Tag: manager mode

How do you solve a problem like Career Mode?

FIFA13 Career Mode slickness

The weekend’s exposure to PES has not tempted me back to familiar pastures. FIFA13 is too good a football game to leave unplayed.

Ultimate Team continues, and will always continue. My Silver squad has avoided relegation from Division 2 by one point.

But I have started a Career Mode career. Playing as… Dagenham & Redbridge of League 2. Readers with very long memories will recall me playing a multi-season Manager Mode career with this club back on FIFA08.

(Here’s a random post from February 2008, which contains some Motorola Razr mobile phone footage of my latest signing, Darren Huckerby, scoring a lovely volley. You can just about make out FIFA08’s celebrated ‘steel cage’ nets in action, too.)

My first impression of FIFA13’s Career Mode: I want to actually play a match with my new team a lot quicker than it will let me. It’s like the protracted starting-up phase of a new Football Manager save. Perhaps that’s deliberate.

You begin on July 1st. Your first friendly is on July 22nd. There is no ‘skip to’ option—you have to sit and wait as the calendar cycles through the days. And it takes ages to get there. Twenty minutes in my case. All I was doing was looking at my team and signing one new player—Mario Ortiz from Espanyol, for £200K.

There’s almost too much information flying at you. The interface is, frankly, gorgeous. There’s a fair few design graduates worked on this game, it’s a safe bet to say.

The League Cup draw is made audibly, with somebody reading the fixtures out in the background as you move through the menus.

Buying Mario Ortiz

The transfer market works like a dream in FIFA13. Counter-offers for fees and salaries can work. Young players you put up for loan who actually go on loan. You can’t help comparing and contrasting with Master League. All you think in the first hour on Career Mode is ‘why, Konami, why?’

The game keeps stopping to tell you transfer news and inform you of club expectations. My Dagenham team had no money and we were expected to finish mid-table.

CM plot chart

And I’m playing on World Class difficulty. Here’s a plot chart showing the CPU’s shooting performance against me in a pre-season friendly. The blue dots are my shots. The green dots are Tranmere Rovers’ shots. I lost 0-2.

World Class might be too much, but it is a necessity for me on FIFA13. This avoids the somewhat empty feeling of playing on lower difficulties. On World Class I’m always up against it. There’s a danger of being sacked very quickly, of course, but it’s a danger I’m willing to face for the sake of immersion.

And playing with a 1-star team, on World Class, is challenging. My players are all in the 50-60 OVR bracket. They have slow turning circles and dodgy ball control. Sometimes I can’t put two passes together and have to spend long periods resisting AI onslaughts. Games have that authentic starting-with-Defaults feel that any Master League veteran will treasure.

So FIFA13’s got the gameplay. It’s got the Career Mode—what an evolution this mode has gone through since 2008! It’s got neat touches, such as a detailed post-match breakdown of individual player performances (screenshot below).

Now all that remains to be seen: has it got the secret X-factor that makes a football game’s long-term career mode playable and compulsive?

We shall see.

Mario Ortiz performance

not-Greg Bueller’s week off

I’ve taken this very special week off work. It’s the first time for a few years that I’ve been off at this time. I booked it a few months ago—and yes, I am sad enough to have booked it specifically for PES2012’s sake. Especially as PES2012 will be in my hands for only half of this week.

I thought I’d be twiddling my thumbs and waiting impatiently for PES2012 to drop through my letterbox. Instead, I’ve got the best FIFA since FIFA09 to tide me over. I stayed up until 3am last night playing it. I rolled out of bed at 11 this morning. (I didn’t have this post prepared, and am still furiously typing at 11:45; will I make it for 12?!)

I seem to be in the middle of a little run of FIFA12-praisin’ posts. I appreciate that many readers, both the regular and the just-dropping-by kind, are bemused and/or irritated by any suggestion that FIFA might be, well, not shit.

But that’s how it is, for me at least. In fact, it’s now looking as if I’ll get all the way to PES2012 in a few days’ time without having tired of FIFA12 in any way at all.

How’s FIFA12’s gameplay treating me? Pretty darn good, actually. I’m into it.

Tactical Defending has yielded its core secret. It’s a cunning rearrangement of the old system, rather than a totally new replacement. As long as you get your player close enough, then a stab of X—timed correctly—will usually retrieve the ball.

I’m now skilled enough with the system, on Professional difficulty, for defending to be a proper art. The art lies in controlling the right player at the right time to make the approach in the right way. There’s no direct homing-in button any more, so you have to combine the ones that are available. It does make defending feel deliberate again, rather than automatic.

Some matches, I never allow the opposition near my goal. Other times, impatience or inattention result in fouls and penalties against me. And sometimes, the CPU is apparently licensed to dance and jink its way to goal no mater what I do.

Career Mode is so improved as to be almost unrecognisable. It probably helps that I effectively skipped last year. I’ve already played further in my FIFA12 Career Mode than I did in any of my several attempts in FIFA11.

Career Mode is certainly no Master League. But it’s no longer automatically worthy of sneers. I might end up sneering at it next summer, but not right now.

I’ve enjoyed my season with Coventry City so far, and am still well on course to complete a full season before I start playing PES2012 and Master League.

There’s a very effective Deadline Day in the transfer market. On that last day, you can put in a bid for a player, and a countdown clock will tick forward a few hours, simulating the hectic pressure of real-life deadline day.

I picked up a few players on deadline day, and found the process very rewarding. My best acquisition was a nippy little CAM (central attacking midfielder, in FIFA-speak) arriving on loan from Inter. His name: Philippe Coutinho…

Okay, so it’s not Football Manager. Many of the transfers are worthy of a smile and a shake of the head, even a snort of derision. But I don’t hold these modes to the same standards as Football Manager. It’d be nice for them to be realistic, but I’m happy with this one-more-game ‘flow’, and I find that Career Mode currently has that.

Coutinho is already a little star for me. A stand-out individual. I’ve posted two of his goals below. The first is a neat close-range volley that came after he ghosted in on a cross. The second is a bit special, for me—my first true FIFA12 long-ranger in regular gameplay:

FIFA12’s Career Mode’s real test would be how it all plays over a number of seasons, subjected to rigorous daily sessions of the sort that I regularly subject PES and Master League to. I wonder if Career Mode would hold up? And would FIFA12’s gameplay hold up? I just don’t know—and possibly won’t get a chance to find out soon.

Wednesday should see my last dedicated FIFA12 post for many months to come. I like FIFA12 enough for that to be a source of real regret. But I know it has to be done. If PES2012 is a true knockout, I’ll probably never want to break the Master League spell.

FIFA11 hacked down in the box!

So it’s March 2011 in my Career Mode career in FIFA11. Will I complete even one full season in it this year? I think I will play FIFA11 until at least this weekend, so it’s possible. But I’m playing 6-minute halves, and only getting through 4 matches per day on average, so it’ll be tight. Currently I doubt I’ll play FIFA11 ever again after this week is up.

I love the idea of next-gen FIFA. I really liked FIFA08 and FIFA09. But last year, after an amazing first few days, I struggled to find anything to like in FIFA10. And this year, FIFA11 has been my most neglected FIFA since the bad old days of the PS2-era games.

It could be lots of things. The most likely reason is that PES2010 and PES2011 finally mustered up enough next-gen substance to keep me away from FIFA10 and FIFA11 long enough for the latter two games both to seem alien and rather hollow to me.

Or it could be that next-gen FIFA really did peak with FIFA09, and the irresistible force of gravity has been bringing the series back down to earth ever since.

Whatever the reason is, with the FIFA12 demo less than a month away, FIFA11 is not going to make a miracle comeback. (Or a late appearance off the substitute’s bench, to indulge in the kind of scattergun footballing metaphor-making that we’ll be seeing a lot more of over the next few months. I can’t wait to see the first review that’s framed as an imaginary football match between PES and FIFA!)

Career Mode in FIFA11 is much more polished and substantial than it used to be. The main problem I have is with the football gaming itself.

It’s hard to say what is so wrong about FIFA’s gameplay. It’s easy to blame the frantic pace of the game. Indeed, at times there are whole periods when it’s just a constant turnover of possession in the middle third. And don’t get me started about the passing. I’ve gone from being a huge fan of next-gen FIFA’s semi-assisted passing to a frowning doubter. Of course, this is all no doubt due to lack of familiarity, or indeed over-familiarity with the mechanics of PES.

Whatever it is, another few sessions should see me start to improve and enjoy a better quality of game. We’ll see.

———————————

Gamescom week, and for the first time in all the years it’s been on, I don’t really care. Last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, I was agog with excitement, checking all the major sites as the day progressed. This year, for whatever reason, I’m considerably less agog.

I’m not totally indifferent. I’ll make do with dropping in on the key sites and forums later tonight and over the next few days, to see how things are going. It’s always interesting to follow the ups and downs of the PESverse’s annual vigil at this time of year, as the game moves towards completion and release

It’s a harmless pastime, even if it is accompanied by a certain dread. The game we hear about now is unlikely to be the one we end up playing. What might Konami be doing to the game behind closed doors? I will never forget or forgive PES2011’s last-minute addition of the stumble animation. Never.

 

FIFA11: third impressions count double

I’ve now played FIFA11 for about 7 hours in total. In that time, using various teams, I’ve played four tournaments and a load of Exhibition games. I’ve messed around in the menus, seeing where everything is and what it does. I have not and probably won’t ever play online—it’s a place I’m not even interested in visiting. Over the weekend I started a career in the all-new Career Mode, of which more to come today and Wednesday.

My current view of FIFA11? It is a good game, better than FIFA10. FIFA11 plays at the right pace (on Slow setting). The passing and movement and intricacy of the general gameplay are, just like FIFA10, often amazing. The pitch feels nice and big too. It’s a welcome difference from PES2011’s tighter playing space, which can feel cramped by comparison.

I am still waiting for PES2011 and Master League with a kind of hunger I haven’t known for some years. But FIFA11 is more than enough to keep me occupied in the meantime.

Great football games enable the scoring of memorable goals. The ones that get you laughing out loud, punching the air, kissing imaginary rings on bunched fingers, all of that kind of thing.

FIFA11 has finally got the shooting right (or at least less wrong). The ball, once hit, stays hit. My only reservation at the moment is that there’s sometimes a bit too much dip on the ball with low- and medium-powered shots. That’s most noticeable whilst messing about in the Arena.

Here’s a bread-and-butter middle-distance shot from a slight angle into the top far corner of the net—in previous FIFAs, these were also possible, but not quite like this example (Gareth Barry, playing for England):

Link: FIFA11 Barry

That’s a conventional strike using direction and shoot, and nothing else. Visually it’s the kind of goal I scored plenty of in previous next-gen FIFAs, but only using trigger modifiers. Either I had to use the finesse button on its own, or the trick trigger as well. It’s good to finally be able to shoot from distance without figuratively applying for permission first.

That’s my second-favourite goal in FIFA11 so far. My favourite is still this one, which I’m not ashamed to post again—this time at the original speed and from the original playing angle:

Link: FIFA11 Steven Gerrard

Will I score a more satisfying goal on FIFA11 this year? It depends, of course, on how much playing time FIFA11 gets. Only PES2011 knows the answer to that one.

I started Career Mode as a Player Manager, drafting in my Virtual Pro to play in midfield. I picked Coventry City to player-manage. If I expected to be still playing Career Mode this time next week, I would have chosen Atletico Madrid or Lecce or Lyon or somebody like that.

I was able to import my Gameface from last year, and dutifully gave him my updated late-2010 male pattern baldness hairstyle. He still doesn’t really look like me but there’s enough of a passing resemblance for it to be worth doing.

The first thing that struck me about Career Mode was how different it all felt to Manager Mode. It took about half an hour before I recognised that, actually, it’s still the same old Manager Mode—albeit with the incorporation of a few other modes, a redesigned interface, and vastly improved menus. Visiting the transfers screen used to be unbelievably awkward and laggy. Not any more. At least EA have implemented a system that makes the very best of Manager Mode’s basic architecture.

I haven’t come across any bugs yet, but I’m only a few games into season 1. Oh, and having skipped FIFA World Cup, it was a very nice surprise to discover that I was allowed to play the matches in two ways: either normally, controlling all outfield players; or Be A Pro-style, controlling just my Virtual Pro. I was, and still am, blown away by that simple choice. What a great way to mix things up.

There’s an outside chance PES2011 will be with me on Wednesday. But I’m going to say now that Wednesday’s midday post will be a FIFA11 Career mode post. I’ll save the PES2011 first impressions for Thursday or Friday.