billybob1237 Aug 18, 2014

  1. billybob1237

    billybob1237 Lifetime Gold Lifetime Gold

    Feb 22, 2013
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    It was with great gusto that I headed off to Guildford just a few weeks ago to try the latest sampling of Career Mode for FIFA 15. I spent a whole day with the mode and this, is what I found out.
    • Console used[SIZE=14.3px] – Xbox One[/SIZE]
    • Team used[SIZE=14.3px] – Manchester United[/SIZE]
    • Time played[SIZE=14.3px] – 3/4 of a season (with European matches)[/SIZE]
    • Difficulty used[SIZE=14.3px] – Professional/World Class[/SIZE]
    In truth it was very much a mixed bag but let’s begin with the good stuff.
    Team Management

    As you’ve probably already seen, FIFA 15 has an all new Team Management engine resigning our years of pain and suffering to a mere footnote in FIFA history. Compared to the old system it’s an absolute joy to navigate, with routine tasks like positional changes, substitutions and player comparisons now just a single click away. No more RSI, result! It’s night and day really, and whilst not exclusive to Career Mode, the improvements on offer within the new Team Management suite certainly have the biggest impact here.
    Due to the ability to save multiple Team Sheets (and rename them) I was able to very quickly setup options for ‘Cup’, ‘Europe Away’, ‘League Away’ and so on which all offered a slight tactical twist on my main setup. And due to the raft of new Player Instructions you can quite radically change the behaviour of your team, within the same formation framework.
    Tell full-backs to ‘Always Overlap’ and they’ll bomb on, tell a striker to ‘Stay Central’ and he’ll do just that. The key thing is that when you change a setting, you actually see a tangible outcome on the pitch. I remember setting Mata to ‘Stay Forward’ in the No 10’ position (as he was dropping too deep) and I then watched annoyed as he visibly ambled back in to position, instead of aggressively tracking back as before. It’s a great system and one of Career Mode’s biggest weaknesses has now not only been fixed, but radicalised in to a fine example of simple, but effective design.

    CPU AI

    Career Mode’s other historical weakness has actually been on the pitch, where repetitive AI behaviours have for too long starved us of vibrant and changing match action. When you’re playing 100’s of games in a Career Mode save, the CPU AI can very quickly become a dry and predictable affair. EA hinted at improvements in this area very early on in FIFA 15's PR campaign, and I experienced some great examples of it.
    The first being an away tie in the Champions League (I added Man Utd back in, and what?) where in my final group game I faced Standard Liege. I’d already qualified, but they needed a win to be in with a shot at qualification.
    When the 63rd minute came around the commentary team mentioned the need for a Liege win and also directly discussed a change in their attacking focus. From this point onwards Liege essentially switched to a 4-2-4 formation, for which they added relevant subs to complement. But crucially they also switched their play style, adopting a much more direct approach where they regularly launched long ***** from deep in to my 18 yard area.
    Now this of course made me change up my tactics to try and hold them off and even though they continually pressed I managed to hold on for a 0-0 draw, and they were sadly eliminated. It was scrappy, messy, head tennis at times but it was different, and thus refreshing compared to the AI norms we've become so accustomed to over the last few years. I also saw it working in reverse too.
    In a home fixture against Liverpool no less where they took an early 1-0 lead thanks to a tidy finish from Daniel Strurridge. But the pivotal moment this time came just after half time when Jordan Henderson was sent off for an awful tackle on Tony Valencia. After he’d received his marching orders Liverpool changed immediately, and after taking Lambert off for Lucas they essentially setup two banks of four and left Sturridge up top alone. They parked the bus.
    Probably most impressive was their complete an utter lack of ambition going forwards and after their change (again noted by the commentary team) the match fell in to a consistent pattern of my center backs picking up loose clearances on the half way line, where I then built up continual pressure. In the 86th minute I made my break through, but Liverpool were incredibly tough to break down and I again had to alter my personnel and tactics to turn the tide.
    Not every game played out this though, some just had FIFA’s normal match flow but when these instances did happen, they really stood out which was great to see. To get through ¾ of my season I had to sim quite a few games, so whether even the two scenarios I’ve described become repetitive themselves, remains to be seen. But versus nothing at all, it represents a marked improvement on FIFA 14's AI and hope at last for CM fans everywhere.


    Another area where EA have made changes is transfers, with specific focus paid to the actual values that top players go for, and how form and player growth impact on values as the mode progresses. In FIFA 14 Career Mode if you were one of the big boys you could pretty much buy anyone you wanted for a fairly cheap price and in no time at all you could amass an army of the world greatest.
    The first thing you’ll notice in FIFA 15 is that when bidding for the top players prices have increased, a lot. For example as Man Utd I enquired about Mats Hummels and was swiftly rebuffed with a £63mil pound price tag from Dortmund. I quickly gave up and moved to Vidal where I was quoted a princely £59mil by Juve. Now, at this point I thought EA had royally cocked this up, but I decided to persist with Arturo.
    My opening bid was deliberately low (£36mil) as I looked to test the water. Juve came back with £53mil and the negotiations continued. After another two rounds of offers and counter offers we in the end agreed on a £46.5mil fee which in the current market is pretty much bang on. So the lesson, don’t be scared off by huge price tags in FIFA 15, instead prepare yourself for a series of negotiations when you try to acquire the game’s biggest stars.
    This doesn’t happen for every player though of course, I picked up Vermaelen for £10mil, and Jese for 11mil, so by no means astronomical figures which I probably could have negotiated down if I’d tried. Overall I think I prefer the cat and mouse approach to big signings because the reality in FIFA 14, was that it was just too easy.
    Player Growth

    Now there were a number of issues with player growth last year, some bug related and others design. But EA have chosen to target this area as it’s absolutely fundamental to long term success when it comes to Career Mode.
    What EA have firstly done is remove the overnight capitulation of anyone who reaches 30 years of age and to compliment that, certain players will now delay their retirement ala Pirlo. What this means is that picking up veterans on the cheap should be a viable tactic once again because although they may lose a shade of pace, they should now retain their technical attributes for longer.
    The other area which has received change is with young prospects who last year didn’t grow anywhere near fast enough and the concept of a talented youngster having a ‘breakthrough’ season just didn’t exist. Now their monotonous growth curve has now been replaced with something a little more dynamic with my best example being Adnan Januzaj who jumped 4 OVR in just ¾ of a season. Whether this is commonplace, again remains to be seen but it’s the best example I had and a promising sign none the less.

    The presentation is glorious, and without doubt the best recreation to date I've seen in Career Mode. Now I was playing in the Premier League, which as we all know now has a new and weighty licencing deal behind it, so this may not replicate everywhere, but what I experienced in the EPL was staggering. All the stadiums, all the branding, team sheets, special commentary, it's just majestic at times, and I won't spoil too much else in this arena, but just know that there are some absolute gems for you all to find.
    I didn't try another league, because I didn't have time. But if EA can replicate the EPL licence model elsewhere, we're in from a real treat in years to come.

    The Rest

    Now here comes the problem, and it's a big one. The rest of Career Mode, apart from a few nips and tucks here and there is essentially the same. Global Scout Network, Youth Scouting, pre-season, news stories, press conferences, etc, etc is all the same. Not a thing different. And i'm not going to lie, I was[SIZE=14.3px] pretty disappointed at times during the playtest because although EA have done amazing things which i've written about above, much of the core feature set has remained static. Now, I don't know why that is (resource, time, FUT bias?) but what I do know is that it has a fairly big impact on the experience, regardless of the other improvements. [/SIZE]
    It's not bad per se, because Career Mode this year has been for the most part an enjoyable experience, and i've played many a save which have eaten up multiple seasons. But I've sort of done that now, and I was really looking to seeing something brand new which I could get my teeth in to. Like squad training, a proper preseason (still only 3 subs), better press conferences and so much more. But it's the same and that's all I can say really. It's not good, it's not bad, it's just, the same.


    It's ironic really, that after waiting for so long for the biggest issues in Career Mode to be looked at (Team Management, CPU AI) you'd think that having them both nailed in one year would equal the greatest Career Mode ever? But all its done for me is cement just how important the continual advancement in all areas of CM is to the refreshing of the experience year on year. If the AI improvements to gameplay do stand the test of time, then in conjunction with the match presentation it's likely to be the best CM in terms of action on the pitch we've ever seen. But CM has now switched roles. The previous strength in CM's feature growth, is now the weakness and i'm afraid it stands out.
    The caveat to this is that I've seen and played around with the new Team Management system a fair bit in recent months, so going in to the CM playtest it wasn't new to me at all, and therefore it instantly felt normal. For you guys, it's going to feel new, vibrant and exciting for quite some time and I cannot stress how much the team sheets and player instructions alone, add to the ways you'll enjoy Career Mode this year. Two of our biggest community gripes of the last decade have been addressed which is huge, but the sheen has been removed by the lack of serious development elsewhere and for me that's a real shame.
    Last year the bridge to next-gen was an understandable reason for a more modest input to Career Mode's feature set but with the power of the new consoles now fueling the mode I think we all assumed that this would be the big leap towards the wish list we penned some months ago.
    Perhaps I'm hard to please. Perhaps I expect too much. But either way I'm left looking cautiously forward to Career Mode for FIFA 15, because combining the AI, with gameplay sliders, the presentation, and the core system fixes, it's likely to be a very enjoyable year. But looking at the overall picture for CM, it's probably yet another case of what might have been.


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