So I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months playing FIFA 11 for the XBOX 360 (I just can’t get on with the pads for the PS3). I even had a 4-3 Liverpool Vs Newcastle thriller online with a friend. This great score line prompted some nostalgia for me. Like the old premier league games with the same teams and score line. But my nostalgia wasn’t for the football itself, it was for the games. I can trace back from FIFA 11 to the first Pro Evo released for the next gen consoles, Pro Evo 6. A downright poor attempt overall but great online play. I then went back to the PS2 days of Pro Evo 4 & 5. Still these are my favourite football games of the modern era. Many a night was wasted in the company of friends having tournaments with fast food and the trading of toy wrestling championship belts for whoever came out on top.
But this wasn’t where I was to look. I casted my mind back right to the beginning of the FIFA franchise. The imaginatively titled FIFA International Soccer on the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis). Now unless you’re my age or slightly older, or you’ve played the emulation on FIFA 06 on the PS2, you’d have never have know that there were only three real football games before this (not including Sensible Soccer as A) it was a brilliant albeit joke game and B) it called football soccer… BOO). World Cup Italia ’90 (which came with most console bundles with Super Monaco GP and Columns) was the first football game of the 16-bit generation. This top down view game looked like it had come straight out of the arcade. Whilst I still had Nessun Dorma running through my head, a bunch of half false named ball-like-heads with little feet kicked a ball around in something akin to a virtual Subbuteo. Of course the problem with this game is it was incredibly hard to play. You selected your team from a badly drawn map, selected your players from screens more reminiscent of a Spectrum and then were greeted with a game that made it impossible to keep possession unless you passed it continuously. Only to be backed up with odd matte painted screens for goal kicks.
Next on my list, although not next on the timeline, was World Cup USA ‘94. This game had learned nothing of its other licensed predecessors mistakes. Incomprehensible baseball card like menu screens followed another badly drawn globe map for team selection, followed by even more incomprehensible baseball card screens. All of which included the pointless dog mascot. I don’t know why they didn’t put cheerleaders in and have done with it. But it’s game play, although fairly terrible and again plagued with fake names, did take its lessons from Sensible Soccer. The top down view was zoomed out further and the grass was a much brighter green… And that’s where my praises end. It was terrible. Awful. Nay a disgusting excuse for portrayal of the beautiful game. In fairness this game was totally dwarfed by the equally licensed, but again faked named, FIFA International Soccer… Enough said. Except that England were on that FIFA game and not on USA ’94. If you don’t know why, then you should ask your parents or older siblings why 2010’s England World Cup flops were not a huge surprise.
But until FIFA took over my console life, and Premier Manager took over my PC life, there was only one football game for me. A game where a kid famously asked Sir Patrick Moore’s Gamesmaster on TV how he could get more power into his kicks. I’m speaking of course of European Club Soccer. That’s right. Club. Not country. Before FIFA ’95, this game showcased the best clubs in all of the motherlands of modern Football. It was incredibly hard to score on. But it had club teams that Pro Evo now could only dream of. It had a side view so you could see the whole of the players nicely animated, perfectly formed, and more of the pitch without needing a radar. You had fake names still but close enough so that you knew who they were. You had kits that looked like the actual kits. Badges that looked like the actual team badges and a referee on the pitch. Something that only recently has come into modern Football games. This ref would even show cards to you on the pitch. The soundtrack was great and because of its difficulty, it was oh so rewarding when you actually won. I’m not sure that modern gamers will understand the stress of throwing your controller across the room and the lead coming out –making the game crashing and meaning you had to restart from the beginning and not the last save point- due to the difficulty and agonising stress the game caused. But believe me that this kind of stress made me into the man I am today. That being a bitter cynical football fan that knows how lucky you are to be born into a gaming platform of 3D realistically modelled, dynamically accurate football games.
Just remember that when you play modern football games that streaming down the flanks and belting a shot in from the corner of the box won’t guarantee you a goal anymore like it used to. You actually have to play football, and that is why you… I… Fail.