So, it was a typical FIFA08 match. I was playing Crystal Palace in my Manager Mode career, on World Class difficulty. I’ve been struggling badly in recent weeks. I’ve spent the bulk of my time so far playing on Professional level difficulty. I made the move up to World Class very recently—and had a terrible time of it.
For various (mostly bad) reasons I don’t play FIFA08 as much as I should. Playing PES every day, all year round, is such an ingrained habit with me that I have not (so far) been able to tear myself away from the last-gen version of PES2008. In a way it’s a great shame—ah, but this football game year is not over quite yet…
Whenever I do play FIFA08, I’m so schooled in PES moves and rhythms that it takes me ages to get (back) into the groove and start playing FIFA08 properly. And FIFA08 has to be played properly. I believe that most of the PES fans who have played FIFA08 but disliked it, have disliked it because they have failed to play it properly. Coming from PES to FIFA08, you find yourself naturally trying to play it like PES—trying to reproduce PES’s general gameplay, its stereotypical moves. This is not the right thing to do. It doesn’t work.
In PES, things move very quickly. Players sprint around for 90 minutes like maniacs who’ve been possessed by demons on speed. In FIFA08, by contrast, things seem to be slow, jerky, hesitant. More sedate and considered. It’s an altogether maturer sort of game, the antithesis of the instant gratification culture. You have to work at it. You have to concentrate. You almost can’t afford to lose the ball, ever. Unless you play it on its own terms and forget all about Pro Evo, you’re never going to like FIFA08.
I was seriously under the cosh against Palace. They’re one of the top teams in the Coca Cola Championship (it’ll always be Division 2 to me!). They were mounting pretty much continuous pressure. I could hardly get the ball back. When I did get it back I couldn’t do anything with it and lost it again. It’s this kind of gameplay that has appalled some football game fans—wrongly appalled them, in my opinion. It’s up to you, the player, to play the game in the way that the game is supposed to be played. It’s no good crying because you can’t do things that you’re used to doing in another game completely. But that is precisely the kind of attitude that has shaped much of this year’s PES vs FIFA ‘debate’ in various corners of the Internet. It’s a great shame.
Underneath the hood, behind the forbidding surface, FIFA08 actually has terrific flow. When you knuckle down and admit that it’s a different game that begs to be played differently, there is a sturdy poetry to FIFA08 that is simply absent from PES. PES is, by comparison, absurdly easy and arcade-like.
Is it really so strange that there was finally a good FIFA game? Is it so hard to accept, to admit? Apparently it is, to look at some threads on some forums.
I know I’m repeating myself for what must be the 1000th time here, but I still feel embarrassed about liking a FIFA game. It feels so wrong, but it’s actually so right. FIFA08 is a serious, sober football simulation, and PES2008 is a fast-paced arcade game that just happens to be based on football. That’s a total reversal of everything we have ever known and believed in. Gulp. How the hell did it happen? Can we ever recover from the shock?
Take my big game against Crystal Palace. I kicked off, and instantly passed the ball backward to my defensive midfielder. After several days of playing nothing but PES2008, everything in my instinct screamed at me to pass the ball straight out wide to my AMF, and set off on a run towards goal.
It’s not impossible to do the same in FIFA08. It’s just damn hard. This is why FIFA08 is a better game than PES2008. This is why the great hope for the future of football gaming currently resides with FIFA, not with PES. My God… How the hell did this happen?!
The score at half-time was 0-0. This is fairly common in the games I play. I can keep the CPU at bay, but cannot penetrate them myself. Working the ball around the midfield area, passing it back to defence when necessary (it’s often necessary), and then firing it forward to exploit any gaps that may open up (thanks to my passing and moving)—these things have become utterly foreign to the PES mindset thanks to a progressive arcadeisation of our beloved franchise (our formerly beloved franchise?) over the past few years.
Seabass & co.’s biggest sin, in my eyes, hasn’t been the failure to secure more and better licenses, or to provide a decent Edit mode. Their great sin—which may never be forgiven—is that they made build-up play in PES superfluous. Build-up play is now what you do in PES if you’re feeling nostalgic for the past and want to remind yourself of how it used to be. It’s optional. This is the sin.
My tough FIFA08 Manager Mode game against Crystal Palace ended 1-1. Both the CPU and I scored late in the second half. They scored first, with a fierce shot from outside the box—a proper World Class goal in the sense that the CPU rarely even tries long shots on Professional, but loves them on higher difficulty levels. I thought that’d be it—yet another 1-0 defeat at the hands of the CPU. In FIFA08 you can be sacked from your career if results go too badly against you. I was already hovering in the bottom half of the table. How many more bad results would it take before I got the inevitable warning from the board?
Thankfully, I got a late goal to make the final score 1-1. It was a rare kind of goal for me on FIFA08—a fast-moving, deadly counterattack. Dare I say it, it was almost PESlike in its rapid movement upfield. I particularly liked the long, looping cross into the box, followed by the knock-back header into the path of my onrushing striker. In the clip, my team—wearing pale blue shirts—is initially defending a Palace corner, and then attacking ‘downscreen’ towards the camera: