Sunday Thoughts: Sports

With the football season here in the UK drawing to a close, it seems that the sports coverage is reaching a fever pitch, as it tends to at the end of the season. Along with that we’ve just had this rather interesting FIFA 12 video leaked this week. Whilst I’m a pretty casual fan of football, I mean I like to watch games but I don’t pay much more attention than that, I’m not really a fan of football games at all. I’ll play FIFA, badly, if someone else is playing, but I don’t think I’ve owned anything I’d class as a sports game since FIFA ’98. I mean the only thing I do have is the SmackDown vs Raw series but that’s hardly a sports title.

I can hear some of you screaming that I’m hardly qualified to talk about sports games really, and that may be a fair criticism. However, I’m still going to and you can’t stop me. I mean I’ve already written this by the time you’re reading it, unless you can jump back in time about twenty hours, get to my house and beat me with a sock filled with batteries I’m going to keep going.

[drop]I don’t really want to talk about the typical ‘developers need to stop yearly updates’. I honestly don’t think they’ll change the business model unless there’s suddenly a huge consumer revolt. Sure, roster updates via DLC or as cheap add-ons would probably work out better for gamers, but I think the developers are starting to make the new releases more than just a roster update now. I mean look at FIFA 10 to 11 and now to the leaked footage of 12. There’s obviously a clear lineage between the games but they seem to be piling in more and more features every year. Not every game is there yet, but I think things are starting to move in the right direction.

What I really want to see is a different career mode. I know games are, for the most part, escapism, but I’d love a sports game that starts you off at the lowest point. The TNA Impact! game was sort of like this, when you started out in career mode you weren’t actually wrestling in TNA. In fact I don’t know if I ever got up to TNA in the short period of time I had the game for, I was just wrestling in almost empty halls, with a few dozen people watching.

As far as I know there aren’t any sports games that start out like this. If you’re playing FIFA you don’t start out playing in an academy as a kid, slowly working your way forwards. If you’re sitting down to have a bash at Madden you don’t start off playing college football.

Of course something along these lines wouldn’t be for everyone, I can imagine quite a lot of people would hate having to wait for their character to become a star. I know you don’t start off as the key player for your club when you play through the FIFA career, but you don’t start off in the lower leagues, working your way upwards. That’s what I’d love to see, some real progression, decisions to be made about where you should go to move your playing career forwards. That’s something I could get behind, for me it’d just feel so much more involving.

That’s why I can take or leave sports games really, in the same way that I like playing fighting games but can easily not pick them up. There’s no real hook that draws me in. I know that’s not the point of those games, that they’re meant to be games you sit and play with your friends instead of being an engrossing single player experience. There’s nothing wrong with that pick up and play attitude to gaming, but adding something a bit deeper or meatier would be a nice move for the genre in my opinion. Maybe I just want everything in every game.

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39 Comments

  1. I’d say it’s true that you need a certain affinity for the sport before you dedicate time to it but I will say that PES Master League is probably the best career mode I’ve ever experienced, football or no.

    Also, as for missing out on sports, MLB 11: The Show is one of the best sports games I’ve ever played and Baseball is not a tough game to learn. It’s a travesty that it isn’t naturally available here (UK).

    • Football manager far exceeds any other football games career mode

      • 100% agree, Im addicted to it!

      • Unless, of course, you happen to actually like playing the matches.

      • I used to love FM until I eventually found the game pointless. I still have no idea why I find it pointless though.

    • Fight night round 4 does exactley what the author says no games do. You start off as a bare knuckle fighter in prison and work your way up from there.

  2. FIFA 11 does have the option to do this, you can start your Pro off playing for a League 2 side, or a Scandinavian side if you feel like it, and after each season if you’ve done well you’ll get contract offers from slightly higher clubs. I think this is a pretty good system as it lets people play how they want, people like you who want realism can go for that option, but it’s not forced upon you.

    I think it was FIFA 05 on PS2 that started you off in career mode as a manager of a poor side, the best you could hope for in your first season was an average SPL team (Which let’s face it is awful) but it was boring as hell. I can’t remember even finishing my first season is Kilmarnock manager because the games were boring as hell with no quality. This would be better on FIFA 11 as lower league football and other poor leagues have their own playing style and the matches feel weighty and realistic.

    All I play on FIFA 11 now is Ultimate Team though, which has been supported fantastically well by EA after release (Weekly updates, new tournaments every few days etc.) and best of all it was a free add-on this year. If Ultimate Team is carried on next year I’ll be sinking hundreds of hours into it just like I have done with this

  3. Very interesting. Being a FIFA fan-boy for the good part of 12 years, I could never slate any of them. But the change in Career Mode would be an incredible thing for me. You should be given the option to play through a Be a Pro Season at the lowest ranks, as you said in an academy. But instead of being picked every game, you should be made to watch games on the bench, and only brought on when required, or if you make some real progress in training, given your shot. And if you’re tired during a game, or if you have played badly, you can be taken off and/or dropped. Eventually, if you make a real impression, you can become a regular and eventually move up to the Reserves, and then you’d repeat the process again until you’ve been made Captain at club and country level. It could be a totally different mode to Manager Mode, so it’s an optional thing. But yeah, I’ll stop now. Great article. :)

    • Oooo yeah, having you watch from the sidelines would be great! I’d love that.

      • Yea, and be told to warm up, Tevez/Mancini style :)

      • closest to this is Become a Legend on PES, though some will say its a knock-off FIFA(which to be fair kinda is) it is the closest to what you are suggesting. I am 3 seasons in and started off trying to become a part of a reserve team in a weaker team (at the start you get several offers from low teams in different leagues to start in) therefore you work up to gain managerial preference for roles you can play in. This varies after each game facing off a preference bar against several players for the role. I am finally hitting near starting team on mid level teams and called for international duty for FIFA World Cup qualifiers – it really is quite addicting though gameplay can be frustrating. It’s engrossing and if gameplay can be like fifa with an enhanced become a legend pes mode, that would be something special

  4. I used to get FIFA every year for the PSP. I lost heart in the game (can’t remeber the year) when the only things they changed really were the shooting power indicator and how you take penalties. The roster update I could have done on the previous year via logging in online.
    Sports games in recent years are making progress but no more progress than you see in FPS games in general. In that, with the odd change to how you shoot or new player/weapons, but it remains the same game.

  5. I’ve never had any form of interest in sports games which are of a sport that I can go outside & play. They just seem to defy half the point of sport – exercise. I’ll happily play SSX or something other extreme sport though.

  6. Pes masterleague was amazing, really tactical and mind involving off the pitch. Fifa is realistic and gameplay on the field is better but you really got a sense of progression and growth within Pes.

  7. I wish Fifa would implement something like what we are talkng about, a better structured career mode, instead of Be a Goalie etc, why waste time on that?

  8. I was totally put off Fifa by the shit servers…..most of the time, i could connect to strangers, but not to most of my mates. For that reason, the game was totally ruined for me.
    In future, i’ll be giving Fifa a big miss.
    As for PES, i didn’t enjoy any of them after PES 4 (i think) on PS2.
    I do enjoy the odd baseball game tho.

    • thats possibly because of your NAT type, i used to have the same problem until i changed it, do a connection test in your settings menu & if you get NAT 3 then thats your reason, you must then change it to NAT1 (easily explained if you google it).
      hope this helps :)

      • NAT 2 is more common a setting though

      • NAT1 easy? the only way you can get that is haing no router, just a modem, so only internet device at once.

      • Yeah, NAT2 is easy, NAT1 is unusual in this country becasue you need your console to be directly connected to the ISP, not routed through a modem.
        In parts of Europe houses have a dedicated socket in the wall (like our phone sockets) which provide this but because of the way the UK is set up with ADSL, we don’t have that.

  9. Obviously there’s a hugely different system in place, but MLB: The Show 11 does just this; you start off in the lowest class of minor league baseball and have to work your way up to the top yourself.

    However, the only reason I would buy a football game (my personal choice is PES) is for multiplayer with friends all playing on the same time trying to win the world cup as Honduras on Legendary difficulty. I just don’t find it fun on my own.

  10. A lot of what has been asked for is already in Pro Evo’s Become a Legend mode, starting out as a rookie player, in a rubbish team (while PES lacks the licensing to have multiple divisions of different nation’s leagues, there is a very clear scale of team quality), playing in teams consisting of subs and reserves in non-competitive matches, and trying to work your way into the main match day squad.

    You grind for a place on the bench, and when you get the call to come in you listen to the manager’s requirements, where he wants you to play, how he wants you to play and who you’re supposed to be passing to. You work your ass of to impress the manager to make yourself more likely to be picked in the starting eleven.

    You keep putting in the performances when you get the chances, and try and make yourself a more attractive proposition for the national team and put yourself in the shop window for the transfer window where you hope to be snapped up by a bigger, better side, all the time trying to improve your player’s stats.

    Suffice to say I’ve put a lot of time in on this mode in Pro Evo 2011 and previously in its 2010 iteration, as involving as the Master’s League is for a team on the whole, the Become A Legend mode is a brilliant solo career mode.

    • I’d like to say that I could’ve put it better myself, but no.

      Gilardino might’ve though. ;)

      PES, really is brilliant in a multitude of ways.

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