Every year soccer fans eagerly debate the new features that might be seen in EA’s behemoth of sports video games, FIFA.
Everyone has a different idea of what they would like to see in FIFA, depending on how they play the game. In the past, we have seen new game modes such as ‘The Journey’, following Alex Hunter’s progress from the parks of London to the Champions League Final. Other major changes have included the long-overdue inclusion of the women’s game, culminating in female managers becoming available in FIFA 20. The career mode is one aspect of the game that perhaps fans are hoping to see overhauled in FIFA 21, and it is where we start our list of recommendations for EA Sports.
The problem with the career mode is that truly little has changed over the last few years. They tack on the odd new feature here and there, but the next generation of consoles will have a wider capacity for extending this under-utilized game mode. The AI is very much the same from game to game too, meaning that aside from building your team, there is little challenge.
We would like to see a set of major changes to career mode, from the way transfer business is conducted to different approaches being needed for different games. Soccer fans like to immerse themselves in a career mode and EA could look to the depth of the wildly successful Football Manager series for inspiration. More players, better tactical flexibility, and AI which plays differently depending on where they are in the league would be a great start. Also, please, change the menus as they have had the same look for far too long!
FIFA is far and away the most popular online soccer game on the market. An eSoccer guide by Bwin demonstrates how FIFA has almost 3.4 million Twitch followers, 27 times as many as its rival PES, who even named their most recent game eFootball to try to steal more market share. It has not worked yet, with licensing keeping FIFA ahead. The threat from PES is growing though; they recently acquired the rights to Juventus, meaning the Old Lady was not licensed in FIFA for the first time.
To compete, FIFA must sharpen up its skill matching. Whilst online players are ranked by division, all too often players of a lower skill level come up against sides packed with TOTW cards and special players. Weaker players, or those who want occasional games online without the pressure of building a FUT team, are being lost due to unfair skill matching and team strength.
The Ultimate Team mode, FUT, needs a real overhaul if it is to avoid making the same mistakes over and over. The ‘pay to win’ ethos around their online mode needs adjusting, as does the gambling aspect of pack opening. There should be real clarity over what is included in a pack, rather than ambiguous percentages. A Wired article explains how European countries are clamping down on loot boxed which might make the mode a little fairer.
Also, the squad building challenges they have could include elements of club badges and kits, to prevent the build-up of those cards for a player. Each country-specific SBC could require a badge or kit which enhances chemistry, giving players a fairer chance to beat the challenges and get rid of some useless cards.
Whilst we are on the subject, how frustrating is it that you can build a great squad under your custom club name, but you must play in a pre-set kit? An actual kit design might invoke license infringement, but what if instead of kit cards, you got ‘kit elements’, such as a sponsor, badges, trims, and basic shirts, so you could create a real identity for your team? Old-school gamers will remember the days of kit design and it was fun; FIFA needs to introduce more fun into their game.
Alex Hunter Returns
Maybe not Alex Hunter, but The Journey game mode was a great deal of fun and we would love to see it back. Combining an element of RPG with FIFA made for an entertaining feature that certainly has a life beyond the three episodes it ran for. The small-sided game Volta this year did not have the same impact with gamers, who often buy into FIFA not for the ‘street’ element, but for a soccer experience.
If EA could somehow work a game mode around The Journey which had a little more flexibility, it could be a huge hit. Releasing the content weekly would be a great move too, allowing them to develop the story over time and make it fresh each week, in a similar way to Rockstar Games and their online versions of Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption 2.