Month: July 2016

Mabbutt’s head

The above video shows the latest in a long line of memorable moments that I’m enjoying in FIFA16. Every session brings something that makes me go ‘wow’ and sit up and take notice.

Tudgay – strangely ineffective in recent matches (more on that below) – pops up at the end of a high, looping cross to bury a diving header into the net.

I’ve got a strangely stubborn memory of Gary Mabbutt specialising in scoring goals like this in the same way that Stuart Pearce was noted for his free kicks and Matt Le Tissier was adored for his bending, swerving, dipping volleys and half-volleys.

There’s plenty of video evidence on YouTube of messrs Pearce and Le Tissier scoring their signature goals, but none that I can find of Mabbutt scoring his diving headers. I must have imagined it, along with everything else in the world.

In the league I’m floating between top spot and 6th spot. I’m past the mid-season window, where I didn’t buy anyone. I did get Rashford on loan from Man Utd, but in FIFA16 he’s just a very average, before-he-was-famous Youth player who’s no better than my existing League 1 strikers.

Incidentally, how bloody irritating is Deadline Day when you’re not interested in buying anyone? Very irritating indeed. Impatiently pressing again and again to get through the day hour by hour is just pointless. It needs a ‘skip to end of day’ option. Maybe there’s one there that I’ve missed.

I think I’ll definitely finish somewhere in the promotion slots at the season’s end – but it’s not straightforward. The game has taken note of my greyhound-style start to the season and is starting to muck me around now.

I’ve been playing career modes in football games for a lot of years and I have come to be very familiar with how they work. How they work is that they must artificially handicap the human player from time to time.

I’m not just talking about in-match scripting here. I’m talking about the wider, macro-scripting of a league season. The designers of these modes don’t want the human player either to run away with the league or fall so far behind that the remainder of the season is meaningless. And so they put in an auto-balancing thing that I call macro-scripting. I’d do exactly the same thing, in their shoes.

So if the game registers the fact that you’re scoring too many goals or winning too many matches, you will soon mysteriously run into sticky mud. Suddenly, for no real reason, you won’t be ‘allowed’ to score so many goals and you will struggle to win matches.

Which is of course ‘realistic’. Every team goes on indifferent little runs at times throughout a season of matches. In our beloved football games, though, this sort of thing is plainly hard-coded behind the scenes. Scoring goals and winning matches automatically brings on the handicap, sooner or later.

In memory of Professor Arturo

FIFA16 season 1 after 20

Anyone having a private wager on how soon it’ll be before my annual announcement that I’ve scuttled back to Pro Evo can tear up betting slips that say ‘Tuesday the twelfth’. I’m still going strong. It looks like FIFA16 will get another post at least.

I had a very interesting couple of sessions on the Operation Sports sliders.

I’m firmly against sliders, on the whole — well, apart from one in particular — and have manfully resisted their lure ever since their first appearance a few editions of FIFA ago.

Even if you alight on a completely satisfactory set of sliders, how long before the game throws an iffy match or session your way? Which it definitely will do, eventually. What then? The temptation to tinker is just too great, and before you know it you’re spending more time being anxious about your sliders than playing the game. I want to play my football games, not play with them.

But as so often happens I saw a comment in passing on a forum that piqued my interest, and I tried the Operation Sports settings.

Very interesting. At times, inspired.

For a session, I thought I’d found my spiritual footy gaming home. The next session wasn’t so great. Lots of comical moments of players miscontrolling, and a few sterile goalless draws. Also, speaking here as a football gamer who absolutely loves shooting (otherwise what’s the point?) the nerfing of shooting wasn’t very welcome. When I started getting PES2012-style ‘wrong-side shooting’, I decided it was time to go back to vanilla FIFA16.

Sliders fans (of which I really am one!) will tell me that each tried-and-tested set of settings is best experienced on a particular match length and difficulty. The Operation Sports sliders are intended for 10/15-minute halves, on Legendary. I played on my customary 5-minute halves, on Professional.

So it wasn’t a fair test. If I had the time, I would certainly embark on a 10-minute-half/Legendary experiment.

But there is no time. Suddenly we’re just a few bare weeks away from the holy month of PES2017. This is not the time to be diving deep.

In FIFA16 I see enough great play and interesting moments (as above) to make this a more than worthwhile use of my gaming time. But please do note that I reserve the right to change direction at any time.

One of the ethics of the blog that I have cleaved to from the start is that I don’t do anything for the sake of the blog. By which I mean, I never think ‘Oh, I need to play X, Y, or Z now, because that’s what I’m doing on the blog.’

No way. The blog is about my football gaming. My football gaming is never about the blog. That’s why I’ve traditionally never stuck with FIFA in the summer months. I don’t consider it to be my duty to ‘cover’ FIFA. I’m not a football game blogger in any way, shape, or form. I’m a blogging football gamer. There’s a difference, and it’s huge.

I go on, plugging away with Coventry City in League 1 in Career Mode on FIFA16, and bloody enjoying it. If the point comes where I’m not, I go back to PES, and that’s that. No big drama.

But if I was a betting man, and I am, I’d bet that I’ll play FIFA16 for a few weeks yet.

FIFA16 settles in

I loved how this goal felt with my hands on the controller, guiding it to fruition.

As with any football game, you’ve got to give this one time. You’ve got to give it two long sessions, three, four sessions. Only then can you even begin to take the measure of its quality. I speak, of course, of FIFA16. The game that does now look as if it will occupy the bulk of my time between now and September.

Ultimate Team didn’t last much longer than Game 1 of the Starter Cup or whatever it’s called. I’ll be interested in Ultimate Team when they introduce a Master League-like, single-player, full-on campaign mode.

At the moment, Ultimate Team is froth. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of froth, but I like my football gaming to have more substance to it.

I’ve never got Ultimate Team. There have been some years when I’ve really given it a good go. One year — FIFA13, I think — I even had the trading app installed on my phone, and amused myself being an Ultimate Team tycoon while sitting on the bus, and that sort of thing.

I bet there are plenty of folk out there getting as much joy from Ultimate Team as I get from Master League, and this is all monstrously unfair of me. But this is how it is. Goodbye for another year, Ultimate Team.

I’m playing Career Mode.

FIFA16 season 1 after 10

I don’t like FIFA’s way of displaying league tables. The columns are much wider than they have any need to be. I don’t know about anyone else, but my eye doesn’t easily track horizontally along all that width. To check how many points any given team are on, I have to ‘anchor’ my view solidly on that team’s name, and then keep a mental finger on the screen whilst moving across to the points column. A rare example of a FIFA presentation misstep, in my view.

I’ve played 10 League matches now in my fledgling Coventry City FC Career Mode. I nearly walked away from this too. What snagged my attention was my discovery of the mode’s custom player development feature, something that’s been absent from PES for far too long.

FIFA16 player development

Every week you get training ‘sessions’ that you can choose to fill (or ignore if you like) with a player or players of your choosing, whom you then get to train in particular categories. Shooting, Passing, Defending, Goalkeeping, etc. If you like to do the training yourself, you get taken to a mini-game similar to the ones before the matches. Or you can choose to sim all training. I’m currently doing both as the mood takes me.

I’ve kept the difficulty on Professional. I believe I will get promotion to The Championship fairly straightforwardly, then I’ll move up to World Class. I think there’s time for 2-3 seasons of FIFA16 before we enter the holy month of September.

Bittersweet FIFA16

FIFA16 UT early doorsI’ve brought my wanderings between different football games to an end. I’ve settled on FIFA16 as my current regular game.

Every year at around this time, I ‘give FIFA a go’. Every year, with one or two exceptions, I beat a hasty retreat to some flavour of Pro Evo.

We shall see.

I’m currently working on the compilation video of me talking over commenters’ suggested football games. Now that I’ve chosen to do them all-in-one, it’ll take me a few weeks to make it a good ‘un, which I want to do. I’ve captured the footage of a few already, and have some ideas of how to fit them all together into one harmonious whole. It’ll be ready in a week or two’s time, I think.

In the meantime, there’s football gaming to be done.

FIFA16 early doors

I’ve played a bit of Career Mode and a bit of Ultimate Team. I don’t see the point of Ultimate Team. It needs to be a full-on Master League clone, but EA clearly don’t want it to be. They’ve got Career Mode for that.

I played a bit more of my flegdling season as Coventry City in Career Mode. I don’t think I have an appetite for this whole laboured routine at the moment. After 9 seasons of PES2016 and 11 seasons of PES2014, I’m not very excited at the thought of transfer windows and squad building. I think I’ll keep that powder dry for PES2017 – just 2 months away now, let us remember.

I fancy some basic footy gaming action. It’ll either be Ultimate Team (played completely offline) or a League Mode.

I’ve been playing FIFA16 for a few days. It’s good. I’ve put together a short video showing two moments from PES2016 followed by three moments from FIFA16:

See that relentless, churning, frenetic pace in PES2016? And the slower, more considered one in FIFA16? I know which flavour I prefer.

PES2016 tried to be a fast-flowing, arcade-style football game, and succeeded. Responsiveness is the new rock and roll, as we all know. Responsiveness fans certainly got what they wanted in PES2016.

PES2016 post-match

FIFA16 tried to be more of a heavy, rugged, sim-like, Pro Evo-style experience – and succeeded too well. The FIFA16 you play now is not the FIFA16 that came out last year. It’s been patched, diluted. But the game’s original character is still there, as its palpably slower, more measured gameplay indicates.

Whatever, whatever. There are many people – some no doubt reading this – for whom any talk of FIFA potentially being as good as, or even better than, Pro Evo, is automatic heresy.

It’s still too early in my FIFA16 exploits for me to delve into much detail. And in truth, I don’t think I will go into much detail in whatever mode I end up playing. I’ll keep it all at a bird’s-eye view.

General thoughts about FIFA16, even this early: there’s very little player individuality to speak of. Some of the big stars do stand out. Everybody else is much of a muchness, really. Just like PES2016.

I played the opening match of the Ultimate Team mode – as pictured at the top of the post – which allows you to take control of an All-Star team.

Pogba and Ibrahimovic sort-of stood out. The rest of the players on the pitch, on both sides, could easily have been exactly the same player and I would never have noticed a blind bit of difference between them. This is FIFA-style player individuality. It’s expected.

It grieves me that PES has adopted this FIFA-style individuality model.

In recent days I’ve played quite a few older Pro Evos. The individuality on display puts to shame everything we’ve seen in recent years.

One single match on PES3 with the Defaults – Castolo, Ordaz, Dodo, Vorlander & co. – had more individual spark about it than any football game since 2014.

There was a moment that I’ll be including in the talky compilation video, when Castolo takes a high ball on his instep, turns, and side-foots a shot in one motion that was so Castolo (PES3-era) that it nearly made me sob.

This lack of player individuality is one of the giant turds in the punchbowl of football gaming post-PES2014. (An era-ending football game if ever there was one.)

We know that everything is about online multiplayer. We know that football games today are made with contemporary teenagers uppermost in mind. Kids who weren’t even born when PES started.

Online, people can barely tolerate it if you look at a menu for a few seconds.They definitely cannot stand controlling players who might be slow, who might take heavy touches, who might be easily shrugged off the ball, who might only be brilliant sometimes, etc., etc.

That sort of player individuality was the cornerstone of great football gaming for two decades, and I miss it.

I wonder how the last few weeks of wandering the pathways of a bygone age will affect my time on FIFA16 – and after it, PES2017?

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