The core asset of any successful video game is the gameplay itself, which is why FIFA 19 has been seen as somewhat of a failure. Its gameplay is utterly exhausting, and has received the most universal criticism from its community of any one of the franchise’s other titles. There are many different reasons why it’s so bad, and why it’s pivotal that EA Sports correct it for next year’s iteration.
The primary problem with the gameplay is that FIFA is a football game, but it just doesn’t feel like it. At the start of this year’s cycle, the meta pushed you towards scoring timed finesse shots from outside the box as it was by far the easiest way to win. After they were patched, the game has gone from bad to worse. Now, there is an incredibly high success rate to back-post headers, as well as first-timed shots that are more often than not taking with the player’s back to goal. It’s a meta that is so far removed from what real football is that it’s almost impossible to worsen it.
When you think of the leading teams in football, the likes of Manchester City, Barcelona, Liverpool, they thrive off slick passing and interplay in the final third, creating the best possible chance to score. This kind of play isn’t rewarded in FIFA 19 whatsoever, if you’re fortunate enough to play the ball into a good scoring position, the chances are it’ll be greeted by a horrific finish or an absolute wonder save from the goalkeeper. Playing good football will, more often than not, leave you on the losing side wondering what you did wrong.
There’s so many flawed mechanics. Passing feels random, goalkeepers are remarkably inconsistent, only being outdone by the shocking referees. Shooting feels backwards, where the closer you get, the harder a chance becomes. Skill moves are a prerequisite of creating chances, and are more overpowered than ever.
In EA’s defence, they’ve released a couple of their aptly named ‘Pitch Notes’ articles addressing changes they’re looking to make to the gameplay for FIFA 20. There are promises to nerf the chaining of skill moves, goalkeeper movement (potentially the worst addition to any video game of all time) and return to the game to an actual football simulation, rather than the current test of who can abuse the mechanics the best.
The direction of the game this year more than any has focussed on the enjoyment of menu content. While this has improved, it’s because the gameplay isn’t strong enough to be the central focus. It’s more efficient to grind the menus to garner coins and club resources in Ultimate Team than it is to play the game, which in many ways is a relief, as this game will leave you wondering why you ever bought it in the first place. There are several game modes in FIFA that need essential upgrades for the future, but it’ll all go to waste if the gameplay remains what it is now; a chore.
With the gameplay in such an awful state, it’s very hard for EA to successfully grow their professional scene. The players themselves hating it can’t be a good thing, the negativity they display towards the game on social media and otherwise reflects in the events. Viewership numbers are underwhelming when there aren’t content drops enabled on the streams and it’s very clear to see why. If you were to tune in to an event, you’d see the world’s best players missing the most basic chances because it’s so difficult to put them away, or because there’s a goalkeeper sprinting across the goal line blocking anything in sight.
The ridiculousness of the gameplay destroys FIFA’s credibility as an esport. There are many famous examples of this. The number one player in the world, F2 Tekkz, won the ePremier League Xbox final via a back-post header from Dominic Calvert-Lewin after a scooped cross. He’s dazzled many with his use of skill moves, chaining up to five and six of the same move at a time to create space for a chance. It’s not even close to a true representation of football.
For FIFA to grow as a game and an esport, it needs to make huge changes to its gameplay. Football is the most popular sport in the world, it’s completely transcendent. FIFA should be the biggest game in the world, but in reality it’s not even close. While there are many content changes they could make to elevate it, the core issue is the gameplay. Luckily, it’s hard to imagine it could get any worse.