Category: Career Mode

FIFA16 Twisting in the Wind

Season 1 of Career Mode in FIFA16, and I battled my way through to the League 1 Playoff Final at Wembley.

0-0 all the way through the 90 minutes and extra time. A typical game of modern professional football: mutual nullification, enlivened only by the idea of the match – i.e., what was at stake – rather than the football itself.

Penalties. My entire season, and the fate of FIFA16, comes down to this.

Here is the whole shootout – me in the blue and white stripes, needless to say. Martin Tyler and the ever-egregious Alan Smith are rooting for the home team, Chesterfield:

VICTORY!

And promotion to the Championship!

I found myself feeling very excited about what players I would bring in, and how I would cope on World Class difficulty.

I decided to advance to the start of the next season so I could begin my next play-session with a match.

The weeks ticked by. A performance review was coming, my messages said. I smiled. I got promotion! Howzat!

Then – THIS:

Terminated

I didn’t quite believe it. I read the email, and still didn’t quite believe it.

The Dreaded Email

I’ve gone back and replayed my last save a few times, thinking I might have to win the final match in 90 minutes rather than just draw it. I’ve done that, and got the same outcome each time.

Contract Terminated

Game Over.

No way back. I’ve Googled this, and it seems to be a Career Mode ‘thing’.

GAME OVER.

Thanks, FIFA.

What now?

Identity politics

FIFA16 Season 1 after 30

I’ve played another session since the above screenshot was taken, a session in which I had several ruinous draws and a defeat and slipped down to the bottom end of the playoff places.

Seasons in Career Mode are incredibly long, so there’s some way to go.

My target for FIFA16 is promotion at the first time of asking – hence keeping it on Professional. Which I would be doing anyway, as I’m not finding Professional easy at all. The low-quality players really ‘shine’ through. I’m having an old-school ML Default-type experience here in FIFA16 in Career Mode, and loving it.

Gameplay is sometimes rather stodgy, in a way that negatively reminds me of FIFA14, but that accounts for perhaps 5% of the overall experience. The remaining 95% is composed of really deep, really satisfying, really engrossing football gameplay.

Going 1-0 down in FIFA16 with a team of knackered League 1 players on the pitch, and then going down to 10 men, really poses a problem. ‘How on Earth am I going to get back into this match?’

In many other recent football games, that wouldn’t be a problem at all. Getting back into the match would just happen. It would happen so routinely that you’d barely even notice.

The watchwords of recent football games are ‘fun’ and ‘flowing’. Which simply isn’t what football games should be all about, but I’ve already flogged that horse to death repeatedly.

FIFA16 is also surprisingly deep tactically. Moving the ATT/DEF levels (to use PES-style nomenclature) up and down using the d-pad is, in FIFA16, the most effective I’ve ever seen in any football game,

Keeping it on Defensive, or lower, pins your full-backs in their own half, seeing them rarely stray beyond the halfway line.

Increase it just a notch towards the Attacking side and your full-backs go haring down the wings. If you then concede possession, the AI will seek to exploit the space left by the marauding full-backs. Football 101.

All-out Attack sees every player camped out in and around the opposition penalty box – which invites devastating counter-attacks from the AI.

I’ve been having tight, tense matches, usually decided by the odd goal, or no goals at all. It’s a high quality football gaming experience. FIFA15 was a superb game, and so is FIFA16, so much so that I believe anybody who thinks differently must have an agenda other than football gaming itself.

As late as the 1970s there were still Japanese soldiers in the wild who refused to acknowledge wartime surrender. Today there are still self-styled hardcore PES fans living in the depths of the jungle who refuse to acknowledge any value in FIFA. It’s all about identity, in my opinion. They want to express the kind of individual and group identity that ‘we’ used to have, way back in the day. Sadly, that identity pretty much died on the day PES2008 came out.

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.

Calling in on FIFA15

I’m officially done with the PES2016 demo. There are many who’ll play it for hours every day from now until release. But for me, after 20-odd matches, it’s served its purpose. PES2016 will be a good game.

For the record, I did finally draw a few fouls. Two in the same match. After about 15 matches. As for the rest of the matches — there were NONE at all for me, and I only managed to foul the AI a pitiful handful of times, even when trying my best to.

The PES2016 fouls situation seems so strange that I’ve decided it must be just because it’s a demo. The matches in the demo are Exhibition matches — friendlies.

Refs let things go in friendlies. It’s got to be something like that. There’s no other reasonable explanation.

It isn’t possible that anybody on the PES development team actually thinks no-fouls football is a good idea. Is it? It’s not possible. Is it?

Whatever — a month from now, we shall see. All I’ll say now is that if this turns out to be the final fouling model for the full game, it’ll do well to last long. There’s a threshold of credibility that no football game can afford to drop beneath. A football game completely devoid of fouls and free kicks would be like one without corners and throw-ins. It couldn’t be taken seriously.

Yesterday morning I fired up FIFA15 for the first time in a while.

It was back in June when I last played this game — just one match, out of idle curiosity, that I recall switching off after failing to engage with.

I was still playing PES2015 at the time. Truly, when it comes to football gaming there is no mixing possible. You have to play one and not the other. There can be no ‘just popping onto the other game for a quick go’. It doesn’t happen, or if it does, it doesn’t happen for long.

This week I rediscovered my FIFA15 team — Coventry City, natch — sitting mid-table in the Premier League in April of Season 6 in Career Mode.

FIFA15 CM Season 6 after 34

Yes, that’s Season SIX.

It’s worth remembering that PES2015 wasn’t released until the end of November last year, over two months after FIFA15 made its appearance. In those two months I played over 5 seasons of Career Mode. And had a great time, mostly.

This blog was on its extended hiatus back then. If it had been going, I’d have been waxing lyrical about FIFA15.

FIFA15 CM Season 6 Squad

That’s not exactly a stellar lineup for a Season 6 team, is it? By PES2015 standards, that’s not even a starting Default team.

But I still know all the players. Jarstein in midfield is a Youth player whom I’ve nurtured and seen become a first-team regular over three seasons.

I played two matches. First on the difficulty that I found it set at, World Class.

Away to Arsenal, I lost 1-0 and didn’t really enjoy the match. The gameplay was much too pacy and frantic.

I was, of course, trying to play like PES, and trying to replicate my preferred PES moves. Most significantly, I was trying to hold sprint almost all the time when defending, and too often when attacking.

Second match, I bumped the difficulty down to Professional, and laid off sprint, and things were much better.

Home against Swansea — here is the first goal of the match, in a 1-minute clip featuring the preceding chunk of general gameplay:

In realtime, I was convinced that Swansea defender’s last-ditch sliding challenge was going to be a foul and penalty. But some hidden dice-roll of the game kept my player on his feet, and the ball was in the back of the net. Keeper should have saved it, but as I said last year in many comments over on Ultra Soccer Blog, the FIFA15 keepers are the best I’ve ever seen in a football game, and I stand by that to this day.

The second and final goal of the game is in this clip:

A very realistic punishment dished out on the breakaway against a Swansea team that was pushed all the way up looking for an equaliser.

Neither of the above goals would really happen on World Class difficulty or above, I think. I’m saying this because quite often when I talk about FIFA in a praising way, objections are lodged.  Snippets of video are dissected to highlight moments that fail to meet basic footballing standards — standards that PES itself also often fails to meet, but of course that’s different.

All in all a fine return to a fine game. I’m planning more FIFA15 sessions this week. It’s a long 4 weeks from now until PES2016.

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