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Under Pressure?


Well Fifa Soccer Blog is back and as you can see, better than ever. To kick things off and get you all back in the swing we have an article on one of the Fifa communities hottest topics, Player Pressure. In this article I take a look at the changes EA have made to pressure, what more needs to be done and what the future holds for this opinion splitting feature. It’s great to be back.

Under Pressure?

Anyone who has played Fifa10 will know all about player pressure and the way it manifests itself in-game. Whether it’s the AI pressuring you or your online opponent the outcome is exactly the same, frustration.

Not because pressure exists in the game or that it isn’t seen in real football (because it is) it’s the way it currently takes user skill out of the equation. Hold X, jockey backwards and let the AI do the rest. In Fifa10 it’s the grade A tactic for any aspiring defensive master online and it has been for some time.

It’s either that or facing up against the AI in a crucial match only to be swamped by two to three on-rushing players who are locked on with the precision of a heat seeking missile. It matters not to them which area of the pitch you are in or if you pose any threat what so ever to their goal, it happens anyway. These two outputs of pressure are far from pleasing and can force even the most ardent Fifa fan to down his controller in annoyance.

Along with game speed it was my other big pet hate which weighed heavily on my mind going in to the Emirates play test. How would the pressure feel now? What have EA done to minimise it? How does the AI use pressure? All valid questions but did they have answers?

Many of you will be pleased to know that the pressure has been toned down considerably in both areas. AI pressure and pressure initiated by the user are both a shadow of their former selves.

EA have managed to improve this facet of the game in a few ways. Firstly a new slow down in the pressure system has been added. When players are closing you down they now slow when they reach a certain proximity which gives you the opportunity to either get out of the pressure zone or to fire off a quick pass to a team mate. They are no longer able to effortlessly switch from a full blooded sprint to a tackle in an instant; this in one fail swoop this removes 90% of the frustration.

It also means that the classic Fifa10 scenario of being continually barged to the floor or mowed down by a bigger man is radically reduced. If a player stronger than you is in a better position then you will struggle to hold them off but the harshness of that exchange has now been smoothed out. It’s now a clear battle between two players rather than one winning by default as he is seen as the aggressor by the AI.

This is also where EA’s new three sixty battle for possession comes in. When a tussle created by pressuring happens it’s now played out in a more organic and fluid manner. You are no longer locked to simple right angles when jostling which opens up a whole world of options especially for big target men. It makes the contact feel less artificial because of its new freedom of movement.

The most pleasing thing to see visually is your small nippy winger pushing back forcefully against his stronger adversary. This adds a feeling of fight and determination to mix which we’ve never seen before in this area of the game play. The strong players don’t have it all their own way this year which is also imperative in my opinion. If you commit too early or pressure from the wrong angle you’ll find that your small, agile target has ghosted past you with ease. Tackling using pressure still works but it now needs to be reserved for the right occasion rather than simply Sellotaping the X button down on your controller and watching the AI work its magic.

There is another dynamic to pressure though which has fuelled a lot of community rage around this subject too and that’s continual pressure. A powerful pressing system alone can be a problem but combine it with a stamina model as forgiving as Fifa10’s and it really is a recipe for disaster. In the online arena particularly, continuous pressure is the bane of many a player, myself included. So what are EA going to do about it?

Well by now most of you will have seen this video from Gary Patterson on Stamina and Fatigue. It shows in simple terms how the minimum and maximum values work and how they affect players in game. Whilst this video is a clear step in the right direction, one run back and forth across a pitch, does not a stamina model make.

It isn’t just important how this works in a simple 90 minute scenario though it’s also imperative that this works across days, weeks and seasons. There needs to be a clear distinction between match fitness and natural fitness.

Take Frank Lampard for example in the last two seasons he’s played a staggering 108 games for Chelsea in all competitions. He is able to play week in week out and still perform at the highest level. So in Fifa11 if I play Frank three times in ten days, I don’t want a broken man in desperate need of a rest in my squad. Lampard might consistently tire after 80 minutes in individual matches but this does not affect his ability to string multiple games together and I hope EA have factored in long term accumulation and recovery in to the stamina model.

The true success of Career mode depends on this and its something I’ll be watching very closely myself after release.

So will you find yourself under pressure this year? The short answer is yes as it’s a perfectly legitimate tactic to employ against certain opposition. But with the new mechanics of secondary press in place, this experience should be much more real and much more subtle. I just hope the new stamina model does its job and matches the success of the other changes EA have already made in this area.

Dave Bryant

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