Is it really so strange?

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:

8 Comments

  1. Greg

    I agree with many of your points, notably the people who don’t like FIFA are the people who want to score goals at will. I never ever want that from a football game again.

    I can’t believe the strides that I have made, it has taken a lot of time and effort, but boy has it been worth it.

    I can now string passes and moves which at times are a joy, the range of goals I am also scoring is through sheer patience which I learnt once I got shot of my ingrained PES habits.

    CPU long shots on World Class agreed I never seen them shooting from this range on professional difficulty either. It was a shock to the system.

    I have stepped up to world class now and I am dominating these matches too. My players overall stats are in the mid 80’s and are rapidly growing after maximising the staff upgrades.

    How do you use the Staff Upgrades?

    I have noticed an increase of pace in the game as my players stats have grown, response times are now no longer an issue. My midfield four and strikers can all turn on a sixpence. The games are now flowing like a real game of football.

    I am about to resume the final stages of 4th season in MM, I too like you am amazed and shocked that I am playing a FIFA title, but one I am pleased I made.

    Oh, I remember you telling me you signed Schweinsteiger but you haven’t mentioned any of your players. Out of curiosity, can you list your squad?

    P.s Is it just me, but I have never been awarded a penalty despite being upended a few times.

  2. Heraldo – to respond to your last post first, it’s not just you – I think I’ve had about 2 penalties awarded to me in what must be 8 full seasons on Manager Mode now, across two careers. It’s another niggling thing for them to fix for 09, hopefully.

    re. my FIFA08 Dag & Red squad, you’re right, I threatened to list my full squad abotu a month ago now and clean forgot – ! – this is the kind of glaring detail that I hope to be able to pay better attention to with the new posting schedule (of which more tomorrow).

    I won’t try to list the squad from memory but will relay it here in full tomorrow, after I’ve had a quick go on the game in the morning (too late now, not long in). I’ve got loads of journeymen, a few star players, and one or two of the original ‘Default-equivalents’. Schweinsteiger is the obvious standout, but there’s also R Drenthe, Wes Brown, Darren Huckerby, Baiano… All happy to be playing for Dag & Red in the second tier of English football – in some cases they joined while I was still in the very bottom league. Yep, that transfer market has GOT to be looked at for 09, I feel.

    The Staff Upgrades – I went for fitness coaches first and foremost, and took care of the other ones later. I barely touched the negotiator one, as all the players were coming to me anyway.

  3. Greg

    Its cool mate. I was just wondering as I have made the full step to World Class with this squad. The ones in bold are current Manchester City players.

    1 Guillermo OCHOA
    2 Vedran CORLUKA
    3 Gareth BALE
    4 Benoit PEDRETTI
    5 Micah RICHARDS
    6 Vincent KOMPANY
    7 Aiden McGEADY
    8 Scott BROWN
    9 Johan ELMANDER
    10 ROBINHO
    11 Carlos Pereira KLIMOWICZ

    13 GARRIDO
    14 Giles BARNES
    15 Michael Cooper
    16 Michael JOHNSON
    17 Giovani Dos SANTOS
    18 Jan SCHLAUDRAFF
    19 Stephen IRELAND
    20 BOJAN
    21 Kasper SCHMEICHEL
    22 Konstantinos WINDE

    I opted not to sign any so called bigger names with the exception of ROBINHO and opted for precocious talents I could develop.

    I have maximised all Staff Upgrades to 10 with the exception of Stadium Manager level 7 as the next level costs £17m.

    I find the Negotiator is a really sound investment as I halved the wages of the players I have signed. One example, McGeady salary at Celtic £25k I pay him £12k.

    I have tried to keep my wage bill below my ticket sales, hence the reason of offloading my big earners. I plan to keep this squad and see how far it develops.

    P.s. thanks for the advice last night, normal service will resume tomorrow.

  4. heraldo – as promised, here’s my full squad, with the First XI first:

    GK – M SCHUDDINK
    RB – I TORAMAN
    RCB – WES BROWN
    LCB – PIQUE
    LB – R DRENTHE
    LM – SCHWEINSTEIGER
    CDM – DONADEL
    RM – T HUDDLESTONE
    RW – ETXEBERRIA
    ST – J VONLANTHEN
    LW – D HUCKERBY

    M ANDRESEN, I FUENTES, C BUENO, NUNO ASSIS, BAIANO, ANDRES FERNANDEZ, INDIO, E AREVALO RIOS, PABLO AMO, CORRALES, G COMOTTO

    It’s a pretty trim and talented squad – they won all but a few games on Professional for two seasons.

    I had 3 games on it this morning, and I don’t know what it was but I found things a bit easier and won two of them 2-0 but lost the third, unluckily, 1-2. Those two wins hauled me up to mid-table. Absolutely great game. I think there’s an element of FIFA08’s passing mechanics that is similar to Topspin3’s ‘risk shots’. Some passes are ‘risk passes’ and you KNOW they are, but can you pull them off?! That’s the joy (and frustration) of FIFA08 passing. Losing the ball is just a bad decision away…

    One of the many things I’d like the next 6 weeks or so of three/four times a week posting to achieve is a better treatment of FIFA08. Now that I’ve (essentially) ‘completed’ my ML career in PES2008 (although I’ll go on playing it indefinitely), I can devote a lot more time to FIFA08.

  5. Greg

    I see you play FIFA with your preferred 4-3-3 formation, some habits never change eh?

    I have opted for a 4-2-2-2 which registers in game as 4-2-4. Changed the 2 defensive midfielders to CM. I am having more success with this formation.

    I was going to ask if you were planning more FIFA articles, think you answered in the post.

    I have got to the stage since adopting Manual passing that I can now play more balls into space, changed my attacking options and again enjoying lots of success. It really is a great game.

    How’s your Top Spin career going? I think I told you I traded in PS3 version for XBOX version as I need to have my Top Spin daily fix on ship. On course for the Pro Tour with my created Heraldo. Another fantastic game.

  6. heraldo – a 4-3-3, yes, although I’ll freely admit here it’s the wrong formation to use for a game like FIFA08. I have very few options in midfield sometimes (lots of times, actually), which contributes to my possession problem. I’ve tried various formations in FIFA08 in the past – a 3-5-2 brought me great results at times – but after PES I just couldn’t get used to not having the luxury of 3 attackers. I’d have loved to be able to switch formations on the fly in FIFA08 and have a 4-3-3 programmedto a strategy button, as you can in PES, but without that feature I kind of relapsed to a 4-3-3 as my main formation. I’m very happy that in FIFA09 it looks as if we’ll be able to change formations without going to the Pause menu. (But still no hard drive replay saves. BOOOO!)

    This all ties into everything I’ve spoken about recently re. not feeling I’ve given FIFA08 enough time. All that is going to change in the run-up to FIFA09. I’m planning to see FIFA08 out with a bang—in late August/early September I’ll play nothing but FIFA08 on my PS3, and PES2008 will stay on the PSP.

    Topspin3 – still stuck on the Junior tour. I missed out on qualifying by two ranking places in the season I was telling you about. I was an idiot. I can win the Easy tournaments without any trouble at all, but got cocky in the November and thought I’d go for a Hard one, to get more XP for my player. Of course I met a serve-volleyer in the first round and got knocked out. Which left me too much to do in the December.

    One thing about the game that makes me worry is the way my PS3 goes crazy after a while – the fans kick in on overdrive like I’ve never heard them before. It’s almost 360-like! I’m very protective of my 60GB PS3 so it does worry me. No doubt the weather at the moment doesn’t help.

  7. Greg

    That’s why I bought XBOX to protect my 60GB PS3, especially with the movement of the ship. I still play PS2 games like Resi Evil 4 and would hate for it to break.

    Hard luck in missing out on the PRO tour. It’s probably a good thing to be honest mate.

    I found the PRO tour on my PS3 career HARD, and I had won 8 tournaments on Junior Tour (4 easy, 4 hard) Maybe do you good building up your player then you will be more ready for the PRO circuit.

    I have 4 tournaments remaining, in 10th Place. I have won 4 all played on Hard, got my guy up to 44. I won’t be too bothered if I miss out for the reason above. It’s a big jump I found.

  8. P.s.

    I have noticed a fault in the PS3 version of Top Spin. When you are in Career Mode there wasn’t an option in Player Area to go to Mall to change players outfits.

    This bugged me, as you had to quit and access on Main Menu.

    The XBOX version has the Mall Menu in the Career Mode.

    Strange, have they fixed it through an update?

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