"Please, I can change. Things will be different this time." Like the plaintive cries of a spumed lover, FIFA comes crawling back every year with earnest promises of a fresh start. And the punters fall for it every time, forgivingly clutching the all-new version to their collective bosom. Ultimately though, the claims prove to be hollow platitudes, and while it may occasionally slip on a clean pair of undercrackers, it remains at heart a worthless, idle, slugabed.
In On The Action
Having boasted all-new versions for years, and delivered only incremental changes, when EA Sports do actually come to make a tangibly different game, nobody is going to believe them. If ever there was a case of the boy who cries wolf, then this is it. Bill Harrison is one of FIFA I 2002's numerous producers, and I he understands our wilfully objectionable stance: "This year little silly saying 'No, it'll be really, really different (we mean it),'so I get what you're saying about crying wolf. But I do think that the product speaks for itself."
We've played the 'product' with our own hands, and it's certainly a more pensive affair than in previous years. Gone is the pass-pass-pass-shoot-score gameplay, replaced by a more tactical approach, replete with panned-out camera view. A new passing system is being deployed, enabling you to knock the ball into space, play through balls and one-twos, as well as curve crosses away from the keeper.
All In The Physics
"What's different and new this year probably comes down to physics," says Bill. "So now you can place the ball anywhere on the pitch, whether it's in the air with a lob, or on die ground through a pass. Anywhere you want, using accuracy with the joystick, power with the pass button, lob button or the shot bunon, and swerve on the ball. You can also manipulate players to exploit open space. That can either be assisted by die AI in the more junior levels, or as you get more advanced, there'll be manual controls. So you can send who you want, where you want, when you want, and get the ball to diem." Clearly it's about time FIFA changed, but why mend what, commercially at least, wasn't broken?
'The focus for the past few years has always been that it's a very pretty game, and that its gameplay is good for the common masses. It's a very approachable game, but for the hardcore gamer there's not a great amount of depth to the gameplay. What we're trying to do this year is attempt to tackle that head on. It's got a learning curve to it." An admirable approach, albeit one that could risk alienating the traditional FIFA fan. Predictably, EA Sports isn't about to do that, as Bill explains: "As you and I are standing here now, we're focus-testing back in North America for ways in which we can create a mode that is a little bit more approachable for casual users, and for kids as well." EA, you're too kind.