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EA Sports gives us the lowdown on new features for this year's Career mode...
It's fair to say that we were a little underwhelmed by the Career mode in FIFA 11. EA's new feature combined the previously separate Manager and Be-A-Pro modes from FIFA 10, but effectively lost a lot of the details and nuances of each mode in the translation. In-depth stats from the Manager mode fell by the wayside, as did international call-ups from the Be-A-Pro mode; Backroom Staff were ripped out, as was the Player Form feature that debuted in FIFA 10. FIFA 11's career mode appeared to make two modes half as good, and then combine them together into a single offering. Not only did you feel like there was less content on offer, but that content felt shallower and less football-savvy too (who actually starts their career as an inexperienced, 18 year-old player manager of Man Utd anyway?).
At the very least though, EA Canada won't simply be re-boxing the same Career mode from FIFA 11 with all the relevant updates this year. There's clearly been a concerted effort to turn the mode into something resembling a more cohesive managerial experience this time around. "With the second year of Career mode, what we really wanted to get to was a more authentic way of being a manager in particular," FIFA's Producer, David Rutter told us. "It's been really focused on the manager experience this year, to try and experience some of the things that happen to real managers in the real-world based around real-world situations."
After a short stint of hands-on time with the mode, there's certainly some substance behind these claims. One significant addition comes in the form of Youth Scouts, which first have to be hired from a pool of hopefuls and can then be set to the task of recruiting decent young players for your side. "Send a scout away and they'll come back with some recommendations but they're vague," explains Rutter. "Send them again and they'll come back with a greater sense of accuracy but, the more times you do that, the more chance there is of another club stepping in and taking them."
Player Interactions are another step forward this year, where members of your team will express their disappointment at not getting enough games, a lack of achievement at the club, or a wage dispute. This all forms part of a new Player Morale system, although you'll receive similar interactions from players who've received injuries as well. During our play-through, a slightly dismayed Raul Meireles informed us that he'd received a knock during a previous game but hoped to be fit for the next match. It was little more than a text box that popped-up in the menu screen, but it's a neat little addition nonetheless so long as it doesn't get arduously repetitive.
Another area that's been highlighted for improvement is the transfer system. In addition to a new transfer deadline day that offers multiple advances in one day (allowing multiple rounds of negotiations to take place) rather than the previous system that treated deadline day like any other, EA has also promised a more believable system for transfer/contract negotiations with other players/clubs. "They're sometimes high-balling, sometimes low-balling. Sometimes they'll high-ball then low-ball; sometimes they'll low-ball then high-ball to try and interact with you in a slightly unpredictable but realistic way," said Rutter.
Our experience with this side of the mode was limited once again, but even the examples it did throw up were a little dubious. Teams such as Inter Milan, Chelsea, and Olympic Marseille all offered bids for Jamie Carragher, two of which showed examples of low-balling with Chelsea offering £3.5 million and Inter Milan offering £5.5 million against a £6.5 million valuation for the player. The new system does appear to throw up more realistic negotiations then, but the question you've really got to ask yourself is why two of Europe's biggest sides would be interested in spending big money on a 33 year-old central defender whose best years are long behind him.
The caveat at this point, of course, is that the build demoed to us by EA was a work in progress and not representative of the final game - many improvements are left to be made. But it's worth remembering that these kinds of shortcomings frequently sold FIFA 11's Career mode short and broke any sense of suspended disbelief that the game successfully built up elsewhere. One of our gripes with FIFA 11's mode was how CPU teams tended to loan out their experienced first-team regulars, and these sorts of shortcomings were still painfully apparent during our hands-on. When we booted up a game as a player manager in the FIFA 12 build, our board of directors suggested that we loan out a young hopeful for more match experience when that young hopeful just happened to be our Virtual Pro. Unfortunately there was no option to respond to their suggestion with the remark, 'Are you drunk or stupid?'.
Regardless of all of these additions for FIFA 12 though, perhaps our main concern is that so much of what made the previous Manager and Be-A-Pro modes so good still won't be coming to the Career mode in FIFA 12. "I know that international management in particular is one of the biggest questions that we get asked - it's not in this year," Rutter confirmed. "Ultimately it boils down to simple prioritisation issues - bang for buck, what do we think matters most? Sometimes we put things in that benefit the game in a way that isn't immediately obvious to people; they might not see what the cool stuff was."
"Last year it was the underlying competition engine. Most people don't care about that kind of stuff but for us it was a really big accomplishment and we didn't make a big song and dance about it because we knew nobody would be interested in the technology that we're using to pump the tournaments round..." Rutter said.
"...In the meantime people are saying, 'Where is this? Where is that? I wanted my this, I wanted my that,' and everyone has every right to want exactly what they want, it's just sometimes we can't do it and we can't do it because it's not quite at the top of the priority list, or it's just that the amount of time and effort that would go into doing it would take away something far more important. Some people missed some things, some people loved over stuff. Ultimately we're trying to just make the best game we can."
We have no doubt that EA Canada is making the best game it can, or that this year's Career mode will be better than last year's. For us, it's looking like it still won't offer the depth that the previous Be-A-Pro and Manager modes had separately in FIFA 10, but at the very least it's building towards a more immersive managerial experience. The folks at Sports Interactive don't have anything to worry about quite yet though.
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