All The Small Things…
Career Mode is always a tough one. It’s loved by many, who feel like it’s been unloved by EA in the past. Previewing it is an absolute nightmare because when you start a career, you’re in it for the long haul and playtests rarely grant you the opportunity to progress very far or see the effects of certain actions that you trigger early on. We posted a list of the new features earlier, but also wanted to do a post about our experience playing through half a season and how all of those touches tie together.
The first thing we saw was the removal of the Player Manager option. That’s been done for various reasons, which are covered in the interview we’re posting tomorrow, I won’t go over them here. So we plumped for a Managerial Career with Chelsea, It was the most neutral team we could think of with a big enough budget to play with. I’d like to point out that Dave was driving, so some of the more bizarre decisions were down to him.
During the initial setup there are two new features, firstly the ability to choose your body type, suit colour and skin tone stand out, I’ll let you figure out for yourselves why that’s in there. Secondly a setting for financial strictness which has three tiers that dictate how much of a players sale goes back into your transfer budget, with the top end being 85% currently. Again it’s covered in more detail in the interview but the idea is to avoid transfer activity becoming a “player swap” fest, by selling a player for £20M and having all of that money still available to spend, now you’ll only receive a portion of that cash back into your available funds.
Once you hit the main Career Mode hub there’s a nice new overlay with help text that explains various bit and pieces, small touch but a very welcome one for new players. So the first order of business was to hit the transfer market and see what had changed. Given recent events we decided that Terry should go and popped him up for sale. Whilst we were waiting for some interaction from that we sent a scout out, which is still the same as it was last year, and started pursuing strikers, as you do when you’re preparing to release one of your most influential defenders.
So we went after Falcao, who seemed interested in dealing with us, and we put in a 32m offer in that was accepted. During the offer stage we became aware of the inclusion of the much wanted player plus cash option, which allows you to supplement a deal with a player you don’t want on your books. From our chat with Santi, we understand that the system isn’t as simple as taking the cash offered and adding that to the value of the player offered to come up with a total sum that’s compared against the value of the player you’re trying to buy, clubs will actually make a decision on whether the offered player is of any use to them before deciding, even to the point of coming back to you and saying that they’re happy with a player plus cash deal, but that isn’t the kind of player they’re after. You can also inquire about players without directly putting an offer in, to get an idea of what it’ll take to get them to move.
When buying players you now get a little bit more detail to help you make the transfer happen. Things like being able to view their current contract help you build your offer and you also get comments from your Chief Exec, which help you understand their position within the club. For example a player might have a market value of say £15M, but your chief exec might suggest that you need to offer £17-19M to actually lure them away. From what we saw the Chief Exec will give you range to work within from a fee point of view, but it’s just advice and you could potentially get players for more or less based on form and other factors.
Once you get past the club and begin negotiations with a particular player, you get to see things like their form and happiness and can also propose a role within the deal, so you can tell players whether you see them as a vital cog in your starting 11 or whether you see them as a useful option for cup ties, which will affect their decision. In our first offer to Falcao we told him we thought he’d be an important first team player, but he valued himself higher than that and we had to up his wages and promote him to a crucial player to be able to get his signature.
In the midst of all of this we received an offer for the unlisted Ivanovic for the sum of £13M, which we decided wasn’t enough and made use of the new counter feature to put a £16M price tag on him. The offer was met and in a brutal move from EA we weren’t offered the chance to keep him. If you request a higher fee for a player and the club making the purchase chooses to meet it, tough shit, he’s gone, you don’t get the option to up the offer again. You’ll find yourself being fairly tentative with increasing the asking price, as if you push it too high, the interested club will walk away. One thing we didn’t see was situations where you agree a fee for a player but they don’t agree terms, hopefully that’s in there though. So with the Terry deal done, that’s now 2 first team defenders out and none in, with the start of the season not far off at all.
As a manager you can now view offers from other clubs mid season and you can also arrange loans outside of the transfer window too. When requesting a loan for a player, you can specify the length you want and also propose a fee for the end of the loan period, we weren’t able to play long enough to see this play out sadly so we don’t really know how the end of loan negotiations would work.
So we pushed into some games with our formidable attack and swiss cheese defense and simmed the pre-season games. Another change is that penalties can happen in simmed games, a small but a nice touch. You still can’t edit your starting 11 before a simmed game without backing out and changing it fully, which we moaned about but were told that it wouldn’t be possible this year. Throughout the pre season you’ll get subs and squad players popping up and requesting run outs as the match isn’t important which is great and shows how much more depth there is to the player stories side of things this year.
Everything on that front just feels a little more tied together, with callbacks to actions from weeks and weeks prior and players being a little more vocal, whether they want a rest or want some more time on the pitch. End of game reviews are now incredibly detailed and generally speaking there’s an awful lot more to read if you’re interested in seeing how your CM experience is being filled in outside of your own actions. Obviously we didn’t get very far given the time we had and can’t say how much opportunity there is for repetition, but there’s more than last year, and what is there seems a lot more relevant to you.
You can now navigate the news pane whilst the calendar is moving (hooray!) and news stories relating to a particular player allow you to navigate straight to them with a single click, so when you get those “one for the future” style stories, you can quickly and easily go and investigate the player without leaving the main hub and searching for them manually. Scouting seems to be unchanged, although we only got as far as sending out a scout and viewing the first set of players, so there may be more further down the line. Other options like Talk To Press and Transfer Deadline Day remain the same (as does Team Management, Boooo!) but the initial transfer window we played through was an awful lot quieter than FIFA 12, which was also something people complained about, so that’s positive. In terms of club progress, we weren’t able to see things like stadium upgrades and kit upgrades, so we’ll have to assume they aren’t in there, we certainly weren’t told about them.
We pressed into the season and started to play a game which presented us with another new option, the goal news panel. It’s basically a set of tick boxes for the games being played alongside yours, which you can toggle on or off. At that point we had no idea what they did but we soon found out. In the middle of a match our commentary was interrupted for an update from another game. It’s such a brilliant touch, we were both grinning like idiots. It’s pretty varied, so they won’t always just be goal updates and we once got an update on Arsenals third goal without hearing about the other two. The interceptions come from Alan Mcinally and Geoff Shreeves to keep things fresh and the handover between the commentary and the updates is seamless. People have been calling for more authenticity when it comes to presentation and this is a massive step in the right direction. You’ll also notice details like the commentary mentioning upcoming CPU substitutions.
Elsewhere on matchday presentation there’s a bunch of new pre match camera angles that allow you to see the cameramen on the pitch, and details like the camera bobbing as it works it’s way along the player line up all begin to add up and make everything feel a little more authentic. Also the touchlines are now animated, so you’ll see things like subs warming up, the guy you chose a suit for and sideline photographers that actually track the ball. The crowd hasn’t had a lot of work done to it and according to a recent interview with David Rutter, it’s not a priority for the team at the moment. The crowd audio seemed better though, generally a little more reactive to events on the pitch. As for things like trophy celebrations, again we didn’t see any.
As for gameplay, there’s some updated impressions being posted later, but I’d be hard pushed to say we noticed the AI behaving particularly differently based on the team or reacting to events, which will be a downer for some people.
We carried on, slowly demolishing Chelsea from the inside with a string of terrible transfer decisions and rubbish results. We started to receive news stories about the fans being unhappy, in particular that our mega signing Falcao wasn’t finding the net. Even more interestingly they were citing the sale of Terry as the beginning of the end, it was a pretty hefty callback to make, months after his sale. Naturally with fans on our back and performances dropping we needed a distraction, a little bit of international management should do it. We looked in the job offers screen and found that even though we were shite, Romania and Northern Ireland were both still happy to have us. Although time was against us we took the Northern Ireland job and had a little poke around. The most important thing is that squad selection seems to have been done properly and you’ll need to get your picks in a week before friendlies and a month before Tournaments. Again time got the better of us so we weren’t able to take it much further than having a nose around the menus.
Then we started a Player Career with Arsenal and chose Alex Song as our player, much to the bemusement of the devs that were with us (and in hindsight ourselves, I think we were just a bit tired). There’s a fair few changes in here that we managed to crash through, but I think overall people will possibly still criticise it for being light. That being said, the changes ARE things that people have been calling for, so who knows.
As you start you’ll have your objectives for the season laid out, they’ll change depending on your role, but can also be more generic like “Stay in the starting 11″. Then pre game you’ll see your objectives for upcoming matches, like maintaining a pass completion of X. You’ll also see a bit more feedback regarding what formation you’ll be using and expectations from the game and you can finally be called up internationally, although we weren’t in the short time we played the mode.
Hitting (or missing) your small targets affect the chance of you being loaned or sold and you can see clubs making offers for your services even if you haven’t been listed. If you fancy a move you can request to be put on the loan or transfer list, but your manager also has the ability to block that move if they want to keep you. If you really want, you can retire and move into management, again we weren’t even close to getting this far so have no idea what carries over from Player to Manager.
One major gripe that’s been fixed is that you now won’t be able to jump straight into the Barca first team with your 65 rated VP and relegate Messi to the bench. You could still sign for them but it’s unlikely you’ll get many games and there’s a good chance you’ll just be loaned out. On that note, you can’t start from the bench and come on mid match yet, but you will be subbed off if you’re playing poorly. We came close to that happening at one point, but Dave gave me the pad for the second half and I managed to turn it around.
On the pitch your supporting AI is definitely better as you’d expect with attacking AI at work. Playing as a midfielder didn’t allow us that many goalscoring opportunities really, but that didn’t stop the AI strikers from banging them in. Gooners, Podolski is in possession of a cannon of a shot. It was really cool to see the forwards creating chances as well as finishing them.
So that was all we got to see really, I appreciate there’s loads still unanswered and still many many questions, but this is what we know based on what we saw. Hopefully there will be another round of CM news at some point, you never know. Overall the experience was incredibly positive and from the comments on the new features post it seems people agree that EA are headed in the right direction.
We’ve embedded some screens throughout and there’s a gallery below.