With the unveiling of the new FIFA 19 at E3 the annual pouring over of the announced features has begun, with the inevitable questions being asked by those in pro scene and within the community. How is this going to affect the game? At first glance, it looks like EA is listening to the community with features designed to increase the skill ceiling.
The big push from EA is to give us even greater control of the match day experience in the latest iteration of the game. With features such as Game Plans, a new shooting mode called Timed Finish and improvements to defending and the much-maligned goalkeeping. On paper, this all sounds fantastic but we have seen with FIFA 18 that what gets promised and what gets released can be drastically different. Though there is reason to be optimistic, with those getting hands-on time at E3 2018 saying the game looks to be shaping up nicely. So let’s have a more in-depth look at some of the latest features and what this means for high-level competitive play.
The ability to change tactics and make substitutions in-game, that is to say not to have to press pause and go into the tactics menu, has been toyed with since all the way back to Road The World Cup FIFA 2010. Read that again… 2010! And various iterations of this have been in and out of the game since, however it seems this year the really want to nail down this feature by allowing you to create custom tactics that can be changed on the fly. Now you will be able to slip seamlessly from a 4-2-2-2 to a 4-5-1 in game, and it will even save where players should be playing. So for instance, if you want Ronaldo to go from a CF to RW the change of formation won’t inexplicitly set him to CDM. Saving you time and allowing you to have quick and easy control over your match management. Mastering an array of tactics and knowing when you need to go all out attack or park the bus is really going to add an extra dimension to any serious player.
Improvements to gameplay – Attacking
The big new feature when it comes to attacking is the all-new Timed Finish. Early reports suggest it’s a difficult skill to master, essentially it involves hitting shoot and then pressing it again as the player hits the ball. Get it perfect and your shot will be near unstoppable. Mess it up and Messi will be looking more like Heskey. If you have ever played any of the NBA games it is reported to be similar to the shooting mode in that. Don’t worry though, the traditional shooting is still in the game however the buttons have changed (a finesse finish is now L1+R1+O). Ultimately this addition looks to increase the skill ceiling in the game, the best will be better, so mastering this new shot, especially early in the games life will give you a massive competitive advantage.
Everyone loves to bust out some silky skills and there will be a host of new additions, expect to see cover star Neymar’s roll chop and many more. There has also been a revamp of the first touch system, making it easier to shift the weight of your player from one foot to another. Expect this to be another feature that those at the highest level can successfully exploit while others ignore. Not too much information on this yet but check this space in the coming months.
An overhaul of the defensive system has long by asked for by the FIFA diehard and with FIFA 19 EA finally seems to be listening with the planned improvements to the defensive side of the game.
Let’s start with the goalkeeping – one of the major changes is the ability to manually position the goalkeeper when he doesn’t have the ball. Is the opposition winger looking to cross and you can sense the danger at the back post? You can manually position the keeper, like you would any other player, so he will be at the optimal position to deflect the danger. You can also move where the goalkeeper is standing during a free kick. These are Interesting changes, but it has yet to be seen how this will affect gameplay in the real world. This again points to EA looking to increase the skill ceiling which can only be a good thing.
Defending as a team has been given a revamp, with the introduction of a secondary cursor for the AI controlled teammate, who would be the active player if you used the team close down button. This will help in maintaining your shape by allowing you to work out who will be used if you deploy the “second man press.”
Further, you can change how your entire team is set up to defend, with the ability to choose your defensive style out of these options – “pressure after procession loss,” “constant pressure,” “drop back,” “balanced,” and “pressure on heavy touch.” So now you will be able to adopt the gegenpressing of Dortmund or you could decide to sit back and soak up the pressure like Juventus. If these additions make a real change to the way your team plays hopefully we can see some variation in the tactics at the top level of the game.
This next change looks set to fix an issue that’s long plagued FIFA games. Picture the scene, It’s 2-1 to you at 60 minutes you “second man press” sending the AI to the opposing player who is running around the halfway line. He gets there but instead of simply keeping the team’s shape he seems to have been embodied the spirit of Roy Keane and gone in two-footed. From behind. Straight red. You’re lost for words and go on to lose 3-2.
The feeling of betrayal lives long in the heart and so the devs at EA are looking to set this right, there will now be the option to turn off auto-lunge! This was an element of randomness that could creep into your games online or not, so giving us this option will mean the players will have control over another aspect of their play. We thank you EA, you have saved many a yet to be broken controller!
Also worth noting there has a welcome improvement to the minimap. Now the opposing team will be displayed as a circle or a triangle, getting rid of the previous coloured circles that could occasionally become lost in the grass of the game behind it. This is a true quality of life addition that show’s us EA is really listening to this year!
The Champions League
FIFA 19 sees the introduction of all the rights to the UEFA Champions League© anthem and Europa League. So expect to see official tournaments carrying the branding, this will ultimately boost the profile of the Pro scene from a purely marketing perspective. The closer the FIFA pro scene mimics the real-life footballing world the more cross-over from fans of both games we will see. Plus, there’s nothing quite like hearing that Champions League anthem. Mouthing the words, the hair on the back of your neck is standing. Getting beat by a team from Kazakhstan. We can’t wait!
The Skill Ceiling Has Increased
We’ve looked over the features, and I think anybody who is a serious FIFA player is going to get excited about the latest release. I mean to be fair, we kind of always are aren’t we?. But this year I think we can allow ourselves to really buy the hype and I’ll explain why. When you look at the announced features, what do you notice? There is no news about “The Journey”? Or Career mode? Or any of the other bells and whistles that can sometimes detract from the game rather than make it any better. No, this year EA is focused on improving the match engine and the game experience.
It looks like EA are listening to what a very vocal community has said and are working to fix the gripes that have been aired, it all points to making the gameplay better where it is most important – on the pitch!
With these additions, they all involve adding another layer to the options out there for players. From timed finishes to the new first touch system, this means the skill ceiling has been raised which is great news for those with an interest in the pro game. Players will now have a greater array of tools at their disposal from the defensive set up to the gameplans.
It will mean the best can express themselves and push the meta of the game in new and interesting ways, allowing the top players to have clear and defined playstyles.
We are hyped!