Football Feature, Wk. 3 – Discussing FIFA and Pro Evolution

The past two weeks, we’ve talked a lot of football, or more specifically, a lot of football games. After being called out by Mohamed Al-Saadoon in his review of Pro Evolution Soccer ’10 for the PC, I reviewed both football games. It’s obvious that although I did like Pro Evolution, I felt FIFA was the better game. Mohamed disagreed.

Today, we hash out our differences the way only two good friends and football nuts can: talking it out, listing our respective beefs and complaints, and ultimately hating on each other’s teams of choice. This is essentially a free-flowing conversation between two friends on a sport they love.

This is the last part of our Football Special. Our schedule went like this:

* November 30th – Mohamed’s Review of PES ’10 for the PC
* December 10th – Review of FIFA ’10 for the 360
* December 17th – Review of PES ’10 for the 360
* Today – Discussion of both football games. Also, sometime next week, Guy Desmerais will have a full, in-depth review of Pro Evo for the Wii, which was by far the best football game on the Wii last year.

First, an introduction:

Mohamed “The Notorious MAS” Al-Saadoon – This native of Saudi Arabia is a big fan of football all over the world, as long as it’s played well. A goalkeeper in his youth, he is a series-long fan of Pro Evolution Soccer and Football Manager and is in-tune with football all over the world. Tactically, he favours a defensive 4-1-4-1, with a defensive anchorman at midfield and his wingers free to move up.
Teams supported: Al Wehda (Saudi Premier League), Tottenham Hospurs (Barclay’s Premiership), Hannover96 (German Bundesliga)

Christopher “Superbus” Bowen – Providing a more geographically “Western” perspective, Chris resides in the United States. Despite living in the US, Chris rarely watches MLS, instead preferring British football. Chris was a fan of Pro Evolution until recently, when he was impressed by FIFA; he is also a massive Football Manager fan. Tactically, despite being a fullback in his youth, Chris prefers to go on the attack with a 4-2-2-2 with a focus on a ground passing attack and playing to feet.
Teams supported: Sunderland (Barclay’s Premiership), Celtic (Scottish Premier League), Seattle Sounders (Major League Soccer), Consadole Sapporo (J-League J2)

So, both football games are out, we’ve played them both, reviewed them both … it’s obvious I like one (FIFA), and you like the other (Pro Evolution). I played both games, and I honestly didn’t notice much difference between Pro Evolution ’10 and Pro Evolution Soccer 6 (aka Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2007, for our American readers).

Fenix, we’ll start with you. What did you like about PES over FIFA this year?

Master League is by far much better than Manager mode in FIFA. It’s the closest a console game has come to Football Manager (though it’s a long long way off yet) and a great persistent gaming model. Shooting also feels more instinctive and more powerful in PES in comparison to FIFA’s floaty ball physics.

The tactics system and the general interface was better than FIFA’s effort as well.

Now I suppose I have to ask you about why FIFA is better than PES.

Well, I spent over ten thousand words and untold caffeinated drinks explaining why FIFA was better, but really, what’s the point of a better Master League if the gameplay isn’t as good? The more I play PES – and I spent a lot of my day snowed in in beautiful Connecticut, so trust me, I played a LOT of PES – the more I realise that the gameplay hasn’t changed very much AT ALL since 2007. That’s a good thing in a sense because PES6 was the best football game of the PS2 era, but it’s not the PS2 era anymore; FIFA’s king now. The gameplay is better, players react better, I don’t feel like I’m controlling foosball players while dribbling, and even though shooting is technically more fun, I am going to go out on a limb and say it’s actually “better” in FIFA because FIFA gets the ratio of shots on net to shots that fly into row Z proper. It’s extremely easy to get good shots on net in PES, I feel, even if you’re using a fullback. Don’t even get me started on headers.

What bothers me the most is that for the most part, the things that worked when I played on Top Level in PES6 work now in PES ’10. Wasn’t this AI supposed to have improved? Am I missing something here? Yes, you CAN do different things, but even if I’m frustrated that my players are incapable of sending ground passes to someone farther down the field, I can still generally win – against the computer, at least – with quick diagonal runs and short passing up the middle.

I’m just wondering … what does Master League really matter if there’s more gameplay modes in FIFA that are actually good, or if the core gameplay is better?

It’s easy to rephrase that question: What’s the use of of better gameplay if the modes aren’t as good? Simply playing games again and again with no continuity gets boring fast if you don’t have friends over and if you do, PES‘ community mode is the equal or superior to lounge mode in FIFA.

For single player, you NEED some good modes to keep the game from getting stale and since both career modes are shit and the cup and league modes are about the same that leaves manager/Master League mode which is better in PES.

And let’s open a divergent argument here: PES ’10’s passing sucks this is true but I feel FIFA 10’s passing….is too good. My very first game I selected the highest difficulty and played Tottenham vs Man City. I didn’t touch any tactics or formations or anything. I won 3-0 simply by ping-ponging passes all around and shooting when I got into the penalty area. Running is useless because the game is way too physical.

Fenix, I don’t understand the argument that a game is inferior because the passing is too good; if that’s the case, then NHL ’10 is the worst game of the year. FIFA’s focus on a ground passing game favours me, but PES’s focus on letting players run also favours me, so it’s a wash. If anything, I’m more worried about the referees in PES, who are all basically Uriah Rennie and even worse, don’t play the continuation rule. FIFA’s refs are a little better, but there needs to be a bit more inconsistency based on who you get, just like real football.

That brings to light a good question though: when are we going to get to the point where a game can be played with any style possible? FIFA, to my mind, comes the closest, but try a running offence; it’s like the Madden developers got involved in the wrong game and programmed a wrap-tackling engine. Pro Evolution has a certain style of football you have to play (target man in the middle!), FIFA has its own style (triangle passing), but no game really lets you have your own style of game. That’s a problem to me.

As for your query about modes vs. gameplay, isn’t the point of either PES or FIFA to play the actual game? This isn’t Football Manager, where the metrics make all the difference. The game on the pitch is what matters, and FIFA – despite being heavily flawed in some aspects – does have playable modes that enable you to enjoy the superior on pitch action. Be A Pro is still a fun mode. Manager Mode isn’t good, but is playable. Lounge Mode sucks, but not everyone’s going to get anything out of Community Mode anyway; I sure know I didn’t. I just don’t see how “Master League is good!” trumps “the gameplay has barely changed in five years!” and “FIFA has evolved into the best overall football game on the market”, especially when you consider FIFA’s online options.

There is such a thing as “passing is too good”. You’ve complained that headers and shooting is too good in PES so FIFA’s laser guided passes should be a point against it.

I agree with you on the referee issue. I recall in old PES games you could select from three referees, with variable levels of strictness, depending on the type of game you wanted to play and I have no idea why this was removed.

As for the metrics issue, I generally tend to like continuity in my games. Playing a single match in a fighting game or single session in Guitar Hero never appealed to me, I want something to show for my efforts and this is why I LOVE Master League mode. This also perhaps shows that I am a greedy bastard for wanting something material from my video games other than fun, but oh well.

I think the reason Madden does better styles I think is because American Football is a series of very controlled plays that repeat while real football is more flowing and nebulous and therefore much harder to pin down in digital form.

Also excuse me for opening yet another divergent argument, but I’d like to know what’s your favourite aspects about the “other game” (in your case, PES) and I’ll start with my favourite things from FIFA:

Jostling for the ball in the air is really satisfying and feels great unlike in PES where once the player is in the air you can’t do anything but hope and pray.

Also, I really like Andy Grey and Martin Tyler as commentators, they really make the game come alive unlike the robotic pair of Jon Champion and Mark Lawrenson.

I’ll take your point on the passing, I guess that’s fair. But I never said shooting was “too good”; the only reason I have issues with headers is because goalkeepers don’t even try to reach them. It’s an AI issue.

Jostling, in PES, I’ve learned to get around, actually; you can either get off your man, or you can hit the RT button into his back, which actually knocks him off balance. I scored a goal like that! You just can’t usually get away with it with strikers – they’re not strong enough – and usually get a foul for your troubles, but the option’s there to push the guy in the back, which I found was a nice thing to add to the game (and I’m kinda angry I didn’t notice it in time for the review)

The referee thing gets to me, especially in FIFA who has all the licenses; they could literally program in Steve Bennett and Uriah Rennie if they wanted. Hell, they could go with Graham Poll, too! They could call that “Throw Your Fucking Controller Mode”. Both games should have a variable referee, I feel, even if it’s a matter of having fake ones, like the PES games of old, or like a game that actually has a very good system for referees: Fire Pro Wrestling.

Despite what might have seemed like a negative review, I like PES; I still play it after the review, which is something I can’t say for a lot of games, and is a pretty fair indication that I like it, or at least play it when I’m nostalgic. For things I liked, aerial play seems better this year; passes don’t fly over heads as much as they used to, and I like that at least jostling gives you a chance.

Of course, I also like the Master League, though that gives me issues as well (like the entire schedule still shutting down for the mid-season window, which is a bit goofy). Other than that issue, it’s a great mode.

I also like the Champion’s League. I admit it, I like the pomp for those matches.

Though in reality, I think my favourite thing about PES is the thing that made me slam it in the review so hard: it’s still essentially the same game on the PS2. That’s actually an accomplishment, because the prior 360 versions weren’t as good as PES6. I find myself playing this and remembering tricks that I would use and that are benefiting me, such as a renewed vigour for early crosses. The games are different enough for me to play both.

Now, I’ll ask you a question: we both did the Konami survey for PES, so let’s bring that here; what are the things you think both games – FIFA and PES – should prioritize for next year’s games?

I think Konami should stick to the PS2 “feel” and try to build on top of it rather than wiping the slate clean. FIFA could start over because FIFA sucked anyway. If PES changed its fundamentals it’d be like going from X-COM UFO Defense to X-COM Enforcer (okay, maybe not as drastic as that) – it’d just not be PES anymore.

As for what needs work, PES needs to work on animations, animations, and more animations. If it can do that it’ll be the best looking footy game ever. Also, allowing more control of your passes would be nice as well as a half decent Career mode and better AI. Finally, they need to car bomb Lawro and Jon.

FIFA needs to tweak their modes and features a bit and work on their shitty interface (I don’t have an HD screen so I’m fucked by EA’s small menu text). They’ve got excellent animations so they just need to work on player models and likeness and they’re golden.

Only the Saudi would mention car-bombing someone. :)

I do agree that the best thing about PES is that it’s PES; they shouldn’t change the general feel. But you’re right; the animations – or lack thereof – are killing the game. They need to get at least twenty guys in there with some good motion capture technology and record everything. Look at how human beings run, transition moves, etc. I think if PES can clean up their animations, that will eliminate the best advantage FIFA has outside of having all of the licenses.

Speaking of licenses, I find it daffy that we always end up with a weird mix of licensed teams (Manchester United, Liverpool) and non-licensed teams (London FC, Wearside, “The Potteries”). I don’t see why PES can’t just use the team names without the logos, like how Football Manager does it.

The graphics need a do-over. It’s not the look of the players; player models are outstanding. But I’m constantly seeing legs going through bodies and other graphical clipping issues.

FIFA needs a lot of work off the pitch. On the pitch, the game could use a slight goosing in terms of speed, but otherwise, the interface does need work – it sucked years ago, and sucks now – and manager mode desperately needs an overhaul. There’s also more work required on Be a Pro – if NHL ’10 lets me have a career, why can’t FIFA? – and believe it or not, they need a tweak online; we need to be able to kick people out of those BAP games where one guy screws it up.

Pro Evo needs the most work online, though. There’s just nothing there. You play more PES online than I do, maybe you can tell me I’m taking the piss here?

No, PES online does need a makeover. It’s improved this year but that’s like saying you’ve improved Calvin Tucker’s Redneck Jamboree. It means nothing. I wish it could provide more option online like 11v11 in FIFA (I’d use that very very rarely but it’s nice to have the option).

I’m not too worried about the players clipping – it’s unnoticeable from regular viewing angles – but the ball needs to stop clipping the edges of the players and then going in.

As for licenses…..You’re right! Why doesn’t PES use a Footyman model?

Licensing for pro football is an absolute nightmare. You have the leagues all licensing their teams’ rights, plus you have FIFA’s license, FIFPro, etc.; I feel like I’m only scratching the surface. Both Football Manager and FIFA have a lot of great licenses, but PES is really lacking in that regard. It’s not just the EPL, or leagues like the Bundesliga that are reportedly extremely hard to deal with, but they aren’t even giving us a sniff of the J-League. Considering they have J-League’s exclusive license, that is frustrating.

I think we’ve both beaten these games to death; let’s enjoy the rest of the season. The January market is coming up! I sincerely look forward to Spurs finding a way to fall out of European contention after a late-season fade, as is their form!

You may hate Tottenham but for some reason you really like Tottenham Reserves (aka Sunderland). We’re getting rid of David Bentley, you want him so you can have a set of players not good enough for Spurs?

Hey, we’re getting a lot out of those ex-Spurs, particularly Bent and Malbranque. It doesn’t seem to appear that the problem is Sunderland’s!

It doesn’t matter in the long run; as long as we’re not like Newcastle, I’m satisfied.



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