In a recent official podcast, various FIFA developers offered up reasons why the new World Cup game won’t just be FIFA 10.1, as well as detailing their new PC-based, free-to-play FIFA Online. Fans looking forward to either may have mixed reactions.
Typically the FIFA franchise has used its spinoffs to experiment with features – one success story being Ultimate Team, a virtual trading card game that lets you bring the team you build onto the pitch, which was originally tried in the UEFA Champions League game. Another such toe-dip was weather effects.
But for all but the most hardcore, these aren’t enough to actually warrant a purchase over the main version of the game, which typically features more teams and is released months before.
So, what’s World Cup got up its sleeve?
Good-looking fans, pitches, crowd camera flashes and confetti are the kind of nothing features that will receive a universal “meh” from fans after the massive gameplay improvements in FIFA 10, such as 360 degree dribble control.
But the podcast did mention that penalties – which have long been a die roll scenario – would be fixed. After stopping a fast-travelling dot in the “sweet spot” of a bar (which determines accuracy), a power bar will grow, while the left stick controls an invisible reticule on the goal. This makes puncturing that upper corner harder than just holding up, left, and the finesse button.
On the flipside, ‘keepers will have the option of holding a direction before the kick, which will take them farther, or attempt to react to the kick, which won’t get you to the corner but will take you the right way. Goalies will also sometimes be able to reach back at a ball fired down the middle. It’s a massive improvement over the “luck of the draw” penalties in previous games, but it’s unlikely EA will treat this as a fix and update FIFA 10.
FIFA Online was also discussed, which will be sporting a new mouse control system that can actually do some things controllers can’t. Directing a through ball or lob for example will choose the exact position of the ball, rather than just the direction and power.
Apparently you can use only the mouse if you want, through the use of a waypoint system they’re testing. Set a waypoint down the pitch for your winger to run on to, while you prepare the cross.
But being free-to-play, there are some things more competitive players might not like. Similar to Ultimate Team, you’ll be able to buy game-changing items from EA’s store. Shin pads with +10 defence, water bottles that replenish stamina... Currently the website only states that earned in-game currency can be used, but it's looking an awful lot like Ultimate Team's online store, which also lets you save time by buying items with real world cash. Such systems polarise, as they make life easier for those with less time, yet provide an unfair advantage. Basically, pay EA money, and have a higher chance of winning.
But with FIFA being the only EA Sports game still supported on PC, there’s a chance the good features will carry over into future versions. A new closed beta of FIFA Online will start soon, with the open beta expected to start around World Cup time.