With a brand new Football season once again upon us, it means that a whole host of teams up and down the country will be doing battle week in and week out over the course of the next nine months or so.
Whether the team you support is one that has been backed by a rich benefactor, or it is one that it is struggling in the lower reaches of the league pyramid the rollercoaster of emotions that will be felt during the campaign will undoubtedly be the same.
The agony of defeat mirrored by the ecstasy of victory is the Ying and Yang that has countless fans coming back for more each week. However, if you are not tempted by braving the onset of winter and seeing your side lose 5-0 at home then there is always an alternative.
A QUARTER CENTURY OF GOALS
That, of course, is the video game juggernaut that is FIFA. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary it seems as if the franchise that was created by the Electronic Arts Studio goes from strength to strength.
The first release in the series came back in 1993 and was known simply as ‘FIFA International Soccer’ – the game which subsequently tied in with the eve of the American held World Cup the following Summer was an unqualified success.
The game has come from humble beginnings, back then it was just a handful of international teams with fictitious players such as Pete Webster or Brian Plank to choose from – names that were based on the creators of the game itself.
Since then though the game has grown in stature and has developed by leaps and bounds, obviously assisted by the shifts in hardware over the last quarter century it is as close as it can possibly be to entering the field of play yourself without having to get muddy.
Electronic Arts have perhaps not had it all their own way as they have had to swot away many a pretender to their crown over the past 25 years. The likes of classic titles Sensible Soccer and Kick-Off have fallen by the wayside as they were quickly turned into relegation fodder.
However, there has been one thorn in FIFA’s side and that is the Konami created Pro Evolution Soccer. These two did swap top spot back in the 2000’s when the Playstation 2 and 3 were the weapons of choice.
Since the turn of the decade though, FIFA has found its stride and managed to create a sizeable lead at the top of the Football Video Games league ladder and with its latest announcement it will be confident of extending that gap even further.
The one complaint that many a FIFA fan has had over the past few years is that they have not been able to play in competitions such as the Champions League or the Europa League. This was due to Konami being the studio that was in possession of the necessary license.
However, in a transfer that is arguably even bigger than the one that saw Cristiano Ronaldo move from Real Madrid to Juventus over the course of the Summer, the Champions League license is now in the possession of Electronic Arts.
This of course means that the it will be a huge centrepiece for the FIFA 19 release that is just around the corner. This news was met with huge fanfare by their legion of fans and it is a hammer blow for their PES rivals.
In the past there was an Electronic Arts game titled ‘UEFA Champions League’ this standalone game used the FIFA engine back in early 2000’s and although a half decent stab at proceedings it was a little light on options.
With just the one competition to play, there was the feeling that once you were successful enough to lead your selected club to glory, then there was quite simply nothing left else to achieve meaning that there was not a lot of reasons to return.
The same can be said when Electronic Arts released ‘UEFA 2004’ on the eve of the European Championships that were held in Portugal that year. Although this did come with a qualification mode, it again was very much a one and done kind of setup.
Therefore, the fact that the premier European club competition is once again integrated into an edition of FIFA means that it will only enhance the gaming experience and give the Champions League the rightful platform it deserves.
EMBARKING ON A JOURNEY
In addition to the capture of these coveted licenses, there is also the third and final part of ‘The Journey’ this trilogy follows the story of a young player called ‘Alex Hunter’ as he embarks on the formative years of his career.
When this was first included two years in the release of ‘FIFA 17’ it was groundbreaking territory for the game. Never before had it taken on such an in-depth story mode such as this, something that would be more akin to a copy of Grand Theft Auto.
In FIFA 19, the game’s central character once again has tough career decisions to make. Decisions that ultimately you the player will be in charge of. The addition of this mode has only added to the longevity that the franchise has had in the past 25 years.
With this being the conclusion of the story arc, it will be interesting what additional modes will be introduced in FIFA 20 and beyond while one has to wonder just what the game will look like when the burgeoning Virtual Reality technology further improves.
At the crux of it though there is one thing that Electronic Arts have done incredibly well since the start of the FIFA franchise back in 1993 and that is make incredibly good simulations of football matches.
Many have gone down the overly arcade route in the past, but it is the depth of realism that has captured the attention of so many fans over the years. With 25 years of experience behind them, who knows that the next 25 will bring.