How FIFA’s Current Patch Is a Step Backwards from the Goal of FIFA 18

When EA first released FIFA 18, they indicated that they sought to create a much more realistic feel to the football title – a step closer towards creating a simulation to the real football world.

One patch later, and EA seem to have took the game back a year to something what would be more fitting if it was named FIFA 17.2.

The most significant change which EA showed during their first release was the adjustment to defending – it was much more difficult and you couldn’t just leave it to the AI to control.

It almost goes without saying that in any online game, it shouldn’t be more effective to just let the AI players defend – it removes the skill element, instead narrowing the skill gap and making the game less viable as an eSport.

Of course, there must be some AI control in a 1v1 on a football/soccer game, but must the AI be so overpowered? The teams move in perfect sync, reacting to every pass without ever losing shape or becoming unbalanced – if you notice that your opponent isn’t controlling the defender pressuring you, there’s no point in even trying to dribble, the AI just reads every move.

Effectively, EA’s current patch has taken the defending back to the ways of FIFA 17 – which means attacking is limited again. Worst of all, it means that counter-attack football is the most successful way to play – the game is embracing styles of football which rely on defending and breaking only when they can outnumber the defense – it’s unattractive.

Of course, it is possible to play possession styles, but against top opposition, there’s not much hope of breaking through without using the power ground pass into your players feet in-between the gap of your opponents midfield and defense. EA promised that there would be numerous ways of how to play effectively, but one patch in and it’s back to the limited methods of attacking football.

EA have spoken previously about removing “ping-pong” passing where players can make multiple first time passes in a row with ease – without any consideration for a players bodyshape or angle. While we can’t expect the game to be a perfect simulation of football, EA could at least remove aspects of the game which would be better suited to an arcade.

From crossing, to long passing and ground passing – some of the quality of the balls you see from standing positions or awkward angles are techniques what not even real life’s best players could pull off. Once again, it’s examples of that which shouldn’t be in a game that is intends to become a player in the eSports market.

For a sports game to succeed as an eSport, it’s important that certain aspects of a game aren’t overpowered – it becomes boring to watch the same type of style over and over. EA need to ensure that there is a real versatility to playstyles – a replica of real life football where multiple styles can be used effectively.

Thankfully, EA have recently released some patch notes for an update which will first go live to PC players before coming to PS4 and XBOX.

Positively for fans complaining of the game being too easy, the notes state that passing accuracy and speed has been reduced when the angle of a pass is between 90 and 270 degrees. This should of course aid the looks of the game – ensuring that players can’t just spam X/A without taking note of their players shape or form when playing a pass.

While EA haven’t mentioned any fixes to gameplay in regards to shooting or AI defending, it’s possible that these two factors could have been subject to a more subtle change. After all, EA wouldn’t want to release too many changes on the patch notes as they would be submitting that their previous version of the game was a borderline disaster.

That being said, the latest patch notes seem to have much more depth than usual – perhaps EA are recognizing the flaws within the gameplay.

Hopefully, the upcoming patch will address all of the necessary fixes to avoid users having to put up with another year of a terrible FIFA. FIFA 17 had too much reliance on artificial intelligence, and EA need to steer as far away from that as possible.

eSports titles are for skilled players – so in some ways, the game should actually be made harder. A bigger skill gap means that the game will be much more enjoyable to watch as well as play.