FIFA vs PES is the fiercest derby rivalry in the footballing world. Forget Utd/City of Barca/Real - this is the true clash of the titans, though one that has been very lopsided in terms of success in favour of FIFA. In recent years though PES has made something of a comeback, though more in terms of quality on the pitch rather than parity in the league (sales charts).
This year is probably no different. As PES once again shines on the pitch while FIFA feels a touch sluggish by comparison. Passing play seems slow and predictable, while the A.I. defenders are so good that it seems often better to let them run the show rather than stepping in to do it yourself. Nothing here is ground-breaking, but nor is it game breaking, offering a fun if predictable game on the pitch albeit one that you've probably been playing for the last few years.
In truth the appeal of FIFA has always rested on one or two key modes, beyond the obvious benefit of having a raft of licensed teams and logos which is always a seemingly small but vital component in gamers minds. This time around is no different. As once again the bulk of your time will be spent in the Ultimate Team section, which has always proven to be a moreish mix of card collecting, currency grabbing and trading, plus the odd game of football of course.
Only this year EA have sideswiped us all with an even more compelling new addition. The Journey aka a FIFA RPG, slash, story mode, slash, bit of genius. With Bioware providing a decent assist (raking cross field pass) in terms of plot and writing duties it holds up admirably. Taking control of Alex Hunter and guiding him from youth teams to try-outs to the heights of the league with your chosen team is a fulfilling experience. Getting to buff his stats, choose how to handle sticky situations on and off the pitch and guide him towards stardom is a unique spin on the traditional "control one player" mode.
Sure the game trots out a bunch of clichés along the way, with pushy parents, annoying mates, arguments with the manager, fans and other players etc. But the novelty of the experience and the slickness of the presentation help to make it a unique offering that can only, hopefully, get better going forward. For those tired of seeing the same old thing in FIFA year after year, this is finally a good excuse to give it a go.
The Journey aside, everything else is exactly as you'd expect with plenty of modes to dabble in online and off, and a decent if not spectacular game of football on the pitch. Still it's good to see EA finally taking a chance to try something truly unique with one of its staple sports brands and hopefully we'll see more positive changes in the near future.