It’s been a few years since I pulled on the virtual boots and played FIFA so as I slipped the disc in there was some trepidation that the game had gone all modern on me after I picked up my new the latest offering, FIFA 14 from Argos. I remember the good old days when you could tackle the goal keepers, have four players sent off but try as you might not get that final fifth player dismissed to trigger an abandonment and Jason McAteer was the cover star. Today, it’s Lionel Messi. Bolton Wanderer’s loss is Barca’s gain.
Doing the usual “blokey” thing of ignoring all of the instructions I someone found myself lining up in the Camp Nou against Real Madrid in a La Liga decider. For one brief 5 cyber minute period I actually believed the Martin Tyler commentary hype that Barcelona would win the league. Ten minutes into the game and I was three Ronaldo goals down. It was a painful introduction.
But I soon found that the game had moved on significantly since those heady days of Jason McAteer (ask your Dad, kids) as cover star and Des Lynam (ask your Mum, kids) introducing the action. Yes, I hanker for the days of Song 2 and Let U Know by Plastilina Mosh as my soundtrack, but today’s version is all about playability.
First impressions last, and as a stadiumphile, the outstanding image of a full Camp Nou resplendent in Catalan colour made my heart skip a beat. After my baptism of fire in the La Liga decider I went back to basics. Setting myself up in the hot seat at West Ham United at Forest Gate Park (West Ham had obviously decided to abandon the fanciful plans to move to the Olympic Stadium) I was soon dispatching my scouts to various corners of the world looking for my false number 9.
The career mode is where the action is. Getting an email from the board explaining their expectations as well as emails from players who were unhappy with their previous manager and wanted a chance under my new regime got me straight involved in the action. Within a few minutes I was lining up for my first pre-season game against Schalke 04.
The roof came off the TBIR office when just 5 minutes into my reign as West Ham Andy Carroll, who else, put West Ham United in the lead. “That’s really important for the new man to get a goal so early in his career at his new club” purred Alan Smith over the replays that suggested the ball hit the £15million man on the backside rather than any normal traditional goal scoring body part.
And then the familiarity hit me. Strains of “Bubbles” floated out of the Xbox and the dulcet tones of West Ham’s PA announcer Jeremy Nicholas heralded the goal. The new wireless controller gave me all sorts of options to show off my skills and within minutes even Kevin Nolan had performed a Cruyff-cum-Waddle turn in beating his man. West Ham were purring with Downing hitting his man with virtually every pass.
It was also re-assuring to see that just like the real West Ham back four, miss-timing of tackles in dangerous areas was included in the game play and just before half-time the scores were level when Winston Reid was red-carded for a lunge in the area and Schalke scored from the penalty.
A last minute winner sent the crowd home happy and in my next game in Wolfsburg my Hammers scored six without reply. Full marks to EA Sports at this point who managed to factor in the Carroll effect whereby the striker was injured after just a game and a half and potentially out for the rest of the season with a broken ankle.
In game three at home to Borussia Dortmund, commentator Martin Tyler broke off mid-sentence when talking about Dortmund’s historic financial woes as they had a chance on goal, only to pick it up again a minute or so later. Nice touch.
So three games into my managerial career and it has been played three won three. Gameplay is outstanding with the new controller giving you so many more options and the sheer memory size of the Xbox One means that there are so many cool features that haven’t made it in previous editions. Thanks Argos for filling my otherwise empty evenings for the next year with Xbox One cheer.