A Good—But Lazy Game

Matthew Hanzel Avatar

It was the moment of ‘finally’. The FIFA World Cup 2018 update for FIFA 2018 on PS4 has arrived. The console recognized that an update was present, so the 5GB update started to download right away, and a couple hours later, there I was trying the FIFA World Cup mode.

It was a graphics I haven’t seen since 2006—the very last time I played any FIFA World Cup game (and it was still on a Windows PC).

Opening scenes from one of the matches. The look and feel is quite excellent.

I was so elated to see the game, that I directly jumped into the tournament mode and chose Germany as the team to play. I used the same settings just like FIFA 18, including the Semi Pro settings.

The first game was Germany against Mexico, the group stage opener, played at Russia’s largest stadium, Moscow’s Luzhniki.

The graphics was quite a wow. It has been 12 years since I last played any FIFA World Cup video game, and I have to say I admire the graphics, and to some extent the gameplay, which was exactly the same as FIFA 18.

Gameplay is the same as FIFA 2018.

My excitement stops there, though, once I realized something was off. If memory serves me correctly, this was also the first FIFA World Cup video game which only features the 32 contestants of the championship, and not more.

I remembered playing the “Road to 1998 FIFA World Cup” video game on PS 1, exactly 20 years ago, and I was awestruck back then. I was still 7, and I enjoyed that game so much because of 1 particular reason: The game allowed us to play one of the hundreds of football federations across the world, to go through the qualification stage all the way to the finals. I even played Indonesia—which featured the likeness of Hendro Kartiko, Indonesia’s ‘Barthez’—all the way to the final (and I still think the 1998 Road to World Cup is the best of them all, and the 1998 World Cup edition was great too).

Since then, the games at least featured some teams who weren’t qualified for the Cup, including the likeness of Finland (2002) and Vietnam (2006), making the game much more exciting. As far as I know, the likeness of Indonesia was also featured in either the 2010 or the 2014 edition. None of which appeared this time.

Are the supporters happy about EA’s direction for the video game? I don’t think they are.

Which brings me to my speculation: I think EA is turning into a lazy mode now. Instead of producing a separate video game which people are willing to pay for, they only make a free update which may not be half-baked, but still feels bare. It only looks like a cosmetic surgery, putting stadiums and some World Cup specific livery and design onto the screen, and almost nothing more.

I also feel disappointed that I cannot try to play as teams outside of the 32. Especially, leaving Indonesia absent from the game, despite the 260 million potential market here in the country. Again, I realize how difficult it would be to provide data for around 200 football teams around the world, but they have been doing it with the annual FIFA series, anyway. This shouldn’t have been a problem for them.

It needs to be remembered: FIFA World Cup video games, I think, used to be aimed at people outside of the 32 participating nations, to get a feeling, however virtual, on what if their countries are playing at football’s biggest stage. That dream, that perception of being there is important, and has always been the key feature—above graphics and gameplay—of the FIFA World Cup series.

Yet, EA decided to go the other way around. Putting the game as merely an update denigrates its status as a major video game—and the only licensed FIFA World Cup video game. That’s shambolic, and as a major video game developer, they should’ve done better with this.

Full time whistle.

Matt’s Rating

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Good graphics, and unfortunately, nothing else. It will look authentic, but it betrays the idea of how the video game should allow you to dream.

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