I return from my week off work to discover that I have evidently replaced our departed Adam (RPS in peace) as the RPS Football Correspondent, because none of these squares mentioned that a free demo for FIFA 19 launched on Thursday. I've ironically become less interested in digital ballkicking since I started going to matches again (mon the Hibs!) but I appreciate some will want to see what's new with EA's latest annualised kick 'em up. As ever, it's a year of tweaks, fiddling, and airbrushing built upon rules which have barely changed in a century, as you can see for yourself by downloading the demo.
The demo is a 7GB download available through Origin. For your troubles, you'll get to play a slice of story and have a bit of a kickabout too.
One small chapter from The Journey, FIFA's story mode, is in the demo. In it, Alex Hunter (now one of three Hunters the story bounces between) plays in the Champions League for the first time, coming on as a substitute so we can win the game for those Real Madrid layabouts. It's wrapped in cutscenes, complete with a BioWare-style renegade/boring/goodiegoodie dialogue wheel for his post-match interview.
For those who simply want to kick balls, the demo also lets us play as (and against) ten Champions League teams in one-off matches. They do kicks.
It's not for me. Digitised football is not trying to simulate football, I know, but the squad-based real-time tactical ritualised combat game EA wrap in a football shirt just isn't that interesting. Options are limited and the real tactical decisions of football--of a football team--are handled by an AI helper, while the controls do so much to assist the one person I'm controlling too. But hey, I've played plenty of so-so games because I liked the theme enough; I'd be embarrassingly fond of this real-time tactical squad game if its theming was all goofy punk gangs and grubby city streets.
But real football! Loving it. I'm still relearning how to properly follow a match, how to read the pitch and see the opportunities presented and denied by positioning, how to understand a particular team's strategy and tactics... I'm working on it, and hugely enjoying learning. Especially as I keep ending up sat near a diehard supporter who shouts criticism, complaints, and conspiracy theories after every play which doesn't go our way, while everyone around her stifles their chuckles. Good times. I like watching games unfold but, most of all, I adore being in the collective mood of the crowd. It's chuffing magic when we score ("we", she says).
FIFA 19 is due to launch on September 27th, priced at £55. It's also covered by EA's new 'pay £90 per year to play all our new games' subscription service, Origin Access Premier. How horrible will its loot boxes be? Well, in Belgium at least, that may take a court case to settle.