After a pretty entertaining World Cup, it’s time to prepare ourselves for the incoming onslaught of FIFA 19 news. While leaked videos have been seen here and there, EA has given us enough news to arouse our curiosity in the interim so let’s dive in.
Tactics have always been an afterthought for the majority of FIFA players. Despite adding “Roles” and “Instructions” a few years back, FIFA has still suffered from gameplay falling into predictable patterns even with the likes of OS’ Krebstar working with our community to develop Custom Team Tactics. It’s with this in mind that when EA Canada announced Dynamic Tactics, a lot of us were cautiously optimistic. “Seeing your changes play out on the pitch before and during the match” sounds great, but the proof will be in the pudding.
The big change in pre-match preparation comes by way of being able to create multiple game plans with the option of switching between them during a match without having to pause the game. As FIFA introduces more “on-the-fly” commands, the ability to bark out orders from the virtual touchline without pausing the game will give online players more freedom without having to wait for a break in the action — and/or racing against the clock to make your adjustments. As long as you are able to preload these before hopping online, the feature should be embraced by the community.
These changes to the tactics system are being touted by EA as having a noticeable impact upon the match, meaning intellectual players should be able to determine how their opponent is approaching the match and adjust accordingly. Now, all of this sounds fantastic on paper but there are still lingering questions to ask. Will the CPU utilize these tactics offline? Will EA setup teams according to the real-life play styles. Will the online community embrace these tactics forcing them to play football and not FIFA? Will they be tuned equally to create a fine balance (think aggressively pressuring and its effects on stamina)? So many questions, but again, on-paper it sounds like a welcome addition.
Dubbed as “one of the most exciting and useful gameplay innovations” by EA, “Timed Finishing” is probably the most controversial of all the FIFA 19 gameplay announcements. Players, including myself, are very weary about any feature that could be potentially exploitable by stick skill over player skill (player attributes/ratings). Timing is of the essence with this feature, and hopefully it’s tuned in a way where getting perfect contact on the ball is the exception and not the norm. In particular, this quote from EA’s blog makes me nervous:
“The basic process for taking a shot doesn’t change, but if you want to make your shots potentially unstoppable with this accuracy and power boost, it’s as simple as tapping the “shoot” button a second time after the initial button tap.”
Anytime I read or hear “unstoppable” I get worried that it will be overpowered, especially with the help of the FIFA Trainer. This reminds me of timed shooting in NBA 2K/NBA Live where you’ll find yourself intensely focusing on the power meter. One thing that’s missing from EA’s blog on this feature is whether or not stats will play a role in your margin of error. Obviously a player such as Messi should have more margin of error than a clunky defender like England’s Harry Maguire. This is definitely one feature that we will have to get our hands on before final judgment can be passed, but my initial thought is “why add something that wasn’t needed and/or asked for by the community”?
(Editor’s note: Per the most recent “Pitch Notes” blog, it appears attributes will play a part in determining the success of your timed shot.
In soccer, the quality of a player’s first touch is vital, especially for attackers. When FIFA introduced the “First Touch” slider a few years back, it really helped to bring much needed error into the game. Unfortunately, it took FIFA a few iterations to hone this as poor touches often occurred when no one was near the player receiving the ball. Sometimes these heavy touches felt cheap, especially when they resulted in you losing possession. Fast forward to FIFA 19, and EA Canada has tweaked the way players receive, strike and move with the ball. A greater sense of fluidity and control could go a long way when space gets tight in the midfield and/or around the eighteen.
Never short on animations, the success of this feature depends on a few factors. First, the user has to have some sort of control over it. For years, we’ve had the ability to stop the ball, both facing towards and away from goal, as well as the ability to flick the ball into space. With the majority of FIFA players utilizing a high-press system, added control, especially when it’s tied to attributes or skills, could really unlock key midfield cogs and separate elite attackers from those with poor first touches (cough cough, Lukaku and Morata). Unfortunately, it looks like EA chose to showcase this feature through tricks and feints, two areas that already bring an arcade feeling to the series. Luckily, in the leaked Manchester United vs City video, the active touches seemed authentic and completely realistic, to the point where you might not notice them unless you slowed the video down. Lastly, it’s just as important for EA to incorporate poor touches as it is the lovely push ahead of the ball into space for you to run on.
One of the most frustrating aspects of FIFA has been the lack of proper 50/50 battles. For too long, human players have always felt disadvantaged as the CPU seems to react first and faster to 50/50 balls. Coupled with clearances falling right to the CPU’s feet, and it seems like the odds are against us. EA, in its most recent blog, has stated ALL players have the same instincts when competing for 50/50 balls. New animations, taking into account attributes like strength and mass as well as basic geometry (angles, speed, etc.), should make for unique and believable outcomes. All of these changes to 50/50 battles should bring some much needed “ugliness” to the game, hopefully resulting in more fouls and injuries both short and long-term.
EA, like most other gaming companies, has never been adverse to using catchy marketing phrases to try to lure gamers back year after year. So far, 2019 seems no different, but with the new blog entitled “The Pitch Notes” it seems like EA Canada is attempting to give a more transparent look into its development ideas and rationale. Ultimately, the final say will come when FIFA releases, but early returns sound promising and should play out fairly well when the demo drops. For now, we’ll have to sit back and wait for more news and gameplay captures.
What feature has you the most excited or most worried?