One benefit of the weighty 1GB client is that EA has been able to use a fully featured version of the FIFA 10
PC engine, using the same texture assets from the Xbox360 and PS3 versions of FIFA 10
. This isn’t as good news as it might sound though, as the PC engine has little in common with the one used in the well received console versions of the game and was one of the main issues that FIFA 10
was so poorly received on PC.
The use of the poorer PC engine rather than the far superior one in use on the Xbox 360 and PS3 though does mean that FIFA Online will have some very low hardware requirements – an essential requirement for a game hoping to tap into an a new mass market. While there are no concrete minimum requirements yet it was hinted to us that the game will be playable on even integrated graphics, although this will obviously come at the loss of a lot of the visual detail.
There is a fully re-tooled control system though, with the production team keen to remove many of the complex controls that have discouraged more casual players away from football games. Instead of the array of control for pass, shoot, tackle, through ball, lob, cross and the rest, the game can be controlled just with the mouse. Moving the mouse causes the currently selected player to move, moving further will mean he’ll run faster, and then passing, shooting and crossing are all done via an assisted point and click system.
Click to enlarge - a mouse is all you need to score - and in the game!
While this new system does allow for much simpler gameplay, ideal for growing a userbase, we can’t help but worry that’s its limited and unbalanced in its current state. Point and click passing and shooting allows for incredible accuracy that could make the game too easy, while the ability to pass or shoot in a direction that the selected player isn’t moving (such as a cheeky back pass) have yet to be revealed. Even more confusingly is the hint that controls will scale up and become more advanced as players gain experience and progress in the game. We’ll reserve judgement until we’ve had some more time with the game, but it all sounds a little too ambitious despite the good intentions of bringing players in gently before ramping up the complexity.
Click to enlarge - loot and upgrades are earned by playing, as well as paying
EA is taking the game extremely seriously though, and ahead of a planned launch in August this year (just in time for the new football season, fancy that) will be running numerous beta tests, starting with a closed beta that you can sign up for right now
. A wider reaching open beta will follow in June (just in time for the World Cup, as timing would have it) so there’ll be plenty of time for EA to tweak and change the game to suit the user base, a process that its indicated won’t stop once the game is officially released.
What’s perhaps surprising though is that EA still plans to continue developing the FIFA series, including FIFA World Cup 2010 and FIFA 11 on PC alongside FIFA Online. It’s clear then that EA sees FIFA Online as a separate entity to its yearly FIFA iterations, with a very different, more casual user base. Whether there’s enough in FIFA Online to get uninitiated football fans off their sofa and in front of their PCs though remains to be seen. We’ll report back once we’ve had some time with the various beta tests later in the spring.