In this week’s Backpage, footy journalist Darren Cross talks about playing FIFA 12 against Joey Barton, scoffing free chicken and why he’s become addicted to earning more XP…
Last Thursday Joey Barton smashed in a winner against me with the last kick of the game, after I’d hacked him down on the edge of my box with the scores tied at 1-1.
His free-kick bounced back off the wall, dropped nicely to him and he walloped the rebound into the top corner of my net.
He then jumped up out of his seat and celebrated just like you or me would, having done the same thing.
By now I’m sure you’ve realised that I’m talking about the real Joey Barton, not the FIFA version of the QPR star. He was in control of Real Madrid, who came back from a goal down to take a dramatic win against my Man. United side. I’ve got to say it was a deserved win too, not only because Joey outplayed me for large parts of the game, but also because of the savage foul I mentioned above – a shocking chop through the back of his player when it looked like he’d have a free run on goal. It was a shameless foul – although I did mutter “Sorry Joey” a split-second before I took him out – but justice was done when Xabi Alonso hammered home the winner.
Despite the loss – and every FIFA player hates losing, no matter who it’s against – it was a really good laugh, but it wasn’t the only great FIFA-related thing that happened to me last week. As well as playing FIFA 12 against Joey I was also lucky enough to be invited to the launch party at the Celebrity Gaming Club, where half of the Premier League were joined by actors, singers and, erm, people from The Only Was Is Essex to play the game a few days before it hit stores. There was also free Nando’s. Check out the FIFA 12 Launch Party episode of PWNED on this site and you might spot me stuffing my face with free chicken somewhere in the background.
But as fun as spotting celebrities and losing to Joey Barton was, the best part of my week was finally being able to play FIFA 12 online.
Having read a lot about the game’s new online modes, but being unable to try them out in my early version because no-one was online, I couldn’t wait to get on Xbox Live and have a go with them on launch day – especially Online Friendlies and Head To Head Seasons.
H2H Seasons is ridiculously addictive.
Two of the big frustrations for FIFA 11 online gamers have gone, thanks to this mode. Firstly, far fewer players quit, because defeats now mean something – fail to pick up enough points in your ten-game online season and you’ll get relegated.
Players can also specify what DNF% they’re willing to accept when matching to an opponent, so anyone that pulls the plug too many times may soon find it difficult to get a game at all.
There are some that still quit, and it is annoying because you pick up slightly less XP from a DNF win, but it’s nowhere near the amount you’d get in FIFA 11 – at the time of writing I have 16 wins, 6 draws and one loss with no more than a couple of those victories coming via DNF – so it’s a huge plus.
Secondly, the game now matches you against a similar team that is being controlled by a player from the same division as you. This means you can pick a three star team and you won’t end up playing against Barcelona. The matching is so good that I’ve been using the same 4.5 star team for the last 15 games and I haven’t faced any 5 star opponents yet.
I then got stuck into Online Friendlies against a mate who also works for Match Magazine. He’s currently three points up on me, having won one more game than I have, something which I’m reminded of every time we talk. Online Friendlies tracks our games over a ten match period then awards a trophy to the player with the most points at the end. I really want that trophy.
This tracking of results and competing for digital trophies makes the games nervy and tense. It reminds me of watching Man. United – the team I support – play against Liverpool – the team all of my friends support – and I’m desperate to earn the bragging rights.
But for that extra bit of pressure, you can now choose to gamble some of your hard-earned XP when you take on a mate. Put yours on the line and lose and you could end up throwing away everything you’ve earned that day while at the same time boosting your mate’s XP score and helping them level up even quicker.
It’s this whole XP/levelling-up thing that’s really got me gripped with FIFA 12.
If you’re online while playing FIFA 12, pressing the back button on your 360 pad or Select button on the PS3 at the menu screen will bring up the EAS FC Hub. From here you can look at your level, tackle scenarios for an XP reward, or catch up on what your friends have been doing in-game via the news feed.
The part that will really have you hooked – if you’re anything like me – is the Leaderboard. From here, you can see what level your friends are at, how much XP they’ve earned that day and a whole ton of other things. But what you’ll be most interested in is the little mini league table that shows where you are in relation to your mates. If you’ve done more in the game than any of them, and so picked up more XP, your name will be next to the word 1ST, while your pals will sit below you, looking up admiringly.
It’s this little table that’s got me really motivated at the moment – I can’t let my friends take top spot. “You write about FIFA but I’ve got loads more XP than you!” Urgh, I can’t let that happen.
Fortunately, the really good thing about XP is that you earn it in everything you do in FIFA 12. Online players in FIFA 11 could wave their level at you as a badge of honour for how good they are at the game, and people who play offline against friends or enjoy Career Mode didn’t really have a good comeback because they were so far behind due to not playing online as much.
But now you earn XP everywhere. Just won a game in Career Mode? Have 200XP. Grabbed a 1-1 draw against a mate in an offline match? Here’s 150XP. You even get XP just for turning the machine on. Only 10XP, but every little helps.
So you can enjoy all game modes without having to hide away when people start talking about levels – play often enough, online or off, and you’ll be right there with them. It doesn’t even matter if they play twice as much in one day as you can, because the daily XP reward is capped.
This makes the whole thing feel so much more competitive and meaningful, and I haven’t even mentioned the fact that all the XP you earn will go towards pushing the real-life club you support to the top of the Support Your Club table.
Anyway, I’ve got to stop typing now and get back to it as I’ve just spotted in my news feed that the mate I’m competing with has earned another 239XP and maxed out his daily allowance, surging above me in the table. What he doesn’t know is that the excellent scenario challenges – accessed through the EASFC Hub – give a huge XP reward but also raise the daily XP cap.
That’ll teach him for not reading my work.
Thank YOU for reading though, and please pop back next week when we’ll take a look at a bunch of decent teams to use in Head To Head Seasons.
Have a good week,