Month: February 2020

Play, get sacked, repeat

Following my terrible run in my first clutch of matches in the Premier League – a terrible run that was partly due to switching to Tactical Defending, and partly due to the sudden onslaught of much better teams in the higher division… this happened:

Sacked. I cannot remember the last time I was sacked in FIFA or PES. It might even be all the way back on PES4 or somewhere like that. I’ve been sacked in Football Manager games a few times since then, but never in Master League (of course not), and I probably haven’t played Career Mode enough to be sacked – until now.

I’d had a warning a few matches previously, but failed to turn things around, and that was that.

I reloaded a save I had specifically set aside with this outcome in mind. I rewound to the start of this same season and began it all over again.

And then a few matches later, I did it AGAIN. I am currently on Attempt #3 to play the opening bars of my Premier League season without suffering the sack.

This is contrary to my usual practice in football gaming and in gaming as a whole. I respect the outcomes of games. Whatever happens is what must happen. Otherwise, why bother? With anything? No consequences, no meaning, no purpose, no game. I accept every squadwipe in XCOM, and every city lost in Civilization. Ironman is my default mental setting on every game, all the time.

The reason I’m going against that this tme is that I am deliberately using this Career Mode save wth Leeds United to orient myself to FIFA20 and to Career Mode as a whole, before plunging in with a ‘real’ save.

I think that time is coming soon. For now I will complete 1 season in the Premier League with Leeds, and sample all the wonderful sights that the place has to offer, because it might be a while before I get back here.

Among them is one of the most compelling sights and experiences in football gaming – playing West Ham at The London Stadium. I swear this must be my favourite stadium to play in in FIFA20, and perhaps in any footy game. Something about the design of it and the possibilities offered by the PC Broadcast camera mod. Pictures don’t do it justice but here is one anyway.In the repeated August transfer window I looked for fast-paced full-backs. I am slowly getting to grips with Tactical Defending, which is heavily about covering and positioning, and speed – SPEED – is of the essence.

My existing full-backs are good for the Championship, but for the Premier League? Nope. This kind of discovery is the kind of experience I wanted to get before starting my ‘real’ Career Mode in League 2, as there will be no do-overs in that one.

And here is where I got more much-needed experience of Career Mode: Scotuing.

Of course I still have the inherited habit of Master League, and I simply went into the last day of the August window expecting to pick up whomever I liked, without having Scouted them and thus not knowing much about their abilities, their value, their wages…

I needed a left-back and started to bid for a young Man United LB with 82 for Speed, but whose other attributes I had little idea of. I went into negotiations ‘blind’ and simply offered what felt right at every stage. I ended up paying a £15,000,000 fee and £10,000 a week salary – for a decidedly average 67-OVR left-back, which I didn’t know until I’d bought him…If I had Scouted him properly as I should have, I doubt I’d have spent £5,000,000 on him, or even got him at all. Lesson well and truly learned.

In truth I already know the lesson well enough, having dabbled with FIFA and Career Mode in recent years. If I repeat the mistakes I’ve made here down in League 2 with a much more constrained budget, I won’t last long at the helm.

And finally today, something interesting and quirky.

The PC platform has thrown up its first little technical quirk. Sometimes when you Sleep the machine, it does odd little things. Hibernate never gives a problem, but Sleep does.

The difference: Hibernate writes all data to hard disk and shuts off power, but takes about 15 seconds to awake, depending on the hardware. Sleep freezes everything more or less in place and keeps a trickle of power flowing, but wakes up almost instantly. Some quirk of the latter function makes some apps and games a little bit cranky upon awakening.

I prefer to Hibernate the PC 9 times out of 10, but I was mid-match when I was unexpectedly called away. I chose to Sleep the PC knowing I’d return in an hour or so.

I woke up the PC from Sleep, and one of the logo swoosh graphics was frozen on the screen and statyed there no matter what.

I finished the game – and scored my first ever goal in the Premier League during it. here is that goal, a lovely overhead kick that I want to call a bicycle kick…

Don’t worry, that graphical glitch has gone and has not been seen since. Sleep is 99% effective at what it aims to do. This was a 1% occurrence.

At the close of play in.. what is it, my 4th week of playing FIFA20 now? Maybe longer. I’d still give the game a solid 9/10, which it has had consistently from the start. The modding possibilities are only just beginning too, with lots of exciting tools and mods being produced. On the quiet, the FIFA PC modding scene is actually much more appealing than the PES PC one.

A former PES player tries Tactical Defending in FIFA20 and talks about it on camera. What happens next will shock you!

I committed a noob error by not disabling the in-match commentary So there are moments when my voice is semi-obscured by Derek & Lee’s voices, but overall I believe it’s legible. Only my flat West Midlands vowels should trouble the curious viewer.

At an exciting moment in the second half I accidentally hit the Stop/Start Record button, so the recording is split into two parts. This is Part 2:

The events depicted above create something of a cliffhanger in my Career Mode.

Later today (Tuesday 25th February) I will post in comments a brief summary of what happened following the next few matches.

Thumping for joy

Fantastic to get to the Premier League and be welcomed by a gorgeous new colour scheme.The FIFA20(PC) gameplay continues to be some of the best I’ve ever known in a football game. Until I explicitly say otherwise, I am playing Vanilla gameplay. Same as on console. And with no slider adjustments.

I have got one mod in operation, a Broadcast camera mod. Arguably this is a gameplay mod, as it radically changes the field of view and the overall experience of how you play. But that’s not a game mechanic thing, it’s a subjective feel thing.

Still makes a great difference though, not least because every stadium can have its own unique look. E.g., I played at Molineux and found a wonderful low-slung angle that made the game feel alive and vibrant in a way it would not have with a standard video-game camera. So even though I’m not running a gameplay mod (for now), the camera mod is almost filling in for one.

I played in the pre-season tournament, got knocked out in the groups, but scored this 25-yarder that’s most notable for being the first longish range FIFA20 goal scored in the white kit:

I’ve been playing on Professional difficulty with Legacy defending until now. For my first match in the Premier League, away to Liverpool, I decided to sample what World Class difficulty played like.

This is what World Class played like:Okay. That’s good, actually. Life in the Premier League shouldn’t be easy. This is what I’ve got to look forward to on World Class!

For my second match in the Premier League, I returned to Professional difficulty. At home to Spurs. No problem, right? Blow on Spurs and they fall over, right?

Er…

WHAT. I double-checked the setting just to be sure. Professional it was. OK then. Right.

Next match, Wolves away, still on Professional.

I decided to switch to Tactical Defending.

This is FIFA’s own version of defending that all PESheads tend to turn off quickly. but after this one match, I think I’m a convert.

Not that it helped me here. I’ve got a video at the end of the post that shows some of the comical defending I was doing on Tactical. Here is the result of the match:You pissing wot, m8?

The possession stats alone here give away that I was using a new Defending control scheme.

3 matches played in the Premier League and I had received 3 proper thumpings, and had yet to score a goal.

My next match was away to lowly old Mansfield Town in the Carabao Cup. I wanted to persist with Tactical Defending, but I also wanted that little bit of extra space and time to get used to it.

So I switched to Semi-Pro difficulty. Away to Mansfield Town. Of League 1. In the Carabao Cup.

No problem.

At least I had many more shots, as would be expected, but none of them went in, or even very close. I had my keeper sent off early which didn’t help.

I am still treating this Leeds CM save as a warm-up for the ‘real thing’, but I am also getting identified with the players, inevitably, That’s just what happens. I currently plan to play another season or two with Leeds and really get acquainted with everything I need to know, before starting a League 2 Career Mode save, probably.

Whatever happens next, this is my longest spell on FIFA since FIFA15. I’m going to predict that it’ll turn out to be my longest spell on FIFA since the heady days of 08 and 09 – it might even outstrip them.

The move to the PC platform has gone much more smoothly than I expected. Modern-day Windows is a champ at entering and exiting Hibernate and Sleep modes without thinking about it for chess-grandmaster lengths of time, like Windows of yore used to. This means that it’s trivial to resume play from where I left off after having dinner or watching some TV, for example, or even left overnight. The wired PC gamepad has to be unplugged and plugged back in, but that’s the only wrinkle.

What of the PS4?

I have been a console football gamer for so long – 25 years – that I was expecting it to be a wrench to leave the console platform and change all the routines I have associated with it. I’ve been playing Death Stranding on my PS4 so it hasn’t exactly sat idle, but I don’t miss playing footy games on it at all.

Finally here are some clips from the thumpings pictured above – some comical defending and misses from me on show here. Also great play from the AI. Adama Traore ripped me a new one in the Wolves match. Tactical Defending errors really bring out the AI.

This is the Title

Season 1 of Career Mode in FIFA20 on PC has ended with a Championship title for Leeds. I played the entire season on Professional difficulty – FIFA’s middle difficulty – which was plenty challenging enough while I oriented myself to this new football gaming world.

Season 2 in the Premier League has already started as I type. Leeds was meant to be a test Career Mode. I picked them quite randomly. I think now that I will follow through and play at least a Season 2 with them before considering a lower-league start with another club. It’ll be nice to have a taste of the Premier League.

I completed the last leg of the Championship journey on vanilla gameplay in the end. The mods I had been using to this point were nuked last week by an official EA update.

Vanilla turned out to play similar enough to the modded gameplay to be more than acceptable as a stopgap. A hugely enjpoyable 6-match session saw us run out clear winners in the title race. The final table:

It went all the way to the final game, where I had to win or draw to ensure the title. Our goal difference was worse than Forest’s, who were then 3 points behind us. We won and they lost so it didn’t matter in the end.

Silverware!It really was touch and go. Professional has not been easy at all. Particularly during the bulk of the season whilst using modded gameplay.Thoughts about FIFA20? It’s got long-range goals and it’s got individuality and it’s got bags of atmosphere and class. I’m enjoying it more than I’ve enjoyed any football game since PES2019 last year. My current score for it would be an easy 9/10.

It’s a fantastic game of football that is missing just two things.

The most important thing is fouls. FIFA20 would be the actual perfect football game – a true ‘weapon to surpass Metal Gear’ – if it only had that extra layer to its game. I do get the odd match with ‘one or two fouls’, but the overhwelming majority of matches feature 0 (zero). As we all know, fouls and free kicks provide an important extra dimension that is needed at times, particularly in tight matches. There are modding options here that I am currently exploring.

The other thing FIFA20 is missing is less important, on the face of it, but still important to me – I mean the ability to have the player name displayed above the active player’s head.

Before you all write in to tell me that the option IS in the game – no, it is not in the game.

The option is there to have the name displayed for a fraction of a second before it fades out. I don’t want that. I want the name on for the whole time the player is active. Yes, just like in PES. (Sorry.)

Instead of telling, I’ll show you why this visual feature is important to me – and perhaps to you as well.

Look at the replay below. I’ve scored quite a few long-range goals in FIFA20 so far, all with the same player, Hernandez. Last night I got another long-range goal. Here it is:

Now, you probably noticed the name of the player during that replay, as I have cued you to notice it, but playing in real time, I didn’t notice the name of the player. And if you miss the fraction of a second when the player name is on display above his head, you have no idea who scored the goal until I tell you that it was Klich, another midfielder.

It’s a minor issue to be sure, and one that I am adjusting to – getting to know your players is part of it – but I would like to have the option in FIFA. Again, perhaps there are modding options here.

Neither of the above issues are threatening to spoil the party thus far.

Those who have been waiting with sardonic glee for me to up sticks and get back to PES might have to wait a good long while.

An assortment of goals and moments from my run-in, and also the scenes at the end of the season with the trophy presentation: