Now, I’m a big fan of the FIFA series of games. Those of you who follow my posts and the Podcast will know that I am an avid supporter of the FIFA franchise (only once did I slip over to the Pro Evolution Soccer darkside). Every year I get excited about the prospect of a new FIFA game and what features they’ll introduce, what gameplay they’ll fix from the last game and whose ugly mug will be plastered on the front of the box. With FIFA 12 it was no different. I can sing the praises of the FIFA 12 game; I believe it is EA Sports best attempt yet at a “football simulation” and there are many promising factors about where the franchise is heading in the future in terms of gameplay. However, one minor thing still haunts me to this day. The source of many debates and hot-worded Xbox Live Messages revolve around this question, ANY or No ANY?
Personally, my Pro Club plays with an ANY (to those of you who are clueless, an ANY is a player nominated to control the rest of the team that aren’t your online friend/s). Obviously, this shows that I am in favour of people on Pro Clubs playing with an ANY. My argument for this is as follows.
- Mano-a-mano – Two teams with an ANY are going head-to-head. The ANY’s individual skill, the team’s ability to work effectively as a team and the team’s tactics go head-to-head. It’s about that sense of gladiatorial competition, the right to say that you are better than the person you are playing.
- Ridiculous AI technical ability – If you play Pro Clubs, you probably know how I feel. A team without an ANY has a striker up front. The ball is situated in their own penalty box. Said striker puts his hand up to call for the ball. A seemingly bumbling defender swivels on a six-pence and delivers a rocket of a pass, flat trajectory and all. Said striker gratefully takes the once in a lifetime pass into his stride and is on the counter attack immediately. Wash, rinse, repeat.
- The sense of being cheated - I may be the only one, but whenever my Pro Club plays a team without an ANY, Lady Luck seems to err on the side of the AI. It’s as though the AI has it’s own pride, it’s own hunger to win. So, low and behold, bounces start going against you, the referee appears to be on the opposition pay-roll, the post and crossbar start to look that little bit thicker. It’s nice that EA Sports have included this sense of having the “rub of the green” in the game, as a modern game of football does, but sometimes the coincidences stack up into an all too common occurrence, game after game.
- Inhuman reaction times – The AI has a faster processing speed than a human brain. When that ball is rolling over the line, an ANY’s brain has to process the image of the ball and then tell the correct finger to depress the correct button at exactly the right moment. The AI sits back, smokes a cigar, maybe catches up on its correspondence, knowing that it has the processing capabilities to deal with the panic. Hence in those button-bashing panics, the AI has the upper hand over the human ANY player.
- AI, Master of the defence system – The new defence system EA Sports introduced in FIFA 12 was supposed to introduce “Tactical Defending”. Basically, you were supposed to jockey the person on the ball, waiting for the precise moment to stick a foot in and take the ball from him. Every gamer had to learn a new way of playing and defending in FIFA 12. However, a team without an ANY do not have to worry about this (unless their Virtual Pro is a defender, of course). Instead, the AI, master of the new defence system, constantly maintains the optimum position to defend a situation, doesn’t react to step-overs and other flicks a human defender may react to (which would open space for the attacker), but instead sits back and thwarts carefully laid passing movements. With 5 at the back, this wall of master defenders looks nearly impossible to penetrate.
- Masters of the air – Not only does the AI have amazing defensive skills, it also has the uncanny ability to out jump even the tallest attackers, winning headers 90% of the time. Pair this with their inhuman ability to spot a pass and then make it, all in a split second, it adds up to quite a formidable counter attacking weapon.
I could go on with more reasons, but I’d end up ranting myself into an early basket case. I have thought about how EA Sports could balance the Pro Clubs game mode in a fairer way. I used to think that making a player play as an ANY in the Pro Clubs mode would solve the problem, but that would drive some players away from the game. Instead, I think a search filter option would benefit the balance of the game. This would allow clubs with an ANY to search for games with other clubs playing ANY and vice-versa, thus restoring harmony and fair competition to the Pro Clubs world. Hopefully, EA Sports will listen to the gaming public before making any decisions on FIFA 13. Who knows, they might even take away the “Be a Goalkeeper” mode. Oh well, one can dream I guess.