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EA SPORTS ™ FIFA Online

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by Kushan Dodanwala

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With the 2010 FIFA World Cup in full swing down in South Africa, this is a good time as any to talk about the latest football game from EA Sports, FIFA Online.

The first question someone may have is why? EA Sports already has the major slice of the football videogame market with its annual FIFA Soccer and FIFA Manager titles plus the seasonal World Cup and Euro offerings. So why bother create another game somewhere in the middle?

Well, the answer is accessibility. According to the EA Sports president Peter Moore himself, “There are 2 billion football fans worldwide, and we sell 10 million (FIFA games) on a good day. Clearly, the other 1.99 billion might be interested in playing a FIFA game, but whether it be the cost of entry, a lack of skill, or any number of other reasons, they’re just not playing. Therefore, with FIFA Online, EA Sports have taken major steps to make the game accessible and enjoyable to everyone.”

The first step is to make the game free to play. That’s right; the game is available as a free download over the internet and free to play as long as you want. Of course, as in any free to play game you can always ‘cheat’ by buying stuff for real money, but EA have assured that those who do pay will not be receiving significant performance upgrades, but rather just a push to move forward in the game faster.

The next step is making the game run on a wider range of PC’s. The game is based on the FIFA 10 game engine and sports FIFA 09 like graphics, most of which have been ported over from the console versions of the game. Even so, the game is very scalable and runs smoothly even on ultra-low end PC’s. So if you have an average PC bought in the past 3-4 years you can play the game comfortably with no lag.

The final and probably the most significant simplification is the game play itself. According to EA Sports, the game can be played competitively by using only one hand! The full range of actions available in the game can be performed with a standard 3-button mouse, making it the ultimate for casual gamers. If you’re a hardcore FIFA fan this may alarm you. Don’t worry though; full keyboard and gamepad support is still available as before. The first time you enter the game, you are given a tutorial on how the mouse control works, and surprisingly, it’s quite good. Its miles ahead of the previous attempts by EA Sports to implement mouse control into their games and you actually can use it to be competitive. However, I prefer to use both my hand so I’m sticking with the keyboard.

As the name suggests, the game is meant to be for online play. You will require to be logged in to the game server to even start the game. However, there’s still a single player mode you can enjoy on your own.

The game download is around 1GB, and it’s basically a stripped down version of FIFA 10. The minor leagues and the excessive reserves have been eliminated, as well as the reward and tournament content. You can select one team for your manager mode and this team can be used in online matchmaking as well. So if you play with Manchester United and your opponent also picks the same team, you can expect drastically different teams depending on which stage of their career each manager is in. The money system has also turned more casual, with you being able to ‘buy’ players fitness back. The player contracts operate in a continuous basis and can be renewed with the money you earn. At the beginning of the career, you are given a choice between a few of your star players who are ready to leave the club, and you have enough money to sign only one of them. Unfair as this may be, throughout the season you win chances of signing new players. At the end of each match, the manager is given certain ‘markers’ to choose from. These can range from cash bonuses, to bonus items to even new players available to sign. Bonus items can be bought using in game cash or real cash to boost player abilities.

The other game mode available in the game is the World Cup mode. You can select your favorite international team and take part in the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The number of games that you can play is governed by the number of ‘tokens’ you have. Entry to the world cup costs you 20 tokens and playing with any other team than your career team in online games costs 5 tokens each. You have a free quota of 20 tokens a day and more tokens can be won by participating in community mini games or by purchasing with real money. To summarize the gameplay experience, everything apart from playing the actual game seems to be brought straight out of popular online games in social networking sites down to the last detail, which is rightly so as the game is targeted mostly at the same target crowd. So if you are an avid fan of Farmville or Mafia Wars, then FIFA Online should be right up your alley!

The online play sadly is below satisfactory quality to us in Sri Lanka. The game servers are located in the US and UK, which means that the pings are constantly high and you can expect constant latency of nearly 1 second. EA Sports are currently working at establishing servers in the Asian and African regions. Apart from the lag issues, picking up a game is fairly easy as there are plenty of players online.

The game is still in beta testing at the time this article is written, so I wouldn’t want to go into detail with the many minor technical issues that seem to plague the game, such as connection timeouts and errors with adding friends. Expect EA Sports to iron out most of these come the release date on the 4th July 2010. Want to get in the action straight away? Log into http://fifa-online.easports.com/ right now to create your own profile and start playing!

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