With the World Cup in full swing (and expected to bring in billions of viewers over the next few weeks), soccer has become a phenomenon once again, a worldwide sport that fans everywhere, even in the United States, can embrace. With that, EA Sports is taking full advantage with its officially licensed FIFA video games, including both FIFA 14 (available for all consoles) and the separately released Brazil FIFA 14 World Cup (for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3).
And why shouldn't it? EA Sports continues to produce some of the best soccer games in the business, which will grow onward this September when FIFA 15 emerges with a few notable changes to the formula. So, that got us thinking. What is it about the FIFA games that makes them so appealing in the first place?
There are several factors that need to be weighed, but all of them play out in favor of EA and the audience it's shooting for with its soccer sims. Let's break it down.
It's a worldwide phenomenon, and here's why
When it comes to certain sports, there are only so many countries where they're widely accepted. Hockey? U.S., Canada, Russia and a few others. NBA? Mainly America, although some countries have worldwide teams to cheer on. NFL? Generally America, though some countries are reaching out. When it comes to worldwide sports, nothing is widely as accepted as soccer.
Why is that, you ask? Mainly because of the nature of the sport itself. No matter what kind of strategies teams put into it, anyone can stand a good chance of winning. This isn't really one of those sports where you can rack up a 12-0 score out of nowhere, unless the opposing team absolutely sucks (which has happened, believe it or not). It's a sport of thinking, effort and, most importantly, teamwork. There's no room for egos on this soccer field, and if they do manage to show, most of the time they're given a penalty along the lines of a yellow or a red card.
Soccer is one of those deep, involving sports that anyone can develop a strategy to, but it can take a long time to master and forge into a legacy. Brazil's done a good job with that now and again, but new teams have shown up, becoming contenders for the World Cup in their own right.
And the FIFA games, surprisingly enough, get that. Skillful players can take the field with any given squad and pretty much dominate, while newcomers can learn a thing or two from their formations and plays to adapt to later contests. It's a universal sport that's easily embraced, no matter what skill or nationality, and that's why EA Sports' FIFA games have become best-selling phenoms, year in and year out. Even though America may not be as avid a soccer place as overseas, it's definitely getting there, and it's only a matter of time before it gains such a following. With people enjoying the World Cup in open venues and bars in our country already, that time may not be long.
It can be embraced by both "hardcore" and casual audiences
Those of you who are fans of the FIFA series can attest to the true, addictive nature that the sport has presented over the past few years. EA Sports has managed to dial in just how it feels to capture the finesse of soccer in video games, making it a best seller worldwide for the past few years. It's even got to the point where it could even eclipse the mighty Madden franchise, which is usually EA Sports' go-to series.
The hardcore elements are certainly there, particularly with gameplay options and Ultimate Team support, but let's not forget that it's a game that can also cater to general audiences.
First off, there are various sliders, like with other EA Sports games, that let players tweak how they're able to play within it. Think that the goalie could use some softening up so you can score a few goals? Or maybe you aren't feeling too hot about the opposing team stealing the ball from you all the time? Various adjustments can be made so that you can turn the tide in your favor in a matter of seconds. However, keep in mind these sliders don't translate to online matches – and some of the players out there can be downright brutal. Perhaps stick with local multiplayer in the meantime.
Also, the two-button control option can certainly be your best friend in this case. Instead of having to deal with long and short passes, and certain styles of shots, you only have two buttons to worry about. On offense, it's a matter of pass and shoot, although you'll want to stick to tapping the shoot button for a short kick. Holding it down will result in a longer punt, possibly missing the goal entirely.
Meanwhile, on defense, the buttons are regulated to a slide kick, for the most part, as player switching is done automatically. You could change this, but the option works very well, highlighting the player closest to the ball in action, while keeping teammates in play.
Also, you could turn off the severity of what a sliding tackle can do to an opposing player in a match, but it's best to keep it intact. The reason for this is gaining the understanding of when a referee penalizes you with a yellow or red card, so you know what to do, as well as what not to do, when it comes to getting the ball back. Try out a few matches with the sliders and two-button method, and ask a friend to play it with you.
Over time, you'll eventually learn more about the game, how corner kicks can provide a quick advantage in scoring, and, eventually, giving you the experience needed to step up to the regular gameplay style, as well as adjusting sliders so that it's a bit more of a challenge. Again, that's totally your call, and these adjustments make FIFA all the more accessible as a result.
Acceptance, in a good way
The bottom line? FIFA helps make the sport of soccer easy to accept for players of almost all ages and skill levels. Those who want to get the most out of it and become dynamite soccer players can do so, while those who aren't quite ready for the big leagues can make a few adjustments and have a good time all the same. Likewise, it doesn't matter what country you're in, the video games have become so accessible, they've become something of a surprise. Even more so than the Madden NFL series, in some cases.
Don't believe us? Just go check out FIFA 14 for yourself. We'll wait. (While watching the World Cup, of course…)