EA is back at it again, this time with the most recent update of Pitch Notes. Let’s jump right into them.
One Vs. One
Finally, FIFA and footy games in general are highlighting the importance of one-on-one encounters. Watch any match, and more often than not, the match hinges on a player performing a moment of brilliance, often in a one-on-one situation. Whether it’s in the middle of the pitch or out wide, beating your man and/or defending in this situation is of the upmost importance. Before we dive into this, let’s pause as EA just casually drops this nugget:
“Due to the re-architecture of our Positioning system, players should find themselves in one-on-one battles, all over the pitch, more often in FIFA 20.”
So, just casually dropping that you’ve addressed one of the biggest concerns plaguing FIFA over the past few years hasn’t gone unnoticed. Hopefully, this means that fullbacks aren’t tucked too far inside and center backs judge their position accordingly when marking, whether it be the two in a back four or a back three. “Re-architecting” positioning could have positive (or negative) ramifications across multiple areas that affect gameplay.
Back to one on ones, and one thing to note is having more time in these situations. My preference is that this is addressed by slowing the pace of play down a tad but still maintaining the ability for the game to speed up — like real soccer — when the situation dictates.
“To improve unnecessary player movements and hectic feeling of the game, players will now try to keep their formation and position, anticipating the opponent’s next move instead of just going towards them. At the same time, players will still make runs and offer support when the opportunity arises.”
If you’ve played FIFA 19 and paid close attention, mostly in replays or Pro Clubs where you have time to notice more interactions/animations, you’ll notice the large amount of “unnecessary movements” where your players/teammates will act so unnaturally that it takes them out of the play and opens up space for your opponent. FIFA has always pushed for ultra-responsive controls, sometimes defying physics, but hearing that game flow has been slowed and one-on-one animations have been enhanced through some new controls — new Strafe Dribble, Controlled Tackling, and Agile Jockey System — should make players like Neymar as dangerous as they are in real life while also giving some love to defenders in order to create the balance necessary to make a game that isn’t skewered towards attacking.
Everything that goes into these one-on-one situations seems like an attempt to create “Decisive Moments” where the balance of the game hangs by a thread. Last-minute input presses when passing, shooting and trapping could result in capitalizing on a golden opportunity or throwing away a good chance. A new “Active Touch” system where players don’t slow down to take a touch (sometimes confused with the “catch-up bug”) is welcome but perhaps an actual “trap/control” button should be explored as a good first touch is one of the most valuable attributes a player can have. Either way, the agility and increased responsiveness is evident here:
In FIFA 19, you’d have to either slow down to a halt or push the ball forward and to the left, and hope that your touch isn’t heavy. Controlled Tackling, in addition to improved ball physics and more tackling animations, should make a huge difference in defending. FIFA 19 frequently suffered from laggy tackle animations, and more often than not, a tackle animation that wasn’t very contextual and looked ugly. “Agile Jockeying” sounds intriguing but I’ll reserve judgement for when I see it in practice. Visions of FIFA’s past are stuck in my mind with defenders jockeying so quickly that they were able to keep up with attackers even when they were glued to the turbo button.
Lastly, it seems as if EA took a page out of Konami’s book with the “Set-Up Touch” as PES has had this command in their games for a while now. Pushing the ball out in front of you, not quite as far as the right-stick flick, is very valuable when lining up a shot or timing a cross. I’m glad this was included in there as this skill, while hard to time due to high-pressure defenses, is used frequently by the game’s best attackers, especially when lining up a finesse shot aimed at painting the corners.
To put it bluntly, ball physics in FIFA have been bad for far too long. Apart from the ball feeling floaty, the bounces, deflections and other scenarios where ball physics play an important role often felt canned. Subtle bounces, spin and other variables rarely affect shots in FIFA 19 as you’re able to make clean contact far too often, which results in unbelievable passes and shots. Reading that EA is making this a priority is music to my ears.
Set Piece Refresh
Personally, I hated set pieces in FIFA 19 (when you were able to actually get one), particularly penalties where I shamefully have missed more than I have converted. A new aiming mechanic, similar to the one in PES, should provide better placement but could perhaps be a little too overpowered (think PES 2015 and 2016) if not tuned correctly. A new system to produce spin on the ball has been introduced and hopefully takes the new ball physics into account. Shot power seems to have been tweaked to address the differences between finesse and normal shots (low/high/etc.) and lastly, the annoying “wall creep up” and subsequent yellow, which is sort of out of control of the player, has been removed. I’ve seen a few instances, whether it be in career mode or Pro Clubs, where a player gets sent off because of a yellow card received for encroachment.
It seems like EA didn’t rest here, as several other areas were addressed. Keepers can now come out on crosses (Press △/Y + △/Y and hold, and the goalkeeper will rush from the goal line to the penalty mark in order to intercept any incoming crosses), but there’s still no guarantee that they will catch or punch the ball. “Ball Relative Switching” sounds intriguing, but there’s always concerns in the community about it and the explanation given by EA here seems a little vague. Perhaps more details on this will come in future Pitch Notes. “No Touch Dribbling” has been removed as EA cites “this avoids conflicts with other mechanics.” “Early Lock to Pass Receiver” sounds great but makes me wonder why EA didn’t introduce this much earlier. For years, one of the biggest complaints from users centered around their player waiting for the pass to come no matter what. Being able to control the receiver and actually move towards the ball, without having to manually switch, should make a huge difference, especially for manual players who can’t guarantee that the pass will always perfectly go-to-feet. “Kick Off Emotions”? Yeah, no thanks.
EA dropped a lot of buzzwords and new ideas on us for this latest iteration of Pitch Notes. While the proof will ultimately be in the pudding, knowing that the developers are actively thinking about legitimate issues that affect gameplay is a step in the right direction. While it’s not perfect nor all-encompassing, some of these tweaks and updates have the potential to make FIFA 20 a very solid game of footy, both online and offline. As usual, community feedback after the demo and final release will drive the developers to make changes, hopefully not too much as too much tweaking can make the game unplayable and unrecognizable from past versions.
What new feature has you most excited? What new feature makes you nervous?