Month: February 2013

Diego Anton must score!

A moment from Tuesday

It looks like this is finally the year. The year where my quick February look at FIFA turns into a longer, rest-of-the-year look. It was always going to happen one year.

If Tuesday’s obsession with beating the Team of the Week is anything to go by, I’m hooked.

FIFA13 has rolled up and snatched me away. I’m shaping up to be like Donald Sutherland, seen reacting here as he meets the last PES player on Earth.

I spent my entire session playing the same match over and over. My team of modest Silvers, against the FIFA Ultimate Team Team of the Week, on World Class difficulty.

That’s the clincher: World Class difficulty. The early stages on Ultimate Team using the default difficulty settings are not competitive at all. Turn up, press some buttons, win some Coins, rinse, repeat. Yawn.

Changing difficulty changes the whole game. Some of these matches, I didn’t even have a shot. I never got close to actually winning any of them.

I played them eight times, lost seven times, and drew the eighth. I scored two goals in eight. By late last night, no Coins were being awarded for any of the matches. Presumably the TotW expires or is limited in some way.

My favourite ball

Okay, so playing one-off match over and over inside a concept mode is a very long way from the rigours of Master League.

But right now, I feel like doing what I’m doing and nothing else.

I ran out of Contracts a few matches into my assault at the Team of the Week. I scurried back to the main UT menu and spent all my Coins on new Contracts. 350 for four Silvers, and a couple of Bronzes at 150. I was like a slot machine addict. I restored my team to its tip-top shape, and got stuck in again.

And still couldn’t win. I soon ran out of contracts again, but couldn’t stand the thought of wasting five minutes going back and getting some more.

So I dug down into the depths of my Club, snatching up some players who’ve never played a minute for me.

‘C’ Team players. Any nationality, any formation. “Can you play? You’re in!”

This is the near-the-bottom-of-the-barrel team that I sent out to play against the Team of the Week on World Class difficulty:

Emergency UT team

That RM hasn’t had a game for me since the very first day of Ultmate Team. Called out of retirement with a few buddies, what did he do for me?

My Chemistry dropped to about 55, and it showed.

This was the soundest thrashing you ever did see. The CPU didn’t just beat me. It totally whupped me. Possession was the only thing I ‘won’ in this match:

TotW tale of the tape

Ultimate Team incentivises you to keep playing properly right to the end of every match, as it awards bonus Coins for goals, and deducts Coins the more goals you concede.

TotW shots against me

Check the heatmap of the two teams’ shots—the blue dots are my shots, the green ones are the AI’s.

What strikes me about the FIFA13 AI is how prone it is to trying decent potshots from range, as well as the tippy-tappy-turny stuff from close in.

I did have some opportunities that I worked around the box, but they always seemed to break down at the last.

So back I went for more contracts. I locked down all my top players with Contracts, but had to pick a Bronze no-name, Diego Anton, at CF. Decent pace, but not much else going for him.

Nearly the hero

This time I defended so determinedly that you could have used my jaw as a ruler to draw straight lines with.

0-0 it was, and 0-0 it looked like ending. There’s no extra time or penalties in the TotW challenge. You either win in 90 minutes, or you don’t.

In the last seconds of added-on time, that striker-for-a-day, Diego Anton, burst into space on the edge of the box with the ball.

I love the right-stick in FIFA, and tapped it twice to knock the ball out of his feet and get away from the covering defender. This was the moment. The chance for me to finally win the match I’d gone all Moby Dick about. The chance for Diego Anton to become a club legend instantly. Diego Anton must score!

I gave up after that. Maybe I’ll beat the next Team of the Week. In the meantime, I’ve got a Season to complete, and Division 2 to head for.

Ultimate play the game

Saadi FIFA13

Over the weekend I had a great couple of sessions with FIFA13 and Ultimate Team, probably my best time with a FIFA game since the days of FIFA09. History suggests a return to PES, tail between my legs, around about now—two weeks with FIFA being my average over the past few years. Doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. Not yet anyway.

The emptiness I alluded to in Friday’s post has been filled. The game has come alive. It’s gone from feeling like a bit of fun and a nice rest from Master League, to feeling like a serious football game with serious credentials.

It all started when I decided to play the Team of the Week on World Class difficulty. The prospect of a 600 Coins bonus looked too good to miss.

It was one of the best single football computer games I’ve ever played.

The TotW swept over me in exactly the way I wanted them to. I resisted for a while, learning a great secret about Tactical Defending: it’s all about the containment. Charging into the opposition and taking the ball from them isn’t the ‘right’ thing to do. It’s just what we’ve become used to from PES.

I was doing quite well, I thought, when I went 0-1 down to a goal that was rifled in on the break.

Against all odds I brought things back to 1-1 on 70 minutes. I had a half-chance that the keeper fumbled into the path of another striker. (The FIFA13 keepers, good as they otherwise are, fumble the ball a bit too much for my liking.) I took the ball wide, and slotted it home with the keeper scrambling to make up the ground. It looked great, and felt wonderful—my first punch-the-air moment of Ultimate Team.

There are so many touches that make FIFA13 good game. Nudging a CPU player as he’s trying to trap the ball near the touchline, so he runs it out for a throw-in. The keeper releasing the ball INSTANTLY, and being able to control the direction and power of his throw. I even like conceding penalties where I don’t know what they’re for. You can get them for you too. (I have handball turned on in the options.)

I conceded a dodgy penalty that I was fuming about, because I couldn’t see what I’d done wrong. My player jumped with their player, and if anything the foul should have gone my way, and…

Anyway, I ended up conceding another one while pushing for a faint hope of an equaliser. Bang went my 600 Coins bonus.

More than anything, what I took from this match was that FIFA13 is at its most formidable as a football game on World Class and (hopefully) above. Professional is a good game, but not as good.

Perhaps this is the stage I’ve never got to in previous years. I wanted to try Ultimate Team in part to give myself this different experience of FIFA, to let the gameplay sink in.

I’ve also found a camera setting I love. I had been playing with a sort of PS2-era PES-type of camera—remember, the camera panning (1-9!) one where it’s rooted near the halfway line—but the angles made the passing all weird, and prone to break down too easily due to my error.

I now play with the Tele camera. Height: 5. Zoom: 0.

Here are some weekend goals, all scored ‘only’ on Professional difficulty. My favourite first:

The second one was sweetly hit—you really feel that in FIFA13, when you hit it just so. The striker there is Saadi, one of my old Bronze strikers who was only playing because I’d run out of contracts cards for my main striker. That goal won him a place in my Ultimate Team that he still has. Yep, the individuals are starting to emerge. This thing is really starting to take off now.

Revengeance is a dish best served cold

My UT Feb 21st

A couple of Gold players have arrived. I’ve slotted the players into my formation’s dedicated CM positions, despite them being a CAM and CDM. I took the minor hit to my team chemistry of 1%.

Sometime over the weekend I will prise open the box of a massive new game for me: the new Metal Gear game, Revengeance. This is a big deal. Imagine if PES only published a new game every 5 years or so. Imagine how big a deal each new PES game would be. That’s how big of a deal this is for me.

I actually didn’t really like the Revengeance demo, but a new Metal Gear game (even if it seems to be just an action game set in the same universe, with Raiden) is a must-play for me. I may be the only MGS fan in the world who doesn’t hate Raiden…

But I’ll carry on playing FIFA13 in-between-times. The game’s got its hooks into me now.

Bruno at CDMThe CDM, Bruno, is a proper strongman enforcer type. His shooting power belies his low rating of 61. I think his strength feeds into his shooting and he plays above his stats. As a PES player I’m always looking for FIFA to show me player individuality. Bruno is one of a good number of players whose presence (and absence) I really notice.

The 4-3-1-2 formation is starting to bother me. There aren’t enough players in the middle of the park where they’re most needed most of the time.

FIFA rewards the Latin model of methodical, patient passing. I need midfield passers, and lots of them. If I had my time again I’d go 4-5-1. There’s no reason why I can’t construct a 4-5-1 team in another slot (or even dismantle this team and rebuild here), but I want to take this lot somewhere first.

I finally won a Professional level tournament after three attempts. The first two times, I was knocked out in the first round, by Barcelona B to begin with. Who played just like Barcelona. They thumped me 3-0. I think I had one good chance that I really had to work hard for.

I restarted, and met Deportivo La Coruna. Remember them, 1990s fans? They also dominated me, winning 2-0. Again I only made one good chance the whole game, and again it was one I had to sweat over.

Third time lucky. I stopped playing so carefree-and-easy. I went for patient passing, and borrowing one of my old PES approaches—clean sheet no matter what—saw me through to the final, where I beat Valencia 3-1 in a very satisfying match. I was 1-0 up. They pulled it back to 1-1 before half-time. I went 2-1 up soon after the break, and held on and held on, only getting the clinching third goal with a few minutes left. The relief was palpable.

This definitely isn’t PES, where the ol’ muscle memory knows exactly what works and what doesn’t. It’ll take a while for that to wear off, if ever.

And indeed, my automatic reliance on PES moves is contributing to the first ’empty’ kind of feeling that I’ve had about FIFA13.

It’s commonly said by PES players that FIFA just lacks something. I do feel a certain distance from the action at times, a disengagement, that just isn’t there in PES. It’d be dishonest of me to pretend that things are all rosy.

So… is this the start of my traditional annual cooling towards FIFA? Nah… Just reporting on something I’m occasionally feeling.

The overall feeling is still one of interested involvement. The best sign of which is that I’m seeking out the game, making time for it that I don’t really have, making sure I get a few matches in per day. The card auctioning system is a big draw. It’s something different from Master League.

But I think I will have to pay a visit to Career Mode sooner or later. I feel the need for that substantive banquet.

The Road

Opened a pack

Above is a very nice just-opened Bronze pack in FIFA13’s Ultimate Team, featuring a range of cards that will bring me profit. I’ll only keep the Contracts cards, and sell the rest. I might consider keeping a player if his formation preference matches my ‘B’ team’s formation, but otherwise: Quick Sell. The player training cards pretty much always sell for 150-200 apiece.

With the 100 bonus Coins on top, I made a tidy profit on the 400 Coins I spent.

In the matches themselves, the nursery levels are behind me. I’ve started playing the higher difficulty tournaments and leagues now. They start on Professional.

I’ve actually cooled on the trading and auctioning side. As long as I’ve got enough Contracts and Fitness cards to cover my team, I’m happy with playing and trying to build up my Coins stack for a nice Gold shopping spree at some point.

No more stupendous volleys to report, but I have gained more of an understanding of fitness and the cost of playing players game after game without regard for their condition.

Don’t do it. There’s a pre-match ritual before every PES match of checking the colour of the form arrows. Similarly in FIFA13—nudge the right-stick to the right, and check the number next to FIT. Anything below 70 is a red flag.

I discovered to my horror that I’ve regularly been playing players at 50 FIT and less. No wonder they were pulling up and signalling to the bench, or just feeling very sluggish and unresponsive.

And so I had a new quest to go with my eternal Contracts cards quest. Fitness cards that boost fitness by steps of 20 (Bronze), 40 (Silver), and 60(Gold).

And, well, I find them very hard to come by. It feels to me as if Fitness cards are the most hotly contested cards in the whole Trading system.

Bidding on fitness

The market here is ultra-competitive. Trying to buy a Fitness card for the starting bid price is next to an impossibility. The vultures are poised. When the auction reaches the last minute, new bids raise the price so much that, effectively, the Buy Now option is the only realistic one.

I never encounter this problem getting Contracts cards. You can pretty much always get them at the first bid price.

I imagine Fitness is such a big deal for actually playing the games that market forces dictate this kind of behaviour.

It’s all useful fodder for us fans of the post-apocalypse.

What can we infer that human behaviour might be like, when Ultimate Team playing cards are replaced by tinned baked beans and a cup of dirty water once the plague-carrying meteor slams us back to the Bronze Age? When the mutant Mad Max-style bikers are price-gouging, I’ll be able to say wisely, “I saw all this coming in a game once…”

I got knocked out of my first stab at a Professional Cup tournament. Barcelona B swarmed all over me. I was 0-2 down by half-time and just couldn’t get any action going.

I have to say my appetite for a fully-fledged Career Mode is being well and truly whetted by Ultimate Team. The gameplay seems very compelling. But I do prefer it with the ball than without.

Without the ball, the defending still feels a bit random with Tactical Defending. I  often feel that I’ve won the ball back by luck rather than skill. I’m still getting to grips with it.

With the ball, the game is masterful. At times the things that can be done take my breath away.

It’ll have to stand the test of a lot more time, of course. Two balmy weeks in February doth not a summer make.