The PC has always been to FIFA what the Scottish Premier League is to the EPL, as people insist on calling England’s top flight these days: a plucky and passionate second fiddle. And there used to be an easy explanation: nobody used a controller on their PC when FIFA was first bedding in during the PS1 salad days. Shepherding Michael Owen through Argentina’s defence using the arrow keys on your dad’s hearing-aid-beige keyboard and banging home a screamer with a well-timed press of ‘D’ was precisely as intuitive as it sounds. Hence, FIFA’s audience among personal computer users was always slender.
Times changed. Michael Owen’s brittle knees betrayed him. The hearing-aid-beige keyboards of the ‘90s gave way to Xbox 360 controllers in the ‘00s. FIFA evolved into a fully licensed sports game with player likenesses and proper kits (I was very excited about this when they arrived in FIFA 2001). But for some reason, the line in the sand that had been drawn a decade previously remained sacrosanct: football games were for console players, and thus, nobody needed to put much effort into their PC ports.
It’s still true today. FIFA 23 marked the first time PC players saw the new features that had been rolled out on new-gen console releases two years previously, and it’s held together with metaphorical sellotape and prayers. Menus stubbornly refuse to yield to your inputs. The frame rate’s all over the place. There’s a great game of football to be found if you can make it as far as the pitch, but it really shouldn’t be such a laborious journey to get there.
This year marks a changing of the guard, though. Out with the FIFA name and license, in with EA Sports FC. The new terminology is all about licensing deals and money. Still, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to right some historical wrongs – specifically, the wrongs that PC players have been doggedly jockeying with for decades now. It’s easy, EA Sports: just do these things, and we’ll be happy. Probably.
1. Stable performance
A smooth framerate is as important in a game of FIFA as it is in a shooter. There’s a tremendous subtlety to the controls that rewards you for tiny inputs, timing your passes and shots when your player’s body shape is just so, allowing lithe runs and balletic finishes. But if you want to pull any of it off with any consistency, you need the game to run at a consistent pace itself.
Many players have reported low FPS performance while running FIFA 23 and on high-spec machines. Post-release updates seem to have helped some of those players out, but it’s still not an easy game to get running at a locked-down 120FPS/120Hz. Even a stable 60 FPS is apparently too tall an order for my RTX 2080 TI at max settings.
If FIFA 23 looked like Cyberpunk 2077 on the Psycho preset, this would be understandable. It doesn’t. A lot of silicon is being used to power the AI behavior, but one suspects the game could have been optimized much more than this with little to no fidelity hit. This should be first on EA Sports FC’s PC port agenda. Let us run it smoothly, so we can appreciate all the time and talent you put into building such a refined and subtle control set.
2. Better mod support
Traditionally, there hasn’t been a pressing imperative to mod FIFA on PC. It’s always licensed up to the hilt with the correct badges and kits, the player likenesses are great, and there are so many official boots in there that if you tried to order them all at once from Sport Soccer, they’d run out of those giant mugs.
Conversely, PES always had a thriving modding scene on PC. There were always missing badges and kits (as opposed to a missing game, as has become the case with eFootball), and there were always talented amateur creators who’d assemble option files and megapacks that injected the real teams back into the game.
Quite aware of this practice, though not able to officially endorse it, Konami made importing option files incredibly easy.
FIFA… does not. Even importing one custom kit into the game is a profound undertaking, let alone a whole megapack. FIFA 23 is missing the licenses for several Serie A clubs, including runaway league leaders Napoli and Mourinho’s Roma. The PC completionist wants to see the correct team names, badges, and kits appear in-game. But it’s unnecessarily difficult to add either your own work, or someone else’s, requiring the FIFA Mod Manager program and miscellaneous other tweaks.
FIFA modding is complex enough that scammers are able to operate, promising paid-for megapacks that patch in the missing Serie A content but, in fact, merely repackage work that’s available for free elsewhere.
So let’s make it easier to inject our own work into EA Sports FC, please.
3. Please, please, please, make the menus work
Simple one, this. We’ve all got mice connected. The majority of us have controllers connected simultaneously at the same time. Find a way for the two to work in harmony for us. If you’re stuck, just as the developers of any other PC title in the last 25 years.
4. Squash the bugs
This one also sounds simple. It seems absurd for a series this long-running and profitable to struggle with proper QA testing on PC. Freezes, crashes to desktop, and black screens on startup are commonplace for many FIFA 23 players, and nobody knows why.
One suspects the problem lies in the fact that this is the first time the new-gen console version is being ported over to PC, and that to meet that annual release cadence, corners have simply had to be cut in bug-squashing the resultant tech issues. It’s an absolutely mandatory that EA Sports FC doesn’t suffer similar ailments.
5. Parity with the new-gen console versions
Yeah. Don’t try that one on us again. “Ooh, we don’t think most PC players would be able to run the new-gen version, so we’ll just re-release the last game with some new kits.” A year later: “Looks like the entire PC gaming audience has upgraded their machines now, so everyone should be able to run it just fine.”
6. A player career mode overhaul
This feels like the biggest area of untapped potential in FIFA. It experimented with The Journey Trilogy in FIFAs 17, 18, and 19, a three-part saga of Alex Hunter’s rise through the youth academies to global superstardom. It was a reasonably well-acted, if not HBO-quality, narrative. But it was extremely involving to be part of.
After The Journey concluded, FIFA carried over only a few elements into Career Mode – buying material items to increase your status, and some squad harmony mechanics. But nothing narrative, nothing voiced, like NBA 2K’s superlative MyCareer.
It’s been long enough now – let’s see what The Journey looks like in revamped form in EA Sports FC.