Each year, EA Sports makes an effort to wow fans of FIFA with improvements upon its lucrative annualized title. The last few years saw some significant improvements with the introduction of the Frostbite engine, an all new cinematic story mode, and a strong focus on the billion-dollar earning Ultimate Team mode. With the game arriving around the end of September each year, it can be a struggle to maintain the formula that brought the series such success, while introducing innovation that will keep gamers picking up the latest version of the game year after year.
To that end, we've taken a look at some areas of focus we believe would most benefit FIFA 18, detailing how EA Sports could implement the features in a way that would both resonate with existing fans of the series, and perhaps entice new ones as well. Without further ado, here's 5 improvements we hope to see addressed in FIFA 18:
5 Make The Journey Feel More Organic
Last year's inaugural appearance of The Journey was a great breath of fresh air for the franchise, but it certainly didn't reach as far it had the potential to. Alex Hunter's rags-to-riches story followed a fairly static plotline, and the conversational options given to him seemed to make no significant impact beyond a fairly meaningless social media following. Beyond this, no matter how players performed, their time in The Journey was an entirely on-the-rails experience: players could bag in 5 goals a game, but they'd still be loaned out to a Championship side because that's what the story required, even if such a move would make absolutely no sense.
Improvements such as a dynamic storyline or perhaps even the ability to create your own pro to put in The Journey would both be great steps for the franchise to take. With the introduction of a now-proven storyline mode, EA has built a great platform to build from. Fans will be expecting FIFA 18 to deliver an improvement upon last year's foray into this game mode, and we can only hope how well players perform will have a bigger impact on each individual Journey, and not just take gamers along for the a routine on-the-rails experience. Helping to craft a feeling of individuality will make this experience much more special to players, resulting in a bigger emotional connection to The Journey - and a thirst for more of it.
4 Improve The Goalkeepers
One of the main things EA Sports boasted about in FIFA 2015 was improved goalkeeper AI, but as any fan of the series can probably attest, there's still a long way to go. FIFA 17 seems to have spurred some aggressive AI changes to goalkeepers, and they seem to have collectively gathered a penchant for rushing out far distances to attempt to slide into strikers. Not every goalkeeper can function as a Neuer-esque sweeper keeper, and the resulting blunders that occur can really leave fans scratching their heads about what they just witnessed on-screen. In tandem with other questionable AI choices, there's evidently some leg work in regards to goalkeeper AI that still needs to be done.
Another significant improvement would be to go beyond automatic AI functions themselves. Rival football games like Sports Interactive's Football Manager series has skill statistics like 'tendency to punch' and 'rushing out', which results in different goalkeepers reacting to the same situation in wildly different ways. This sense of individuality makes goalkeepers feel unique, adding a nice touch of depth to a franchise where most players just look for the goalkeeper with a higher overall FIFA rating.
3 More Diverse Commentary
As soon as any player makes it through half a season of career mode, they've probably already heard a fair amount of canned phrases being repeated. The FIFA series boasts the most teams and players out of any EA Sports franchise, so adding more unique commentary isn't exactly an easy fix, as the studio must rush each year to implement thousands of new names and comments in tandem with the schedule of presumably busy full-time commentators. The studio has stuck by Martin Tyler and Allen Smith for some time, and while they're a great duo, it can get a little stale listening to some of same sound cues that remain year-after-year.
Some years back, EA Sports actually offered alternative commentators via DLC. It's something we think the studio should considering putting forth again, or perhaps even including right from the get-go, since each edition of the game feels a lot less novel once players boot it up and hear some of the same lines they've been hearing for the past few years. The problem gets a little worse in Manager Mode, where unique verbal cues are given to events like player signings. This is all good, except for when they talk about a signing in one game, and then repeat the exact same conversation about the same recently-signed player in the next game.
It's no small task when it comes to properly implementing thousands of lines of dialogue into a game, but a healthy dose of elbow grease in this area would surely go a fair distance when it comes to keep the series regulars content.
2 Overdue Career Mode Maintenance
Career Mode used to be the bread and butter of EA's focus, but this crown has now decidedly passed to FIFA Ultimate Team. The result is half-hearted attempts at fresh career mode content like in-game training camps and seasonable objectives, but truthfully, EA Sports needs to freshen up the existing content. Training events may be a good replacement for loading screens, but having them play a large (and repetitive) role in player development can be a pain, and really kills the pace of gameplay.
When it comes to selling players in Career Mode, it can be hard to find offers to match a player's value if their form is average - but when buying, it's well-neigh impossible to bring in a player for under their recorded value. It'd go a long way for clubs to have more variety in AI-controlled selling habits, whether this be due to their own fiscal objectives, or a larger dose of player-based drama that seems to creep up in career mode.
Players also seem to have nerves of steel when it comes to contract negotiations, resulting in completely lackluster youth prospects who stand up to clubs like Manchester United and demand first team squad roles in their contracts - something one doesn't really see reflected in real life. A little more realism goes a long way.
1 Quality of Life
The little nitpicks of a title do tend to add up after a certain amount of time, and this problem grows exponentially with an annualized game. Still, the fact that some errors have stuck around for so long does warrant attention - for instance, around FIFA 06 we noticed that if someone makes multiple substitutions at the same time, the game typically fails to correctly record who came off for who. If two attackers change place at the same time as two defenders do, the game sometimes says the attacker came on for the defender - it's not a huge issue, but somehow it's managed to creep around for over 10 years now.
Likewise, commentator's are prone to saying completely off-base things, a problem that is especially errant in Manager Mode. Hearing a commentator declare that a player is making a strong case for player of the year while it's only the second game of the season is quite strange, and it's peculiar that the commentators occasionally call the minnow clubs 'the favorites' when playing against much stronger competition. Certainly, these problems are minuscule on the scale of it all - but for people who purchase the game year after year, they certainly get noticed.
More details about FIFA 18 are certain to drop during E3 2017 next week, and perhaps some of these issues will be addressed. EA Sports has done a great job with incorporating some great changes over the past few years, though only time will tell if FIFA 18 introduces some real magic into the mix. With Cristiano Ronaldo gracing the cover, it could be a massive year for Electronic Arts.
We're interested in hearing what features or changes gamers would like to see in the next iteration of FIFA. What would you like to see in FIFA 18, Ranters? Hopefully, it's not the frostbite engine on the Switch.
FIFA 18 is slated to launch on September 29, 2017 on Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.