reserve players and two of them had stats in the mid seventies. I would go back and check but apparently the squad changes on every load and I have no idea why. No problem, right? Let’s just change it up and add our own players. Only no, you can’t even edit the team.

This lack of control is my main problem with FIFA 11. It occurs throughout the entire game, small picky details that niggle and frustrate and over time can lead to ruining your experience with the game. Formation screens are the worst, favouring their traditional clunky, slow and just ugly design. I could put up with this but it’s the editing of the player positions that are just horrible. Play a central midfielder who excels in real life in a holding role in FIFA and their stats will drop. Flick to the formation edit screen and you can nudge him two fucking millimetres forward and suddenly he’s good again. Only you can’t just use that formation, you have to save it, which you cannot name, it just sits there among all the other minor adjustments that you’ve done.

The actual football is good, we all know that, apart from one thing, something that Scott and I call “The Jip”. The Jip rears its ugly head when the game decides that you need to be playing worse, to make the game more tense or something. Suddenly your passes will start going astray. Your players will not connect to through balls, running the wrong way or stopping without any reason. Your opponent will be able to tackle you with ease, stripping you of the ball with little to no effort. I know this sounds like the ravings of a sore loser but we’ve played a lot of FIFA and this has been getting worse through the last three instalments.

The Jip usually signifies the end of our fun and so we often switch to arsing around and tackling each other off the ball, shooting from anywhere on the pitch, going mazy runs with the goalkeeper etc. FIFA handles this well, even helping in the fun thanks to its ridiculously calamitous physics engine. Yet it still stops you from doing what you want, like playing your goalkeeper outfield, allowing Gerrard to don the gloves. Editing a formation that plays everyone upfront, only you can’t as you MUST HAVE one defender back.

I’ve put up with it for too long, and what sickens me is I always award them high scores as when they come out as they appear brilliant improvements, only through time the honeymoon ends and outcome the comfort pants and the mortgage payments. So, EA, please make your game more open ended, less linear and confined, and bring back the fun to football.



Link To The Pass

So far this year I have reviewed both Tiger Woods 11 and Madden 11. Both I praised, giving them positive and glowing reviews respectively. Both I was enjoying – and still am, technically – playing through their individual career modes.

But now I find myself reviewing NHL 11 and starting yet another career – and that’s before I even get FIFA 11 and PES 11. I know in advance, no matter how much care I garner for my created ice-thug, that he will be left to die of hypothermia in the save file of neglect.

It’s not out of choice. I don’t go, “nope, had enough of you” and throw it into a dusty corner of the room. There’s just always something else coming out, something else to distract me, to review, to play until my eyes leak. I miss the days of my youth where I would play the same Master League on PES for about 7 seasons, constantly upgrading and replacing.

It’s not like I don’t have the time, I think I need to concentrate on just one. Focus on taking the Packers to the Superbowl, putting the time in, instead of pissing about on the golf course when I should be on the training field.

It’s different with shooters. Give me an average to amazing multiplayer game and you won’t see me for weeks, months even. But they lack the true grind of a good manager mode. Sure, they have ranks and leaderboards to keep you fragging, but they don’t touch the almost RPG like grind of the good-old-days of PES.

There is a connection between sports games and RPG’s – faint, yes, but it’s there. RPG’s have the epic stories and great battles but so do these sport games, only you crate your own. The boss battles take the from of promotion games and Champion League finals. Meeting and falling in love with new characters is akin to picking up an unknown star on the transfer market and turning him into the next doomed box-art star.

I look back at the stars of Geroge Street United and they shine in the same light as Barret and “the boy” from Secret of Mana.  I just need to recreate these times, invest a little bit of myself into these teams, get that bond back.

Or maybe I just have more of a life than I did in my teens.