The 10 years between World Cup 98 and Euro 2008 were the darkest in FIFA’s history. Whilst it was debatable in the late 90’s whether EA’s FIFA or Konami’s International SuperStar Soccer series was the pinnacle of the genre, there was simply no contest by the time that Konami had ‘evolved’ their ISS series into PES, with Pro Evolution Soccer 2 in particular starting a long run of incredible football games out of Japan. FIFA simply couldn’t compete and were regularly second best for much of the next 10 years.
That said, the strength of the license and brand loyalty, accrued over several years of top-notch innovative and progressive football games, saw the FIFA games still sell remarkably well over this period, despite being clearly the inferior game. Alas, FIFA returned to form in the guise of a UEFA title when they took on the license for the 2008 European Championships for the first time.
Yes, the strong licensing and heavy emphasis on presentation can go a long way in making the more authentic football experience, which was the one thing that Pro Evolution Soccer had always lacked. Euro 2008 harkened back to the high water period set in 1998. It was easily the best looking, and had world class commentary, full licensed tournaments, music, player names and kits… but most importantly, it just played fantastically well, refining some good progress made in FIFA 08.
That’s where FIFA 09 comes in to play just a few months later. We’re now talking a whole new level of game. EA had clearly seen the progress made by Konami’s PES and were fearful that its cash-cow would slowly lose market share. EA turned it up several notches for 09 by introducing some incredible new features.
The most namely of these new features were Adidas Live Season, a dynamic player stats system based on the player’s real-life form, and the now all-conquering FIFA ‘Ultimate Team’.
FUT’s beginnings were humble. It was a paid for DLC add-on in its first year, so was a little used feature in its infancy. However, this particular writer took to it immediately and has exclusively played on this mode in FIFA ever since.
Ultimate Team combined aspects of the classic management sim, Topp-Trumps and Fantasy Football League, and fused them together to create the biggest money-spinning game mode in all of console gaming several years down the line. It’s not a stretch to say FUT has outgrown the rest of FIFA and at some point may even become its own monster. It is very much the present and entirely the future of the franchise. But there is still at least one other mode that could challenge in years to come…
As FUT becomes increasing competitive thanks to the introduction of the FUT Champions/Weekend League, and it becoming a budding e-Sport, EA desperately needed a new way to appeal to the casual/less competitive player. Career modes have been popular in FIFA for a while, but the inclusion of storymode ‘The Journey’ in FIFA 17 is the most innovative and exciting feature since the conception of Ultimate Team.
‘The Journey’ sees the player take control of young footballing upstart Alex Hunter, both on and off the pitch. The player controls Hunter in gameplay, but also in a story driven narrative mode by choosing his decisions that ultimately affect the outcome of the first year of Hunter’s career as a professional.
It’s well written, beautifully animated and combines well with Premier League licensing to make an immersive and enjoyable mode. It’s fair to say that the first instance of The Journey is far from perfect, but it’s a promising first step in what is very much the future of the FIFA franchise and what will no doubt be a major component of the forthcoming FIFA 18.
What are your most important moments in FIFA? Agree or disagree with ours? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!