It’s time for every sports game to take a page from FIFA 14’s book

By Rory Appleton – 7th March 2014
It’s time for every sports game to take a page from FIFA 14’s book

I am from California, and we Americans aren’t very big on soccer. The latest FIFA game has done well in the U.S., but it hasn’t topped the U.S. charts week after week like it has in other countries. This is a real shame, because FIFA 14 had the greatest sports game feature of the last decade: Pro Clubs mode. In Pro Clubs mode, you create a character using whatever specifications you want. Would you like a 6’6 250 pound striker? Done. You want a 5’5 120 pound goalkeeper? Go nuts. There is nothing too crazy about that; this is exactly the same process you would go through in an offline Career/MyPlayer/Road to the Show mode on any sports game. However, after you create this character, you play with and against other players’ created characters. Players can form their own teams and compete against other teams in a 10-tiered bracket. Simple. right? Wrong. It has never been done before.

Sure, NBA 2K has a similar mode to FIFA 14’s, called “The Park” in which players can take their MyPlayers out to the streets and duke it out in two on two, three on three or five on five pick-up games. I think The Park could really use a one on one mode, but other than that it is a pretty decent feature. It still doesn’t come close to the Pro Clubs mode.

The games played in Pro Clubs are exactly like the games you would play in the regular game mode. There is commentary, you choose a home stadium, and you play typical 11 on 11 soccer. It is possible to play a game in which both teams have full rosters. That means 22 real people are competing against one another in a single game. This is incredibly chaotic and often doesn’t resemble a REAL soccer game, but it is also super fun. The games are short so that fatigue isn’t an issue, and FIFA uses AI players to fill your rosters out if you don’t have a full 11.

There is even a way for one player per team to control every character that isn’t being played by another player. So, if you have three people, one player plays his chosen position, another plays his chosen position, and the final player plays every other position on the pitch. This can seriously limit the amount of bonehead plays made by the AI (of which there are MANY). You can also play in quick Drop-In Matches to practice and improve your skills. Players are just randomly matched up against one another and pick their positions on a first-come first-served basis.

The Pro Clubs Home Screen

The Pro Clubs Home Screen

Are there flaws in FIFA 14’s mode? Certainly. The AI is horrible, the mode can get buggy and laggy with so many players and online connections to factor in, and people troll the Drop-In mode pretty frequently. But the potential of the mode is pretty limitless, especially since it has already been integrated into the most difficult sport to pull something like this off: soccer. In basketball, you only have five on five. Hockey has six on six. Baseball has nine on nine. Soccer has 11 on 11, so if you can tailor a mode for so many players and the sport that requires the most team cohesion, why not integrate it into every sports game?

Here are some of my dream goals for Pro Club-like modes in other sports games:

NBA 2K Series: This would be the easiest jump to make. There is already a precedent set with NBA 2K14’s Park mode, so just build off of that. Players could still play pick-up games in the park to hone their skills, and they could also create and join their own teams that compete in various leagues and mini-seasons.

One player can dominate and win a basketball game on his own, so the selfish play that this type of online mode often sees will actually be a pretty positive thing in NBA 2K15. Fatigue may be an issue, but if the games are short enough, it won’t matter. Another option would be to have AI players that come in off the bench for a spell. The team customization options would be insane. You could design plays, switch into crazy zone defenses, play without a center or with ALL centers, the sky is the limit here. Plus, a five on five game will be way less chaotic and easier on the servers than an 11 on 11 game.

EA’s NHL Series: This one is an absolute no-brainer. The NHL series is developed by the same company as FIFA, so it wouldn’t even be stealing if NHL 15 featured a similar mode. Fatigue would definitely be a major hurdle. There would almost certainly need to be AI bench players (or heck, even real players if you want to use more than 6 real players) that could give your players a breather and sub in for them when you get that inevitable 5 minute major for fighting. Speaking of which, how sick would fighting be with all real people? Games would deteriorate into all-out riots all the time, and it would be glorious.

The customization options are a little limited because hockey is played at such a fast pace and pretty much the same way in every league and level, but they are there. You might use a team of five forwards to pack an amazing offensive punch or use five massive bruisers to send the other team home bloodied. I would love to see this type of mode in the upcoming NHL 15 release.

MLB: The Show: This is not EXACTLY a perfect fit, but it is doable. The main problem I foresee is the length of games. They would certainly have to be shortened to five or six innings. Even then, depending on how long a player-controlled pitcher takes to work or how badly one team is whooping the other, games could be pretty long.

AI players would have to be used in order to fill out the 9 spots on each team, and I am not quite sure how pitching would work. Maybe you could have the option to bring in AI relievers at some point. I recently reported here that the new MLB game will have an advanced tendency tracker that will be used to dictate your player’s abilities in mini-games played while you are offline, so that feature could really help in this area.

I’d love to see them give it a shot. I think that the Road to the Show mode offers the best sports career simulation experience, so it’d be great to see that moved into an online setting.

Madden: I don’t see this working out. It’d be 11 on 11, but a football team really needs 24 players to be effective (11 offense, 11 defense, a kicker, and a punter). This is without mentioning return men and other specialists. I guess they could have players control one player on offense and one on defense. Once again, I would love to see them try. Every major sport is currently monopolized by one major sports game series, so what is there to lose? If you don’t buy Madden, you don’t get to play a football game.

Did I miss anything? Do you have any future game mode ideas? Let me know in the comment section.