I started my Coventry City Manager Mode career on the PlayStation3 way back on October 6th. That was only about 3 weeks ago but already it feels like another age. FIFA09 had just come out and everything was still shiny-bright and sparkly-new. PES2009 was still in the future and I hoped for great things.
I’ve remarked once or twice on the blog that FIFA09 (for all its faults) is roughly in the same ballpark where I imagined PES would be playing by now. There are many areas where FIFA09 falls short. Extended playing time has shown me that there are some areas where it becomes seriously unsatisfying. I’ll get to them over the next few days (chaotic, farcical, midfield ping-pong, anyone?). But none of the issues make FIFA09 a bad game, in my current view.
And so to Manager Mode… It just cannot compare to Master League. This is what I keep coming back to. EA have spent all this time and money catching up with—and smoothly overtaking—PES on the gameplay front, but on the game modes front they’re still a good way behind. I don’t count online, simply because I personally never play online (or so rarely that I might as well never). One of the FIFA2010 team’s top priorities has surely got to be providing OFFLINE gamers (the silent majority) with a career mode to match this all-new FIFA’s vaulting ambition.
My Coventry City career, begun all those weeks ago in another age, got off to a good start. I won two of my first three games, and then went on a spell of drawing loads of games. This roughly coincided with my switch to a mixture of semi-manual and assisted controls. I wasn’t worried about holding steady in mid-table, as I was doing. The club’s board expectations were simple: avoid relegation. That was all. With a fairly decent squad, that was a pretty easily achievable aim. At least I was probably safe from any threat of the sack (so I thought).
Regular readers will know that I’ve spent time since on the Xbox360 version of the game, playing online and completing a memorable season with Atletico Madrid in a Spanish Manager Mode career. I returned to the PS3 and Coventry City just a few days ago.
And I’m in trouble.
I can’t buy a result at the moment. I’m only a few places from the foot of the table. I’m just over two-thirds of the way through the season and my record is something like won 5, drawn 9, lost 11.
I’m conceding stupid goals, and scoring none back. My players are decent but I can’t consistently create chances. The chances I do create, I miss. I’ve had many occasions to wonder if I could go back to Assisted shooting. (No, I can never go back now. It’d feel all wrong.)
I’m playing on Professional difficulty, the same level I played on with Atletico, using the same controls scheme. Yet it feels like a different game. This is all to the good—FIFA09 has finally buried the long-standing criticism that all its teams and players feel much the same. There’s a gulf between the best teams and players at least as wide as on PES. The feel is just different. You know when you’ve got a good player on the ball, and when you’ve got a donkey, and all the gradations in between.
Here’s a clip that will interest anyone who has yet to sample FIFA09. This year, the CPU has quite a few extra tricks in its locker. Not the least of which is a sudden, devastating long ball up to a lone forward, giving him a one-on-one with your keeper. All too many times, I’ve had a rush of blood and charged my keeper out, when I should just leave him at home and at least make the CPU score past him. I’ve actually conceded goals almost exactly like this one on about five separate occasions: