It’s been out for a few years now, and while it perhaps didn’t get the makeover it deserved for 2010, Be A Pro has been integral to both the online and offline success of EA Sports’ annual franchises.
I guarantee that most sports fans have, at some point, fantasized about playing at a professional level; scoring the winning goal and earning the adoration of your fans. Be A Pro is only in its embryonic stages, but there are already countless reasons why it could easily be the future of sports titles.
FIFA 10 carried with it mixed responses from diehard fans. On the one hand, it was easily the best football game ever created. Manager Mode received a stunning makeover, controls became more open and fluid, and the look of the game itself was simply remarkable. Whereas, Be A Pro was basically a cut-and-paste job from last year. I understand that EA Vancouver was putting all their time and effort into manager mode, but if I pay for a pair of tighty whities, I don’t expect them to arrive used.
It’s disappointing that such an innovative feature was avoided like a fat hooker on heat, but there is still a lot to like about the way Be A Pro plays – namely, it’s online capabilities.
Realism is a word games journalists use far too often when describing upcoming releases. “Heavy Rain is going to be, like, the most super-duper-awesome-real-life-experience ever.” Or, “I’mah be a real life Sam Fisher when Conviction comes out.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m eagerly anticipating both titles, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to start bawling like a little girl when the Origami Killer murders one of my characters.
Comparing FIFA 10 to Heavy Rain may sound like oranges and apples to some, but I am simply trying to make a point. The sports genre is leaps and bounds ahead of others in terms of capturing a sense of realism.
When Be A Pro was unveiled for FIFA 08, fanboys went mental at the prospect of controlling a single sports figure, leading them step by step on their path to greatness. The press, however, had a field day drawing comparisons between the selfishness of online gamers on titles such as Call of Duty and Halo, and the free reign given to Be A Pro players in multiplayer mode. In a sense, it was expected that teams were going to be filled with 10 gamers all wanting to be Ronaldo.
However, what they, and even I, didn’t anticipate was the camaraderie and sheer desire for teamwork inherent in around 90% of online sports players. Even the trigger-happy blockheads soon figured out that giving away the ball meant losses, and losses meant a shit reputation. Nobody wanted to play with a ball hog, and most were either weeded out, or simply grew tired of the verbal hammering they were receiving from prepubescent Barcelona fans.
The ability to join online leagues only increased the faux-reality. One of the most exciting leagues I ever had the privilege of joining was played on a weekly basis. We compared our time schedules, built a list of fixtures around them, and every Friday night we would come together to play out online versions of real matches. To say that this added an extra level of reality is a severe understatement. I switched off the commentary, threw away my headphones, and cranked up the volume so that I could hear the roar of the crowd drowning out instructions from teammates. I was Wayne Rooney.
With virtual reality basically an afterthought, Be A Pro is the next best thing; EA Sports has listened to its fans. The Champions of Gaming Tournament for 2009/10 is already their most successful event. The bloody thing even has a major sponsor by way of Gillette, and the prize money on offer is absolutely ludicrous. EA understands that sports gamers want reality, not downloadable jerseys or Hungarian commentary. Reality is what we desire, because we desire to be like Wayne Rooney. Or Cristiano Ronaldo. Or even Thierry Henry (insert obligatory Irish slur here). We may not be six-feet tall, finely tuned athletic machines, but we sure as hell want to be – at least when we’re playing Be A Pro.
Whether or not we will ever truly experience a completely “realistic” sports title remains to be seen; we may not have the technology or the steady hand to pull off a procedure like that. For now, I’ll stay content with Be A Pro, and hope for the love of god that it continues to evolve through FIFA 11.
I honestly can’t say that I’ve spent much time on any of the NHL, NBA, or NFL franchises’ Be A Pro features, but I’d love to hear your stories on the subject, especially if you have ever played them online.