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A Look at Some Lesser Known Survival Horror Gems

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Survival horror is a subgenre of video games inspired by horror fiction that focuses on survival of the character as the game tries to frighten players with either horror graphics or scary ambiance. It’s a genre that’s dipped in and out of fashion, but never truly disappeared. Even today we have games like Resident Evil 7 being hits, Fatal Frame 5 finally getting a Western port in late 2015, and everyone trying to shape their horror games after the massively successful Silent Hills playable trailer (PT), and that was just a demo for all intents and purposes. There are the more divisive entries into the genre, such as The Evil Within and the upcoming sequel, but seeing it still alive and thriving is a good sign for things to come.

As we lead up to Halloween, there are some insanely good survival horror games and franchises from years ago that should certainly not be lost to time. If you’re looking for a horror-themed game to play this month, diving into the sea of survival horror games from earlier days is a great place to start. Here are some titles, mostly from the PS2 days but some from even earlier, that you may not have encountered before but are definitely worth your time. These games hold up even today, sometimes the controls are awkward and the spooks are a little weak due to the graphical limitations of the day, but they all have core elements that are fantastic and a chilling and entertaining story to tell.

Parasite EveParasite Eve

Square’s survival horror game was published back in 1998 for the PS1, and spawned 2 sequels that ended up deviating a fair bit from the original in tone and mechanics. It’s an incredibly interesting series that follows NYPD officer Aya Brea attempting to stop a world-destruction oriented monster. The game implements RPG elements and has a plausable real time battle system, an interesting choice that actually feels very fluid with the pacing. Aya fights her way through New York as corrupted and mutated versions of natural life assault her, with some great monster designs that form a constant threat.

The game is very linear, you’ll be taken down the direct story path and encounter everything the game has to offer along the way, so it doesn’t lend itself to replayability so well. However the first playthrough is a thrill ride as you watch the city crumbling around you. Parasite Eve also probably has the most uses of the word “mitochondria” of any video game as things gets scientific as much as they gets disturbing

SirenSiren

Siren, also known as Forbidden Siren, is a stealth/survival horror game mixed with a terrifying story and some of the more menacing enemies in horror. The game was released in 2003 (2004 in the West) for the PS2 and was developed by SCE Japan Studio and the aptly named Project Siren. The game takes place in a village in Japan named Hanuda, where an interrupted ritual and an unfortunately timed earthquake drags the village onto a precarious ledge between time and space. An ominous religious background supports the main enemies of the game, an undead army named Shibito that seem to be unkillable.

The mountainside village and dark woods make for a foreboding setting to the game, and the darkness acts as your ally as you avoid detection at all costs. The focus on stealth really helps the survival horror feel, the player character is never powerful and thus the threats are always real. There are secrets to be found around the areas you roam through, and well laid out stretches of town to work around. These secrets actually impact the game as it goes on, forming secondary objectives in later ‘stages.’ Routing is just as important as knowing what items to get and sneaking through areas. Trying to run and hide if you’re forced to fire a gun or make big noise is a great mechanic to keep the player on their toes. There’s also the interesting mechanic of ‘sightjacking,’ an ability which the characters you play as all possess. This further aids the routing and careful play, as the player can see through the eyes of nearby Shibito or human characters and work out just where may be safe.

There are 3 entries into this series as well; the original, Forbidden Siren 2, and Siren: Blood Curse for the PS3. All of the games nail that terrifying feeling of powerlessness and highlight the stealth aspects of the game. Though they all form a stellar story, they have a sharp learning curve and some areas can be incredibly difficult, making for multiple restarts. Still worth looking into the first game, or the more recent Blood Curse.

Clock Tower 3Clock Tower

On the topic of stealth, the Clock Tower series has a similar approach, going even further as the player character has no real way to fight against the powerful evils that torment her. Even from the first game on the SNES the series has had a tense atmosphere that keeps the player on their toes, and some fantastic art and environments. The SNES game was only officially released in Japan, but there are plenty of fan translations available and the game is definitely worth tracking down. The puzzles can be obtuse and tedious playing today, but the fantastic atmosphere and sound design solidifies the game as part of the roots of modern horror games.

The game, and series, pays homage to many different pieces of horror media. Hifumi Kono was a big fan of Dario Argento, and the first game has many shades of Phenomena (1985), down to Jennifer Simpson (the player character) sharing a strong resemblance and name with Jennifer Corvino from Phenomena. The game feels like an old horror movie, with deep occult elements, all taking place in and around the central location of an orphanage in the woods.

The series goes on to deviate from Jennifer’s story, centered around the core gameplay and atmosphere elements. Only the first sequel follows Jennifer again, a direct and immediate sequel with the return of Scissor Man. The naming conventions get a bit strange as the original game didn’t reach outside of Japan, so the second game (Clock Tower 2 in Japan) is known simply as Clock Tower in the West, and the third in the series (a spin-off in Japan known as Clock Tower: Ghost Head) was released as Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within in the West. Clock Tower 3 (in both regions) shifted more towards what the future held for the series, focusing still on the hiding and running aspects but having moments of strength for the player to fight back. This leads into…

Haunting GroundHaunting Ground

Seen as the spiritual successor to the series, similar in tone to Clock Tower 3 but going even further than the other games into creating a disturbing atmosphere. Fiona, the main character, finds herself waking up without clothes or belongings in a very strange place, inside a cage. And somehow her situation gets worse from here. Fiona is the target of a significant amount of sexual objectification and there are frequent voyeuristic presentations of scenes, whilst the game puts the player in her place and heightens the disturbing and terrifying atmosphere all around.

Haunting Ground (2005) also features a dog companion named Hewie (who you may remember as “that dog” from Resident Evil 4) who helps Fiona along her journey. The Fiona/Hewie dynamic is great, as they cling to each other in a desperate time and help each other out. Over time this only heightens the tense nature of the game as the player begins to worry about Hewie as well as their own character. Another mechanic of the game is ‘Panic Mode,’ in which the player can’t open the menu, Fiona runs on her own and stumbles in a panicked state, while visibility goes down, another aspect that makes every encounter more terrifying.

Character designs are on point, from Fiona and Hewie, to the hulking brute, Debilitas. Fiona’s sexuality, along with the mechanics of the game and her position of distress, allow the player to identify and connect with her struggle. Sexuality and subjectivity are used incredibly well to heighten tension and create the unsettling atmosphere the game has.

Clock Tower creator Hifumi Kono himself recently kickstarted and released a new spiritual successor to the series in NightCry. There were quite a few issues, with bugs and general problems present especially on release, and the graphics were designed for tablets so it didn’t impress as a PC game, however the core of tense gameplay and the feeling of a constant threat were still present.

IllbleedIllbleed

Illbleed is a Dreamcast survival horror game released back in 2001, with a unique take on survival horror combined with a distinct B-movie horror/comedy feel. The game works differently from most survival horrors, focusing on trap detection and an interesting mechanic around death. If a character dies through a level, they can be revived outside it and the level must be continued with another character. Each of the levels are prefaced by an amazing intro that paints the levels as individual stories or movies, with a distinct Twilight Zone feel to them.

There are four senses the game utilizes; sight, hearing, smell, and, strangely enough, a sort of sixth sense. These senses ping on a heart monitor style UI element when something scary or supernatural is going on near your character, and the objective is to avoid or disarm traps, as well as to keep your character calm. Everything is hyper stylized and looks great, from the menus to the map, and whilst the HUD takes up more screen real estate than necessary it doesn’t feel too imposing.

All of the little touches bring this game together beautifully, such as when your character dies, and it’s Game Over, the money you’ve won from the attractions is brought up in a cheque to be donated to a charity, and if you don’t manage to rescue Randy’s (one of main character Eriko’s friends) brain, you can still unlock the character, but as Brainless Randy, reflected in his zombie-like noises and lack of any ‘adrenaline’ used to find traps. Illbleed has surprises at every turn, and the mixture of unique game mechanics and perfectly stylized atmosphere make this one definitely worth coming back to.

ObscureObscure

Co-op is an extremely difficult thing to do effectively in horror because it always ends up with goofy consequences like players whacking each other or just jumping in place as all the tension dissipates. This sort of play is still present in Obscure, but fits in nicely with the teen horror setting and the often humorous dialogue. Released in 2004 in Europe, Obscure follows a group of teens battling against infected students, strange creatures, and other mutations. One of the most interesting elements of the Obscure series is the ability to continue past the deaths of several player characters.

There are a total of 6 characters you and either the computer or a co-op partner can control throughout the game, and each one of them can die and the game can still be completed. Whilst each character has skills and abilities, such as some being stronger and able to easily move heavy objects, the other characters are still able to overcome these tasks in some way, even if it takes a lot more time to do so. Of the 6 characters, only one is a guaranteed death, but the others can die through the course of the game as well. The gameplay is similar to other survival horror action games such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill, with puzzles to solve and enemies to kill. There’s also a basic crafting element, such as taping a flashlight to a gun.

A sequel, Obscure: The Aftermath, was released in 2007 and took place two years after the first game, this time in college rather than high school. Three characters from the first game are playable in the second, with a cast of new characters also available. The second improved on the mechanics of the first overall, feeling a lot better to play, but playing through the whole story is an enjoyable experience. The games are also now on Steam, which makes them a lot more accessible than other survival horror games of this era.

Rule of RoseRule of Rose

Creepy kids, creepy orphanage, creepy airship, all with a good dose of abuse raining down from all angles. Rule of Rose is a rather rare PS2 game published in 2006 that has shades of both Haunting Ground and Silent Hill. The player takes the role of Jennifer, a woman visiting her old orphanage home, and quickly comes across her dog pal for the rest of the game a la Haunting Ground. The dog, simply named Brown, helps Jennifer fight and find items, being especially useful to sniff out story critical items later on.

The combat of Rule of Rose is, unfortunately, necessary in some sections. Similar to Silent Hill the slightly awkward nature of combat combined with the rarity of decent weapons disincentivizes the player from engaging in many fights, which is a positive, and Jennifer seems incredibly bad at actually hitting things, which feels accurate, thus combining to make some fights feel rather tedious and difficult through mechanics. Where the game really shines is in the characters, the metaphor, the surreal nature of it all, and in the brilliant atmosphere. Jennifer is an adult, a big girl, and yet these children have a certain way of belittling her and bullying her that makes her feel powerless.

There’s a deep layer of abuse and cruelty in the game, drawing from old Grimm fairy tales and some visual design elements from Silent Hill. Psychological horror is the focus of Rule of Rose, as opposed to the action or even the puzzles, Jennifer is beaten and ridiculed as the player explores the dark nature that hides within the scorned children of the orphanage. The gameplay is painful at times, and combat is something you never look forward to, but it’s well worth suffering through to follow Jennifer through the incredibly dark story.

Eternal Darkness: Sanity's RequiemEternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem

Ahh, the big ‘sanity system’ survival horror game, utilizing some great visual effects and terrifying screens (the demo end screen effect is one of the more cruel). There was also an unsuccessful Kickstarter project a few years back for a spiritual successor to the game followed by the plan to continue development despite that. The settings, characters, and language used all combine into an extremely satisfyingly made, HP Lovecraft-inspired universe.

The gameplay is similar to that good old Silent Hill/Resident Evil formula, with set camera angles and the same style of combat. On top of this however are those sanity effects, ranging from enemies taking no damage to the player character shrinking steadily over time until they’re tiny beneath the now massive Lovecraftian monsters, to the aforementioned demo end screen. Suddenly after entering a door the player could encounter a screen one would normally find at the end of a demo, terrifying players into thinking they didn’t buy a legit copy. These are all based on having a low sanity bar, one of the three ‘resource’ bars in the game, the others being health and magic.

Ranging from ancient Persia, to Cambodia, to France, to modern day Rhode Island of all places, the otherworldly horrors follow the player through the ages and across the seas as they explore the history of the Tome of Eternal Darkness. A particular highlight of the game is the great writing, inspired by Lovecraft himself and using perfect words for describing the unnatural monsters. From “effluvial grime”, to talk of rats eating eyes, to “pillars of flesh,” not to mention the gods themselves, such as Mantorok, being a giant mass of maws and eyes and flesh pinned to the floor beneath a Cambodian temple, wasting away in a dark cavern for hundreds of years, spending his time plotting and scheming and manipulating with complete disregard for human life in order to get a chance for revenge against the other gods. And that’s effectively your buddy, the game gets fairly hardcore.


Survival horror has been around for a lot of years, and there have been so many amazing games that have come out in the genre. Some with on-point humor, some with the most terrifying and visceral horrors ever imagined, but all of them focusing on creating the atmosphere that they want, and building their world around it. There are many more quality entries into the genre, but these are some of the gems that shine the brightest.

Shane Dover is a Melbourne, Australia based freelance writer contributing to Japanese punk news site Punx Save The Earth, punk publication Dying Scene, Diabolique Magazine and Goomba Stomp. Not just a fan of punk music, he's spent most of his life obsessed with the horror genre across all media, Japanese cinema, as well as pop culture in general. He plays music and writes fiction, check out his Twitter (https://twitter.com/Karzid) for updates on those projects. Follow him on Twitter, and check out his work every Wednesday on Dying Scene.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Steve

    May 7, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    Excellent article. I’ve actually played every game on this list. I never finished parasite eve however.

    Rule of rose is one of the most deep and depressing games I’ve ever played. I’m still discovering new things about it from other people who’ve played it.

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PAX South 2020 Hands On: ‘Windjammers 2,’ ‘KUNAI,’ and ‘Young Souls’

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PAX South

PAX South 2020 attracted tons of exciting publishers to San Antonio, and even with such a crowded lineup, the DotEmu and Arcade Crew booth easily stood out as some of the show’s very best exhibitors. Streets of Rage 4 might have been their standout demo, but the French boutique publisher and developers brought a fantastic selection of games to the show, including their signature retro revivals and some promising original indie games of their own.

PAX South

Windjammers 2

Sequel to the much-beloved arcade classic, Windjammers 2 takes all the hectic frisbee-throwing action of the original and updates it for the modern generation. For those unfamiliar with the art of windjamming, it’s effectively pong, but instead of balls, you toss discs back and forth across the court. It pits two players against each other on opposite sides of the court, tasking you with mercilessly hurling your disc back and forth until it gets into your opponent’s goal.

You can just throw the disc directly at your opponent, but Windjammers 2 gives you many more options besides that. To really excel at the game, you’ll have to make use of the most extravagant moves you can, dashing across the court, leaping into the air, tossing the disc above you before slamming it down into your opponent, to list only a few of the uber-athletic abilities at your disposal. The game can move extremely quickly when both players take advantage of these capabilities, yet things never feel overwhelming. I always felt in control of the action, even when my quickest reflexes were put to the test. It’s fast-paced disc throwing insanity, and I couldn’t get enough of it.

Animated GIF

Just like the rest of DotEmu’s catalogue, Windjammers 2 combines classic gameplay with gorgeous modern aesthetics. It has the same hand-drawn style that makes other DotEmu titles stand out, like Wonderboy: The Dragon’s Trap. The original Windjammers was a time capsule of garish 90s style, and that design is retained for the new release, with characters looking even more colorful and absurd than ever thanks to the revitalized art and animations. Hectic to play and beautiful to behold, Windjammers 2 is already set to be a multiplayer hit.

PAX South

Young Souls

Streets of Rage 4 was certainly the premier beat ‘em up on display at DotEmu’s booth, but it wasn’t the only one. Alongside this retro revival was an all-new take on the genre: Young Souls, an extremely stylish action game that blends fast-paced fighting with deep RPG customization and a charming, emotional narrative.

Beat ‘em ups might not be known for deep storylines, but Young Souls aspires to something more. Along with its satisfying combat mechanics and plentiful flexibility for character builds, it also boasts of having “a profound story with unforgettable characters.” While my demo didn’t give me much of a look at this deep narrative, it’s reasonable to assume that the story will at least be quality, since it’s penned by none other than the author of the Walking Dead games, Matthew Ritter.

Animated GIF

However, I did get a substantial feel for combat. Young Souls features more than 70 monster-filled dungeons, and I got to venture into two of them in my demo. The action feels weighty and solid when going up against enemies, yet precise at the same time. Like any classic beat ‘em up, there’s a mixture of light and heavy attacks, along with blocks and powerful special moves, along with items and spells to exploit during combat as well. In between battles, you’re able to deck your character out in equipment and items, allowing for an element of roleplaying depth that isn’t typically associated with action games like this. In my short time with the game, it was fun to experiment with different character builds, which could determine the speed and abilities of my fighter, promising combat for the final game.

I played the demo both solo and co-op; in single-player, you’re able to switch between the two twins at will, while two players can each take control of a sibling. In both playstyles, the gameplay was just as visceral and satisfying as one would expect from a classic-style beat ‘em up like this, but the addition of a deep story and RPG mechanics put a unique spin on this entry. That’s not to mention that, like every other game at the DotEmu and Arcade Crew booth, it’s visually beautiful, featuring stylish 2D characters in 3D environments that are all rendered in gentle, washed-out colors. Young Souls might not have a release date or even any confirmed platforms as of now, but it’s absolutely worth keeping an eye on in the meantime.

KUNAI

KUNAI takes the typical metroidvania formula and boosts it to hyperspeed. It has all the hidden secrets and massively interconnected world exploration that you’d expect from the genre, and it gives you the ability to speed through that faster and more dynamically than ever. Its main gimmick is right in the name – by giving you two kunai hookshots, you’re able to traverse up and down your environments with speed and freedom, making for a uniquely vertical method to explore.

KUNAI starts out with the end of the world. In a dystopian future where technology has taken over, you control Tabby, a sentient and heroic tablet that’s dead set on liberating the planet. This serious plot is filled with plenty of personality, however, from the silly faces that Tabby makes in action to the charming dialogue and quirky character designs. This personality is rendered in appealing detail thanks to the game’s simple yet effective pixel art.

PAX South

It’s in the gameplay where KUNAI truly shines. With the eponymous kunai, you’re able to latch onto vertical surfaces. Combine this with the additional abilities to dash, bounce off enemies, or wall jump, and it provides for a uniquely dynamic method of exploring the world. Using the kunai feels easy and intuitive, fast enough to gain speed but never too floaty. It’s a balanced approach to speed and movement that never gets out of control, resulting in what it is perhaps the best-feeling movement of any metroidvania I’ve played recently. My demo was brief, and ended very soon after first getting the kunai, but the gameplay felt so smooth and natural that I can’t wait to experience more of it. Thankfully, it’s not long to wait, since KUNAI hits Switch and PC on February 6.

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PAX South Hands-On: ‘Streets of Rage 4’ Balances Legacy and Innovation

Streets of Rage 4 embodies the original series’ elegant, action-packed design and revives it for a new generation.

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Streets of Rage 4

From the moment I began my demo with Streets of Rage 4 at PAX South, it felt like coming home. It might have been more than two decades since the first three games in the Streets of Rage series perfected the beat ‘em up formula on the Sega Genesis, but courtesy of developers Lizardcube, DotEmu, and Guard Crush, this legendary series is back and in good hands. This brand new entry aims to recapture all the style and balance of the originals, while introducing innovations of its own. If my demo is any indication, the game is set to achieve that.

Streets of Rage 4 uses the same elegant level design that set the original trilogy apart back on the Genesis. The gameplay is simple: keep walking to the right, taking out every enemy in front of you with all the jabs, kicks, jumps, and special moves at your disposal. If anything, the controls feel better than ever before, with an added level of precision and fluidity that simply wasn’t possible on older hardware.

Streets of Rage 4

That’s not to mention the new move sets. Beat ’em ups might not be the most complex genre around, but Streets of Rage 4 adds the perfect level of depth to the combat. It has the same simple jabs and kicks found in the original games, but spiced up with the potential for new combos and even a handful of extravagant new special moves. With new and old fighting mechanics, this new entry features plenty of room to experiment with combat but never loses the simple, arcade-like charm of the originals.

Streets of Rage 4 revives the series’ rage-filled and action-packed style for the twenty-first century

The demo included series staple characters like Axel and Blaze, yet I opted to play as an all-new character: Cherry Hunter, a guitar-wielding fighter whose move set felt very distinct from classic characters. Her movement is speedy, certainly faster than Axel but slower than Blaze, and her guitar provided for some unique melee moves. Like the new mechanics, her addition to the character roster helps shake up the Streets of Rage formula just enough, while maintaining the core beat ’em up simplicity that made the series special in the first place.

Streets of Rage 4

Streets of Rage 4 might innovate in a few areas, but one thing that’s clearly remained true to form is the difficulty. It boasts of the same old school difficulty that characterized the original games. The classic and brand new enemies are just as ruthless as ever, mercilessly crowding in around you and can easily overwhelm you if you’re not careful. However, just like the originals, the fighting feels so satisfying that it’s easy to keep coming back for more action.

Amid all these changes and additions, perhaps the most obvious (and controversial) change is the visual style. While the original series used detailed pixel art, Streets of Rage 4 instead boasts of an extremely detailed handcrafted art style, in which every frame of character animation is painstakingly drawn by hand and environments are colorful and painterly. Thousands of frames of animation go into each character, and the effort certainly shows, making every punch, kick, and other acts of violence a breathtaking sight to behold.

Streets of Rage 4 reimagines this classic series for a new generation, reintroducing the best of the beat ’em up genre for players of all backgrounds and experiences.

Some fans have complained that the game loses the series’ spirit without pixel art, but DotEmu marketing director Arnaud De Sousa insisted to me that this simply isn’t the case. Pixel art wasn’t an artistic choice back then – it was a matter of necessity. If the developers could have designed the game to look exactly as they wanted, regardless of technical limitations, then it likely would have looked just like the luscious hand-drawn visuals of the current Streets of Rage 4.

That’s not to mention that, as De Sousa emphasized, the Streets of Rage games are defined by looking different from one another. The third game looks different from the second, which looked different from the first – and now this new entry has twenty years of change to catch up on. Thus, it only makes sense for this new entry to adopt a radically new graphical style after all this time.

Streets of Rage 4

Streets of Rage 4 reimagines this classic series for a new generation, reintroducing the best of the beat ’em up genre for players of all backgrounds and experiences. The difference between De Sousa and myself is perfect evidence of that. He grew up playing the games in the 90s, whereas I wasn’t even born when the original trilogy became such a phenomenon and only played them years later in subsequent re-releases. Yet here we were, standing in the middle of a crowded convention and gushing about decades-old games. We might have had extremely different experiences with the series, but that didn’t stop us from appreciating the joys of stylish beat ’em up action.

“A good game is a good game,” De Sousa told me, “no matter how old.” That’s the attitude that Streets of Rage 4 exemplifies. It revives the series’ rage-filled and action-packed design for the twenty-first century. And with a release on all modern platforms, more players than ever will be able to rediscover the simple pleasure of wielding your bare knuckles against thugs of all types. Between the new art style and the solid gameplay, Streets of Rage 4 is looking like an incredibly welcome return for this iconic franchise.

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An In-Depth Analysis of FIFA’s Career Mode

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Fifa’s Career Mode

It’s a well-known fact that career mode on FIFA has been a long-neglected element of the best selling sports games series of all time. But for soccer fans who want to pretend to be a football manager, but also want to personally play the game, FIFA is currently the main option.

The problem is: for a 60 dollar game, almost nothing about FIFA career mode works properly. 

Two of the most game-breaking bugs in FIFA career mode are so bad that it fundamentally makes the game unplayable for those who want to feel any sort of immersion. 

The first is a bug that makes it so that top teams will sign many more players for a position than they could possibly need. 

For example, Bayern might end up signing 6 or 7 great center backs, and then only play three or four of them, while what they really need to sign might be a winger or a fullback. 

This leads into the second huge issue: even when a team like Bayern HAS 6 or 7 great center-backs, they will STILL often choose to start second or third-string center backs! This often leads to top teams languishing at 12th or 13th in the tables by the end of the season, which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Everything about this image is wrong. Everything. The top three teams in this table shouldn’t finish higher than 7th more than once every ten seasons between them, and teams that should finish first and second aren’t even in the top eight. 64 points near the end of the season for first place is also a very low number. 

There’s been plenty of other issues as well. Even on the highest difficulties, AI on both defense and ESPECIALLY offense ranges from poor to horrible, with the AI on offense rarely actually running at the defense (making defending boring and unrewarding), leaving players like Messi or Hazard to not even try to use their incredible dribbling ability and speed and instead pass away the ball as soon as they get it. 

Instead, the most common way the AI scores are by performing a janky, unrealistic and clearly scripted pinball, with impossibly precise passes between 4 or 5 players before the ball ends up in the back of the net. 

Another major problem with the game (though some might call it simply a feature in presenting a more arcade-like, less realistic take on soccer) is your ability (if you’re a big club) to buy multiple huge players and bring them to your club easily in your first season, making the game an absolute cakewalk. 

After years of incompetence and the ignoring of career mode’s many issues, however, EA finally faced serious backlash with the release of FIFA 20–the most broken iteration in the series yet. 

For a while, #fixcareermode was trending on twitter, and reviews blasted FIFA for its litany of issues, like players going on precipitous declines in stats right when they reach the age of 30.

Yet these bugs were treated by some in the media as a first time thing, issues that had only appeared in the latest iteration. They weren’t.

As one Reddit user noted to Eurogamer: “In the last few years, every FIFA game released has had bugs that ruin the immersion. Teams not starting their strongest lineups and unrealistic tables have been an issue not just for FIFA 20 but earlier editions. Our cries for patches and change have fallen on deaf ears. The community has been grossly neglected.”

The linked article by the Independent above wasn’t accurate in other ways, either. It claims that only simulated matches suffered from the bug of teams not playing their best players, and other articles have claimed that this bug only occurs when a big team plays against a small team. 

But neither of these claims is accurate. 

Fifa’s Career Mode

You could play against a top team like Barcelona, and you could also be a top team like Real Madrid, and Barcelona would still consistently field third or fourth-string players over the likes of Messi against your team. 

This wasn’t an occasional thing, either. At least three or four top players were benched for players 20 or more points below them every game. Every. Single. Game. 

I haven’t even mentioned the commentary in FIFA, which is so buggy and so immersion-breaking in its disconnection from reality that it’s more immersive to just turn it off entirely. 

What is so infuriating is that that many of the bugs seem like fairly minor fixes (commentary issues aside), something that seems like it would take no more than a few hours of rooting around in the code to figure out whatever misplaced number value was causing the issue.

The fact that these major issues have existed for at least no less than SIX years (FIFA 14 was the first game I played) indicates definitively how little EA cares about its products, and how little the designers care about actual football or delivering an enjoyable experience out of Ultimate Team. 

Of course, Ultimate Team alone in 2017 accounted for almost a third of all of EA’s revenue from sports titles, so it’s somewhat understandable why Ea focuses most of its attention on that element of FIFA.

FIFA

But with the amount of effort put into the new “futsal” mode in FIFA 2020, or the three campaign-like “Journey” modes from FIFA 17 to FIFA 19, one wonders why the developers couldn’t have spent just a little more effort to fix a mode that was in many ways fundamentally broken.

FIFA have made certain changes to career mode over this period, so it’s not like they’ve ignored it entirely. But the changes made to career mode in the six years I’ve played it have all either made the game much worse, slightly worse or had no great effect. 

The major changes over this period have included: 

A slightly updated youth system, which has suffered from its own serious bugs over the years, such as youth prospects never gaining stats in sprint speed or acceleration so that you end up getting stuck with players with 50 to 70 speed for eternity; a widely disliked training system for players that is utterly broken and unfair, allowing you to train players to abilities well beyond what is even vaguely realistic within a matter of a year or two; a new display screen for your team; the removal of form; the slight modification of morale; adding the ability to talk with your players; and, last but not least, transfer cut scenes which are the most incredibly pointless wastes of time in any sports game, both for the player and for the developers–at least they’re skippable. There is the ability to customize your manager–perhaps the most positive change made in this six-year period. But that’s still stunningly sad given that you will very rarely actually see your manager at all. 

None of these modifications, you may have noticed, go any way towards fixing the fundamental issues with the game, issues which have been pointed out to EA year after year.

It’s fair to say that one of the main reasons that FIFA got away with what it did for so long was not thanks to the players, but the media. 

Year after year, reviews for FIFA received solid scores (hovering around the low to mid 80’s), whereas user reviews were usually much lower. It was only this year that media reviews seriously pointed out issues with the career mode. 

The fact that FIFA received so much better reviews from reviewers as compared to players is easily explained away by the fact that the former usually play the game for comparatively shorter times, and therefore tends to miss a lot of the details. 

In response to the recent outrage which had finally reached a degree of publicity that EA could no longer ignore, EA finally patched some of FIFA’s issues, like the problem of teams not fielding their strongest lineups at least semi-frequently. This was a huge step towards making career mode not fundamentally broken, but whether or not the other most glaring issue of teams like Juventus signing 9 80+rated strikers (yes, that happened in my game once) has been solved remains to be seen. Given that I mostly gave up on the series after FIFA19 continued the same problems of its predecessors, I don’t think it’ll be me that finds out.

  • Evan Lindeman
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