FIFA 20: The Evolution of the Game
Since its first release of FIFA in the long series of football simulated video games, the EA franchise have put in immense efforts to increase their standards every year. Though a plethora of negative comments are showered each year, the team have done well in terms of innovating various aspects of gameplay. Sticking to their ultimate objective, which is evident and is always about reducing that significant gap between the actual game and the simulated one. Last September month witnessed the latest addition to the series – FIFA 20, a game that endured the tests of time and brought the best experience ever for any soccer game fan. In this article, we would like to take you on a walk down memory lane, to bring out the best in every FIFA release and how the game got better with each year.
FIFA ’94: The First FIFA video game
Initially known as EA Soccer during its inception and subsequently as FIFA ’94, the first game in the series was released in the weeks leading up to Christmas of 1993. It broke the traditional 16-bit era games by presenting an isometric view rather than the more usual top-down view, side view or bird’s-eye view. It included national teams only and real player names were not used. Took the number 1 position in the UK charts, replacing Street Fighter II Special Champion Edition and stayed there for a full 6 months.
1995-2000: Started from the Bottom
With some minor touch-ups, FIFA 95 introduced club teams to the series within 8 national leagues: Brazil, Germany’s Bundesliga, Italy’s Serie A, Spain’s La Liga, England’s Premier League, France’s Ligue 1, Netherlands’ Eredivisie and the United States. With the leagues having team lineups based on the 1993–94 season, the game still had generic players and not much innovation was to be found.
The first FIFA game to feature real-time 3D graphics on the Sega Saturn, PlayStation and PC versions, using technology called “Virtual Stadium”. It is also the first in the series to present players with real player names and positions, with rankings, transfer and team customization tools. The American league consisted of entirely fictitious teams and rosters considering that Major League Soccer had just been inaugurated for only a few months as of the game’s release, but it would not appear.
The biggest addition in FIFA ’97 was provided by David Ginola with motion capture and the inclusion of 6-a-side indoor soccer mode and polygonal players. A much higher number of playable leagues from England, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and Malaysia were brought in. It also featured commentary by John Motson, partnered by Andy Gray with Des Lynam introducing the matches.
FIFA: Road to World Cup 98
The version was definitely a big milestone in FIFA history with refined graphics engine, teams and player customization options but significantly a “Road to World Cup” mode with all FIFA-registered national teams. Also became the first in the series to feature a licensed soundtrack, with “Song 2” by Blur used as the intro track for the game, it featured many accurate team squads for national meetings. A new feature included was the ability to manually change the referee’s strictness, making some fouls to go un-noticed. And for the first time in a FIFA game, the offside rule was properly executed, a major correction in the 32-bit version of FIFA 98 which sets it apart from the previous versions.
The 2000’s: The Rise
The best thing about FIFA 2000 was it brought back over 40 classic teams and enabled gamers to play as retired football legends. Official introduction of Major League Soccer as well as national leagues from Denmark, Greece, Israel, Norway and Turkey was made. Improvements in gameplay included fully integrated seasons, set piece selections, increased physical contact, new facial animations, shielding ability and tougher tackling. Although it received mixed reviews due to its cartoonish graphic engine and shallow gameplay, a new engine was implemented in an attempt to give more feel to the 3D player models.
Improvising from its previous version, a new graphics engine from FIFA Soccer World Championship allowed each team to have its own detailed kit and some players were recognizable. With dull colored pennants as club emblems, the license included official club emblems for the first time, although certain leagues, like the Dutch league, were still unlicensed. It was the first game of the series to introduce a power bar for shooting on all existing platforms. And it was also the first version that could be played online and was eventually the 6th generation video game console in USA and Europe.
FIFA Football 2002
This time, the team introduced power bars for passes and dribbling was reduced in order to attain a higher challenge level. A bonus game mode comprising of the nations that had automatically qualified for the 2002 World Cup was much appreciated. Consequently FIFA Football 2002 was the final game in the series to feature the Japanese national team, as the Japan Football Association sold its exclusive rights to Konami during 2002. Affecting not only FIFA, but all other football games in the market, from using its lineup and likeness until FIFA 17.
FIFA Football 2003
A completely new gameplay compared to the previous titles where EA revamped the outdated DirectX 7 graphics used in FIFA 2001 and 2002. They introduced new graphics featuring more elements of the game in a detailed manner. Introduction of Club Championship Mode with the feature of playing against 17 of Europe’s top clubs with the fans singing their unique chants and songs brought life into the game. An Xbox version was added to the Windows and PlayStation 2 and it was also the first game in the series to use EA Trax, an exclusive music menu system that has been used ever since in all FIFA titles.
FIFA Football 2004
The biggest new inclusion in FIFA Football 2004 is secondary divisions, which allows the player to take lower ranked teams into the top leagues and competitions. Another key feature is “Football Fusion”, which allows owners of both FIFA 2004 and Total Club Manager 2004 to play games from TCM in FIFA 2004. The title sequence was filmed at St James’ Park, the home ground of Newcastle United featuring Ronaldinho, Thierry Henry and Alessandro Del Piero.
FIFA Football 2005
Featured the return of the create-a-player mode, as well as an improved Career mode and it was a big step. Though the biggest innovation from its previous titles was the inclusion of first-touch gameplay which enables gamers with the ability to perform real-life tricks and passes. Its soundtrack was headlined by British DJ Paul Oakenfold, who composed the FIFA Theme, by fusing sounds of the game such as crowd noises and commentary. The game featured authentic crowd chants edited by producer Dan Motut and was the last title released for the original PlayStation in the US.
A complete overhaul of the game engine for this installment of FIFA was made to claim a dramatic increase in the control of play. In addition to a renovation of the engine, which discards the “off the ball” system, the developers boasted a significantly more involved Career mode and the introduction of “team chemistry” which determines how well team members play together. One of the new features in FIFA 06 was a special “retro” mode which featured nostalgic moments of the game which included an unlockable classic biographies section, a memorable moment’s video compilation, and featured ten of the most memorable moments as judged by the FIFA 06 developers.
Not much was changed to its front-end and graphics engine, whereas Xbox 360 version ran on a completely new game engine which was created from scratch. The Xbox 360 version also featured a much reduced team line-up, completely removed all lower division teams and focused on the 4 main European leagues, the Mexican Clausura and national teams. Significantly making it the last title to be released for Nintendo Gamecube, which disappointed a minor community of gamers.
“Be a Pro” was the new entry in this version and it limited the user to control only a single player on the field. Set on a gamer’s perspective, the game did not follow the trend set by its predecessors, FIFA 08 did not include any memorable moments or season highlights. It did not have a version for the original Xbox, which means that FIFA 07 was the last game of the series to feature on the console. The Xbox 360 took over permanently since FIFA 08 and it was the first game in the franchise to be made compatible for PlayStation 3.
FIFA 09 featured a customized collision system and the option for 10 versus 10 “Be a Pro” online matches, and the new “Adidas Live Season” feature, which updated all the players’ stats in a particular league based on the player’s form in real life. Online gaming was improved in FIFA 09, with a feature called “FIFA 09 Clubs” allowing players to form or join clubs and field their strongest team online. For the first time, users could purchase extra commentator voices in different languages from the PlayStation Store and Xbox Live Marketplace.
FIFA 10 had an extended Manager Mode which included a new Assistant Manager which could be used to take care of the team’s line-up and to rotate the squad, based on importance of the upcoming match and improved finances. The “Player Experience and Growth System” changed, where Player growth was determined by in-game performance, demands placed on the player, and achievements based on the player’s particular position. The games also featured 50 stadia and 31 leagues, among which the Russian Premier League was introduced to the series. It also included 360 degrees player control instead of the 8-direction control in previous games.
2010-2020: The Legacy
The FIFA 11 featured a new replacement to Manager Mode called Career Mode – where the player is able to play a career as a Manager, Player or as a Player Manager. Other new features include an improved passing system, improved player likenesses, the ability to play as a Goalkeeper for the first time, and various other tweaks and additions.
The Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 were the main consoles for the game so far, and for the first time, the PC version was feature-identical. In May, EA announced that a Nintendo 3DS version would be available, including career mode, 11 vs 11, Street mode and Be a Pro, but excluding any online mode. For the first time in the series, the game has been officially ported to the Mac OS X operating system by TransGaming. In March, FIFA Football was released as a launch title for the PS Vita, which despite the different name was a port of FIFA 12. Innovations in the pitch included – Player Impact Engine, Precision Dribbling, Tactical Defending and Pro Player Intelligence was available only for CPU players.
On Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, the game was the first of the series compatible with Kinect and PlayStation Move respectively. It is also the only FIFA title to be released on the Wii U. And from the fans response, EA team added more features like Attacking Intelligence, where Players automatically analyzed space while they progressed forward and Goalkeeping Intelligence was also improved in similar ways. Complete Dribbling and 1st Touch Control heated up the game and made it tougher to score goals.
For the newest generation of video game consoles PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the game showcases a new engine – Ignite, which allowed not only for graphical enhancements, like shifting weather conditions and dynamic environment, but also for changes in gameplay, with features like Human Intelligence and True Player Motion. The PC version does not feature the Ignite engine rather than that, it featured the Impact engine, same as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions with minor improvements. Additionally, new signature goal celebrations from a number of players including Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Lionel Messi among others were featured.
FIFA 15 was the first edition released after EA’s deal with the English Premier League as Official Sports Technology Partner, it allowed all 20 Premier League stadiums to be included in the game as well. FIFA’s exclusive access to Premier League clubs allowed detailed photography of all 20 stadiums so they could be authentically recreated, with the cheers, chants and sounds of more than 20 Premier League matches. Since this game, any club promoted to the Premier League has had their stadium added to the version. And due to licensing troubles with Brazilian players, this was the first game in the main series that did not feature a Brazilian league in any form.
FIFA 16 was the first title in the series to include female athletes and national teams in the game. After some complications in the previous edition, a few Brazilian teams agreed to lend their visual identities to the game, but no such agreement was reached with players due to the decentralization of player image rights in Brazil. As a result, the Brazilian teams were placed in the Rest of World block, with their rosters comprising completely of fictional players, unlike all other clubs and most national teams.
FIFA 17 was the first FIFA video game in the series to use the revolutionary Frostbite game engine which is considered to be a benchmark in its career. It was also the first to implement a story mode namely, “The Journey” which was welcomed by FIFA fans and it created the buzz that kept gamers equipped. The game also featured the Japanese J1 League for the first time and it was the first time ever in the international market that a game featured the league.
The version was the first title to feature Ultimate team ICONS on all systems including PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. EA Sports introduced Quick Subs into FIFA 18 where the player can make a substitute when the ball goes out of play. And since FIFA 17 was a huge success, the developers stuck to their structure and refused to make much changes to the game. But the Cruyff turn was a feint named after 1970s Dutch star Johan Cruyff and was one of the 4 new skills added to the game.
FIFA 19 introduces the UEFA Champions League, Europa League and UEFA Super Cup competitions to the game. Composer Hans Zimmer and Rapper Vince Staples recorded a new remix of the UEFA Champions League anthem specifically for FIFA 19. The character Alex Hunter returns for the 3rd and final instalment of “The Journey.” The game includes the Chinese Super League, the first FIFA title to do so. And it is programmed with new kick off modes – house rule, survival mode, no rules, long range, header and volley, and first to mode.
FIFA 20: VOLTA
Finally FIFA released their most anticipated version of the game this year and the name VOLTA speaks for itself. The new feature in FIFA 20 is a reminiscent of previous FIFA Street-style elements, providing a variance on the traditional 11 vs 11 gameplay. It is set to include the ability to play 3v3 Rush, 4v4, 4v4 Rush, 5v5 and professional futsal modes. The game places an emphasis on skill and independent play, rather than tactical or team-play. The player is also able to customize their own player, aside from selecting gender, the players will also have a variety of clothes and accessories to choose from, ranging from shoes and clothes to hats and tattoos. The traditional 11 vs 11 mode also changed with more 1-on-1s encouraged, more off-the-ball space creation, as well as new penalty and free-kick mechanics. Juventus will not be in FIFA 20 and they will be called Piemonte Calcio in FIFA 20 whereas Liverpool announced a “long-term” partnership with FIFA.
In spite of all the mixed comments, the gaming giant has proved yet again who rules the soccer-gaming arena. From the way they started, the franchise have come a long way to try and replicate the actual game in every way possible. With the amount of positive reviews so far on FIFA 20, it is quite clear that EA have done it once again and are currently on the best possible track in recent times.