The Sports Desk – The FIFA 18 Wishlist
FIFA 17 introduced The Journey story mode, and it was a good first step – adding another alluring mode to a series already chock full of them. On the eve of EA Play, when EA is expected to announce more details about FIFA 18 (see the game's first look below), it's a good time to air my wishlist for the title and the franchise as a whole.
While I certainly don't expect all of these things to transpire, I think it's a good way to check in on the series and provide a standard of sorts against what may be announced.
E3 Note: There will be no Sports Desk next week on June 12. I'll be at E3 and will be writing about plenty of sports stuff, so make sure you check the main page for any stories. Of course, I'll also be covering what happens at E3 in future columns of The Sports Desk, so you won't miss anything.
- Teams should have more variety in the way they play apart from bunkering or pressing late in a game. Teams should have their own personality when you play them that requires unlocking.
- Animations are FIFA's great strength and weakness; players get get stuck in them, giving you less player control at crucial times. The game can incorrectly prioritize another player's command, awarding them a tackle when it looks like you should have a clear chance to take a shot, for example.
- Calling an extra defender to attack the dribbler should be more effective.
- Your teammates are sometimes unaware of each other, leading to odd bunching or players getting in each other's way. EA should address this.
- I am confused why in FIFA 17 some shots end up as low-powered dribbles more like passes than strikes. I hope they shore up this inconsistency.
- Players sometimes don't pick up through balls sent right near their feet in FIFA 17. This is another area that needs addressing.
- I wish there was a cheaper way to play the FUT Draft.
- I would love an option to apply contracts en masse, perhaps via an auto setting that adds them whenever they hit a certain amount for designated players.
- A women's league or the official NWSL license would be a great addition to the franchise.
- More licensed managers, including those from other leagues, would help bring the sidelines alive.
THE JOURNEY: HUNTER RETURNS
- I liked the personal story of Alex Hunter in the first Journey, and am excited to see more of him and the rest of the characters because I thought they were well voice acted. Of course, I'd also like his story to expand to locations and situations outside of the Premier League – which I believe will happen in FIFA 18. EA doesn't have the Champions League/Europa licenses, but there's plenty of transfer drama that could involve other leagues.
- Events in the story need to adjust more to your success/failure in matches instead of just marching along no matter what you do. Similarly, the conversation system needs to offer more interesting dialogue and decisions that influence what happens to your character. You should shape your story, not feel like a passenger in it.
- I liked the assistant manager whom you interacted with in FIFA 17's Journey, but you need more interaction with the actual manager. Obviously, EA has very limited time with the real-life managers it has licensed, but that begs the question of why they're licensed at all if they're not going to be featured. Your character also needs to interact more with other players, agents, and managers.
- Speaking of more interaction, fans – in and out of the stands – need to be more prominent to the experience. One of the high points of the first Journey was when Alex makes his first appearance and the opposing supporters let him have it.
- I'd like to see stats for my player, league context, and information to give me more of a feel of my team's current situation and history.
- Earning money and followers in the mode is a relative dead end. They should matter more if they're going to be included at all.
- Ratings during matches can be too harsh. The mode can react badly when you take a shot in a good position that happens to be saved. Your teammates – while not brain-dead in FIFA 17 – could be more helpful, especially by pulling the trigger when around the net.
- The transfer mode needs another coat of paint. The players can dry up unexpectedly, often players can be had just by giving them enough money, and then there's the problem of teams like Manchester United unexpectedly signing all the strikers in sight.
- Like The Journey, the mode could use more team/supporter flavor and history.
- I like the idea of the training, because it makes you more invested in young players, but man is doing it every week a slog. EA should search for other, more engaging solutions.
- An online career mode such as Madden's Connected Franchise Mode would be awesome.
- Managers in real life have a huge influence over the team, and it would be cool if each manager came with philosophies and tactics that influence the roster, from their stats to their mindset. Managers could even come with an entire staff. There could also be a carousel of managers for leagues around the globe.
- Interviews are stale, and the morale system hasn't changed in a while. You can now trick whining players by putting them in for a game, then back on the bench. FIFA 18's players should have more personality when interacting with the club...
- ...This includes when it comes time to sign new contracts and transfers. Players should have club/league/manager preferences, pull out of talks suddenly, give clubs the run around, have contract vagaries that hold up the process, and there should be a rumor mill from the press that turns everything into a saga.
- One of FIFA's strengths is its licenses, but it would be nice to see more creation options (stadiums, clubs, kits, etc.) like in the old-gen Creation Center.
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A FIRST LOOK AT FIFA 18 WITH COVER STAR CRISTIANO RONALDO
EA Canada unveiled global superstar Cristiano Ronaldo as the game's cover athlete, and the title's first footage not only shows off the skills of Cristiano Ronaldo but the custom mo-cap work he delivered for the game.
In small print at the end of the trailer below is confirmation that the series' story mode is coming back in The Journey: Hunter Returns. The caveat is that the mode and the Frostbite engine that makes it all possible is only for PS4, Xbox One, and PC – which means that the Switch, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are left out in the cold. This is something sports gamers have feared about the Switch, that it wouldn't have parity with the other systems. Hopefully this is remedied in future iterations. The small print in the trailer also states that "not all features [are] available on all platforms," so who knows if there is more missing from the Switch and the last-gen systems.
SPORTS DESK TALKERS FOR E3 2017
We won't discover everything about our favorite sports games at E3 (and some, like NBA 2K18, likely won't even be at the show), but we'll get a good look at most of them. Here are some past Sports Desk entries inspecting various games and some of the issues they face in their coming iterations. From wishlists to beta impressions, this collection of past articles may serve as a peak at the future.
MORE INFO ABOUT MADDEN 18'S MUT SQUADS
Online team play was a 3-on-3 mode that never took off, but now EA Tiburon is bringing it back for Madden 18 in the form of MUT Squads. Each player on the three-person team brings in their appropriate MUT lineup according to which team role they take: Offensive captain, Defensive captain, and Head Coach (who provides the team unis, stadium, and team's head coach).
You can read more about MUT Squads here – as well as a recent Reddit AMA hosted by Madden 18 producer Jake Stein, who covers a few topics like entry cost (there is none), the use of chemistry, and how matchmaking works.
However, there are still a few important things we don't know about the mode. Will there be any larger division/seasons structure for MUT Squads? What kind of rewards will there be? Will the rewards be split evenly, or does the performance of individual squad captains come into play at all? Are there any tools to know what kind of MUT lineups your teammates have (and thus, know who has the better lineup for offense, for example)? How well will the game handle three players jamming the "switch player" button on defense?
We should learn more at E3 soon.
A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week.
Club Soccer Director Puts You In Charge On Mobile
Take charge of an existing or user-made club in one of 16 leagues across five countries (including the Premier League, its teams, and lower divisions of English football) as you try and guide them to success. You're responsible for everything from finances, negotiations, setting up the philosophy of the club, recruiting, squad management, and much more. You'll also act as manager on match day with tactical decisions that can make a difference. The game's price is unknown at this time (and if there are any microtransactions). Click the link above for the title's trailer.