It must be difficult being the developer of a Sports game. Not a one-off Sports (as in EA Sports replete with upper-cased 'S') game, mind you, but the same Sports game every year – either the might of Madden
in the United States or the equally huge FIFA Soccer
for the civilised world.
With the series lasting as long as it has, it must be slightly daunting to try and make the next game improve on last year’s while all the time ensuring it doesn’t feel lose the qualities that made it so popular in the first place. At least for the devs working on the Soccer franchise (and no, SPOnG is not entering into any tedious arguments about ‘football’ versus ‘soccer’) there is some competition in the form of Pro Evolution Soccer
I was taken through the latest online offering for FIFA 08 by Paul Hossack, online producer for the last-gen, PS2 and PC versions of the game. You can read our Q&A with Paul right here
when you’ve finished this.
The ‘Be A Pro’ mode in question is a rather involved affair that someone like me, who’s never really dabbled in the ways of football (although I’ll happily cheer England on internationally), really connected with. Starting in the Create-A-Player menu, you mould a digital version of yourself and build your attribute points as normal (or you can cheat and pick any famous player in the game). Then you follow that one player in a Career mode of sorts, focusing on building yourself up as a fantastic team member – in matches you only control your chosen Pro. The trick is to play with the CPU co-operatively when you have the ball, calling for passes and shots when you don’t.
In each game you play, a task is presented that will earn you experience points as you complete them. When going solo you get single tasks, but the beauty is playing the game with a friend who also has a Pro to train – in this case you get a team task that requires both players to work together. For example, it can be a task to pass 10 times to each other, or to stay onside throughout the whole match. At the end of each game a stats screen will pop up showcasing how many times each player has called and received a pass - a perfect solution to full-time arguments, so not really very authentic at all (you’ll understand that one if you’ve ever actually had a post-game argument. Ed
Essentially, the new mode is very loosely like an RPG. Either way, it’s a great way to add depth to a game genre that has, to me, just looked like kicking a ball around. According to EA, the mode will also entice people who actually play football as well, through the personal experience that the ‘Be A Pro’ mode brings.