FIFA11 and the pressing concern

The Treble is over for me in PES6(360). After losing all three of my opening European Championship group games, I had to win the remaining fixtures to stand any chance of progressing. Game 4 was against Inter. I lost 0-2, and it was a pretty miserable performance all round.

At least I’m still top of the league and I’m 1-0 up after the first leg of the D1 Cup quarter-final. So the Double is still on. But it’s the Treble I want, and I’ll have to get it to feel any sense of closure with PES6(360). I’m disappointed—and time is fast running out in the current game year. I should be able to squeeze in another season or two of PES6(360) before the end (Dwarf Fortress willing).

At this time of the year a lot of my football gaming activity is related to the imminent new games. I always have something to say about them, and it’s always necessarily personal and opinionated. I’ve railed against my own pseudo-journalism on this blog—which was conceived as a regular diary of my football games playing—but I can’t help indulging myself every now and then. Particularly every August and September.

FIFA11 has received a fearful kicking over the past few days. At the time of writing (Thursday evening), the forums are still boiling over. It’s all based on a  couple of dodgy videos filmed on the Gamescom floor on Wednesday.

You can’t tell anything about the most important part of a football game—how it feels, to play, in your hands—from videos, no matter how good or bad. But FIFA11 looks ridiculously fast, which is worrying enough. More worrying still is the clear evidence in several videos that next-gen FIFA’s most unattractive feature, the dreaded double-sprint-pressure clamp, is still in the game.

In next-gen FIFA, sprint-clamping has gradually been turned up to the max. Turned up to 11, you might say. It is so extraordinarily, unbelievably, shamefully effective. By this stage the ‘technique’ is so widely known and generally despised that its continued presence in the FIFA series can only be a deliberate, conscious choice on the  part of EA.

“If you don’t like it, don’t do it.” This argument has never, ever washed with me. Whether it’s super-sprinting in PES2008 or double-sprint-pressuring in FIFAs 09 and 10, if something is in the game, it’s in the game, as EA themselves would say.

And I’m speaking just as an offline, 1p vs CPU player of football games. I never play online. When I moan about sprint-pressuring, I’m moaning about myself. I’m the one who uses it in all my games. Knowing it’s there, I have to use it.

Sprint-clamping will be the death of next-gen FIFA as a serious football game in the long run unless Something Is Done. Feeble tokenistic gestures—tweaking this or that variable to mitigate the effect by a few fractions of a percentage point—are not good enough. The whole damn mechanic needs to be got rid of, or reduced in effectiveness so much that it’s only effective 10% of the time, say—instead of 90% of the time, as it is now.

God knows what online players must have to put up with. I did play a few matches of FIFA10 online, way back at the start of the footy game year. My random opponents might as well have glued down their sprint, tackle, and secondary pressure buttons.

Having said all that, I’m not too worried about FIFA11. Over the course of this year it’s become plain that I’ve moved away from FIFA and back towards PES. The reason? Master League 2010. That’s the reason.

So I don’t anticipate myself playing FIFA11 for longer than a few weeks at either end of the upcoming 2010-2011 game year. I am greatly looking forward to giving myself wholly over to Master League in PES2011. (What could possibly go wrong…?)

But I don’t want to see a great football game—which next-gen FIFA is, despite its problems—progressively ruined by corporate timidity. I agree with the most common theory prevalent on the FIFA forums: EA are terrified of losing the kiddie crowd.

We have now come through 3 years of next-gen FIFA. Have EA really not noticed that an awful lot of people play their game with their fingers clamped on three buttons? That that’s literally all they do, just waiting to get the ball back? And that the most common end-result is a midfield wrestling match with occasional outbreaks of football?

PES isn’t innocent. Some passages of play in the PES2011 vids are truly alarming. Whenever I’ve played PES online, the problem exists there too.

The FIFA forums have been in ferment for a few days and show no sign of settling down. Ahhh, but they will settle down… FIFA11 will likely come out in much the same condition as FIFA10. It’ll  be a bit too fast for my taste even on Slow, and performing a Vulcan death grip on the controller will win me back the ball 90% of the time.

That’s fine. As I showed last year and the year before, I’m capable of getting a lot out of such a game. But is this really what FIFA’s future looked like in the heady days of FIFA08, when the much-maligned old footy franchise swaggered back onto the scene? It didn’t look this way to me.

Updated: 20th August 2010 — 11:18


  1. It does amuse me how fickle we footy gamers are, we swing from post to post (pardon the pun), one week vbying for the side of the FIFA clan, the other week wholeheartedly defending PES to the core…. all this of course ramped up to infinity when August/September rolls around and the new yearly offerings are on the horizon.
    The joys of being a blog owner/blogger/journalistic artisté/footy fan … (Delete as appropriate) come to the fore in your latest post. Clearly you’ve taken the Pro Evo side on the great footy battlefield before you’ve had chance to fully asses each sides army.
    As a regular listener to the EA FIFA podcasts, the marketing and promo bandwagon for FIFA 11 is in full swing, comparing the 2 would make FIFA look like a red carpet Flagship Cinema previewing compared to PES11’s bargain bucket in lidl DVD release, but the content of FIFA’s unveiling i agree, could have been alot more sparkly.

    Ive seen various vids of both titles, i was underwhelmed by the FIFA 11 gameplay, whilst all the new things they have added with a revitalised career mode, custom creation center etc all whet my appetite, whereas Pro Evo has looked stunning, then shoddy, then average then same old PES then good again…. im confused by it!
    Of course Master Leage mode is a genuine reason to fork out £40 every year without question but theres only so long a title can reflect on its past history… Im a Liverpool supporter, we are STILL the most successful team in britain, despite not winning our domestic title for 20 years….. basking in the past ya see ….. *man utd fans often tell us to stop living off the past*

    I think its unfair to tarnish FIFA with its sprint clamp tactics, you said it yourself, its YOU that does it, you can also Drink and drive… but you dont do you, so you DONT HAVE to sprint clamp!
    I now play FIFA Fully manual all the way and there is no clamping going on, just good careful positioning,. blocking passing channels off and closing the space down forcing the CPU into mistakes… you know, real football like they play on the telly!

    Id argue every day that FIFA is the better game in every aspect, kits, animations, game engine, execution, there is just one factor it lags behind on compared to PES, a slightly Huge factor… Immersion!!
    PES will be there again this year with ML but will the huge gfx, gameplay, animation engines be good enough to carry it another year, or will FIFA finally get some authenticity and longevity into its career mode and snatch an extra time winner!?!

  2. Paul – I’m pretty much 50/50 and have to say that releasing a BETA to test the online manager mode is a masterstroke by Konami. Even if they lack the flashy presentation skills of EA, releasing an early version of the game to the public (who can release info as they see fit) shows confidence in the product that is hardly shared by EA in terms of their new career mode. We have the same old PR voicepiece from EA simming seasons and refusing to answer pertinent questions regarding bugs that have been hanging round Manager Mode like a bad stink for years. To use your metaphor, EA are behaving a bit like a studio trying to keep an obviously sub-par movie from the reviewers until release day.
    As I say, I am on the fence, FIFA’s gameplay has been much better than PES’s this last 3 years but their singleplayer modes much, much weaker to the point of being nothing short of ameuturish last year. If ‘career mode’ is more of the same and PES’ gameplay improves, EA could find their market share reduced alarmingly

  3. Paul—quite right, I’ve been a true blogger with this post (I’d go with blogger as a label), but as I say in paragraph 3 I don’t really like this kind of post myself and tend to spit out one or two at this time of year every year. For the record after I finished off this post last night I came across loads of posts in a PES2011 Beta test thread on EvoWeb criticising that game for precisely the same problem, i.e. sprint-clamping.

    And it’s also true that I’ve gradually pulled back from having a foot in both camps at the start of this year. FIFA10 has been a curious beast for me. Great gameplay, but the worst single-player experience in next-gen FIFA so far. The pressure has been building and building all year. I’m not committing to PES2011 by any means. I don’t see anybody’s preference of football game as an ideological position that needs defending.

    I agree with your final statement about FIFA, it is technically the best game in every aspect except that one crucial aspect that has kept me glued to PES, in some form, for most of this game year. Immersion. Involvement. The compulsion to load up and play. For all its great qualities I’ve rarely felt that with FIFA10.

  4. Not much to add mate, totally agree 100% with all you said Chris.
    However, I think Konami are being shrewd by touting their ‘Online Master League’ as such!
    Its not master league as you know it, online against thousands of other real life opponents, its basically a rip off of FIFA’s Ultimate Team mode and draped in the Master League name.

  5. Chris—I’m more or less 60/40 on the PES/FIFA equation right now. Last year I’d have put myself 40/60. As has become abundantly clear on this blog over time, I’m not so much a football gamer as a football game career mode gamer. The difference is crucial and informs everything I say.

    I’m not too impressed at all with what I’m hearing about MLO now, four days into its test. PES2011 will stand or fall for me with how it plays in single-player. Fortunately we already know that Master League offline will be brilliant as it was last year. If they mess that up I’ll go properly mental about it!

  6. The best improvement for master league this year is that we can once again negotiate ourselves without having to use the scout. It got frustrating missing out on a good player without being able to offer a shedload more cash!

  7. “My suggestion to everyone that wants the beta really bad: DM Jon Murphy about it on Twitter. There are only a few people in the beta really, no more than 100 at least on Xbox360. 900 people missing!”

    As read from WENB’s site. Might be worth a try not-Greg!

  8. Ken—I’ve only just seen your comment (my comment filter holds for moderation everything that mentions WENB; if you had a PES-related website, you’d do the same, believe me*shudders*).

    I’m AFK right now and forgotten my Twitter details anyway, but as soon as I can I’ll try it.

  9. Liam—Is that confirmed? I was okay with the Scout-based transfer system in 2010, but yes, it will be nice to get back to ‘proper’ bidding again.

  10. but I can’t help indulging myself every now and then. Particularly every August and September.

    August and September are for hand-wringing about what may come, October and November are for glorying in it, December and January are for realizing that nothing is perfect.

    To everything, there is a season . . .

    More worrying still is the clear evidence in several videos that next-gen FIFA’s most unattractive feature, the dreaded double-sprint-pressure clamp, is still in the game.

    If a technique works in the game, it’s the developer’s fault. It happens sometimes that developers will introduce an unexpected advantage in the game (an exploit), but sprint-clamping does not qualify for this category, as it’s been a major player in football gaming since . . . since I was thin, single and childless.

    This isn’t a new problem, or anything the developers could claim is taking them by surprise. The fact remains that gamers (like real-life football managers) prefer to win, and anything the developers are aware of that remains in the game and increases your chances to win is by default a feature rather than a bug.

    That said, you called it — we’ll all need to have a go at the demo before judging FIFA 11. Myself, I’m simply hoping that it will fill the gap between its release and PES 2011. 😉

    To be honest, I hope that “Personality+” transforms Manager Mode into Master League, because I’d love more than anything to have two challenging, immersive career modes this year. Most likely, I’ll only get one, and if I was a betting man, I’d put my money on PES, but FIFA has been good enough the last few years to convince me to take a $60.00 runner each Fall . . . maybe this is the year it delivers goal variety and player individuality to go with the luscious graphics and licenses.

  11. ck—FIFA’s variety of goals is one aspect of the conundrum that I feel okay about. Headers, yes, are still as thin on the ground as hair is on my head, but I do get some, and I score enough of my beloved long- and medium-rangers to keep me happy too. There’s a mention of this issue in tomorrow’s post along with a short video of a few goals I’ve scored in FIFA10 this weekend.

    As for the rest of the package, I’ve grudgingly come to share the default view of many a PES aficionado that the overall feel of the game isn’t satisfying enough, and in my case I trace this back to the lack of a Master League-a-like mode.

    Sprint-clamping is a beast, ten times the beast it is and always has been in PES. The introduction of a good stamina model would go a long way to solving it in both games. Why it hasn’t happened yet has got to be because neither EA nor Konami want it to happen.

    I’m also looking toward PES2011 to see me through the coming year. To that end, yes, poor old FIFA11 no matter how good may well just be a stopgap for a few weeks. If Career Mode is any good, though, it’ll have time to get its hooks into me.

  12. Why it hasn’t happened yet has got to be because neither EA nor Konami want it to happen.

    Totally my point. This has been an annoyance for multiple generations on both titles, and nobody’s seriously addressed it. In a few weeks, we’ll have in our hot little hands a FIFA where you can play the freaking keeper, but sprint-clamping is still the best way to defend. The developers can’t claim they’ve been taken by surprise, it’s just a priority somewhere below the ability to play a game where you touch the ball 3 times during a match.

    Le sigh.

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