The FIFA franchise is undoubtedly an extremely prestigious one, trumping its nearest rival Pro Evolution Soccer in sales year in year out, and leaving gamers everywhere doughy eyed at how lovely it all looks. “Looks” being the key word here, of course. While not boasting the lucrative licensing prowess of FIFA, it was Pro Evo that always managed to play the best game of football; matches would ebb and flow with intensity and speed, leading to some thrilling end-to-end encounters. It just all felt so natural, the arcade style never letting realism get in the way of some good old-fashioned fun.
(Note: I will be using the term “football” throughout this piece. I am referring to the game that some call “soccer”)
Despite boasting lucrative licensing deals with practically every league in the world and looking like the real thing, FIFA was never really the footballing man’s football game. It just didn’t feel right. Granted, it was the original master of the genre in the nineties but, once Pro Evolution upped the ante, FIFA became the game that (as far as I’m concerned) families and youngsters picked up to revel at how realistic their favourite players were becoming on screen.
But then FIFA 08 and, perhaps more significantly, Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 happened. The tables were turned.
Now, before I go on, I’d like to raise one important point: Console fanboys may be more prominent on internet forums these days, but it is football game fanboys who really excelled at their art over the past few years. These guys don’t just unleash their feelings behind an online alter ego, often choosing instead to take the fight into the real world – from school playgrounds to bus stops and even to the pub. It’s big business, y’see. And it matters.
There have been countless titles that have arrived over the past two decades that have led us to what is essentially a crossroads in the genre. It would take me forever to go into detail about every football game I’ve ever had the joy or misfortune of playing and ages to say how International Superstar Soccer evolved into Pro Evo, so I’ll save that boring lecture for another time. For now, we’ll focus on the two defining games of this generation: FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer.
Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer is, without doubt, the reason that I became totally engrossed with games of this elk. Around 2003 is where I remember becoming absolutely hooked on the series. I used to obsess over tactical decisions, marvel at the pace of play and challenge my brother and friends (more on them later) to battles on an uncomfortably regular basis. I really thought things couldn’t get any better for the genre as a whole and, more significantly, I really, really hated FIFA.
The trouble with this was that most of my friends really, really loved FIFA. Actually, that’s a lie, but it looked more dramatic than the truth, so I went with it. The truth is that they preferred FIFA, and actually liked it quite a bit. I don’t think anybody actually loved FIFA, it was purely a title that grabbed your attention with a huge multi-million dollar pound firework display on the river, while Pro Evo were holding a small hippy-fueled squat party in a cul-de-sac a few miles away.
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