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A Brief Background

The term ‘FIFA’ can be interpreted in usually two ways depending on the type of person one is dealing with – to some, it refers to the beloved international football competitions such as the World Cup and the Euro which occur every now and then while to others, a picture of sitting on a sofa with a controller in hand year after year comes to mind.

The FIFA videogame series, as a giant within the sports simulation genre, has a rich history across multiple consoles and is looked upon as a staple title for each generation. The series has forever been a product at the hands of Electronic Arts under the EA Sports division with its famous intro sequence most gamers are acquainted with.

The very first title was developed during a time period where the genre was first kicking off, back in 1993, instantly dominating the genre due to its unique goals. The ultimate aim of the FIFA videogame series has been to unite the world of football, or soccer, by forging a fun and universally available simulation experience matching the current state of football in the world. 

Bearing in mind the popularity of traditional football, FIFA quickly sprung to life, backed by yearly releases available in over 18 languages and in stores for at least 51 countries to selling over 280 million copies by 2019. 

As a best-selling video game franchise, a unique feature of FIFA is its ability to remain accessible to all platforms – over 40 platforms and consoles have offered a FIFA title including Nintendo, Xbox and Playstation consoles apart from PC.

Such popularity and sales have contributed to the formation of an esport, as supported by EA, which like Call of Duty and unlike a series such as Super Smash Bros., focuses entirely on the most recent release. The unique aspect of this esport is its marriage to traditional football as we’ll discuss below. Firstly, however, we need to understand how FIFA is played.

How to Play

The core mechanics of FIFA haven’t changed much over time. One massively positive aspect about this is that if you’ve ever learnt to play a particular FIFA, you’re set for life unlike other series such as Call of Duty. The in-game mechanics revolve completely around what is possible within a real game of football.

Depending on the game mode, players will usually view the field from a bird’s eye view of the team and by controlling one player at a time, may string together a collective effort to coordinate attacks, form a defence and eventually, claim the final victory.

A gamepad is essential to play any iteration of the franchise – a keyboard and mouse will not serve you here. The left analogue stick is used to direct a player’s movement while the right analogue stick may be flicked about in particular ways to execute dribbles should the player be in possession of the ball. When directing a player, one may choose to sprint using a right-hand side trigger bearing in mind that this does require an amount of energy and will tire out the player.

Assuming possession and running at the defence of the opponent, a plethora of options will make themselves known. Besides dribbling and trying to best the enemy defenders, players may choose to exchange the ball with other teammates in a number of ways, directing the ball with the left stick and ultimately swapping player. Note that the power behind each input may be mediated by the duration that the button is held. 

The following are a list of possible inputs:

  • Ground Pass – a simple ground pass, quick though highly susceptible to interception.
  • Lob Pass – a pass thrown into the air used to clear the ball
  • Cross – used to transfer the ball horizontally and above the ground, setting up teammates for a finisher
  • Through ball – used to encourage aggressive pushes making use of teammate’s speed by placing the ball ahead of them
  • Shot – huge number of variations, used to finish the play and score a goal

By using the left and right triggers, these basic moves may be altered to form manoeuvres such as the 1-2 pass, lobbed variations, finesse shots, chop shots, low shots, headers and volleys.

On the other hand, should a player be running defensively at an attacking enemy player, a different set of inputs are available:

  • Standing tackle – sticking out a foot to steal possession
  • Sliding tackle – a risky move where both feet are flung forward to try take back possession
  • Jockey – altering posture defensively
  • Switching defenders – without possession, one may change player endlessly

When playing, the rules of traditional football apply too. The set pieces of free kicks, corner kicks, throw-ins and penalties may result from exiting the game boundaries or due to foul play. Each set piece has its own in-game mechanics, such as penalties were one will control either the keeper or outfield player.

Do note, that across all gameplay, there is a heavy reliance on AI-controlled teammates where 10 at a time are completely uncontrolled by the player. 

After 90 in-game minutes, the side with the most goals wins the game. Should a draw result, the game may continue through a penalty shoot-out, golden goal or regular rules. Once a player gets the hang of it, FIFA offers an enormous amount of replayability thanks to the following variations:

  • Tactics and strategies – players may customize their 11-player starting roster in the pre-lobby for the best chance of success
  • Player variability – player rosters are synced every year with official football rosters, with each player performing differently statistically – as in, sprint speed, shot accuracy, dribbling ability and so on depending on their rating
  • Customizability – stadiums, outfits, commentary and others are among the plethora of settings available to players

By varying everything and experimenting, one can eventually become a FIFA pro.

In terms of game modes, the following are usually available to players:

  • FIFA Ultimate Team – form your very own rosters through randomly given players, play against other people’s rosters and earn more packs to keep the circle going and form an ultimate team
  • Career Mode – commit to a particular team and play out an entire season with the aim of winning and acting as a general manager
  • UEFA Champions League – play through a tough Champions League bracket
  • Kick-Off – play a regular match against AI, local or online play
  • Skill Games – hone your skills offline through mini-games
  • The Journey – as a player, forge your own path through the football industry
  • Volta/FIFA Street – test your dribbling in a street-focused style of play
  • Others: practice arena, online seasons, co-op seasons, online friendlies, Pro Clubs

With an in-game commentary and a virtual crowd, FIFA has also made the leap to esports as discussed below.

How to Watch

Competitive FIFA tends to run in parallel to the traditional FIFA framework. With the pinnacle event of the year is in the form of the FIFA eWorld Cup, the esport holds the record as being the most available esports game as over 2.5 million players signed up back in 2015.

To qualify, players compete in local eLeagues corresponding to the traditional football league of the respective regions. A good placing earns Global Series Points which contribute to a possible placing.

Games are played through FUT Champions, where players pick players to form their own roster for competitions. The season kicks off each year with the release of a new title, concluding with the aforementioned FIFA eWorld Cup where a world champion is crowned following numerous tense 1v1 match-ups.

The following links may be used to observe all of the action:

Every year, EA continues to try to innovate by improving graphics, gameplay fidelity and AI behaviour. The same may easily be said for the competitive side of things.

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