2022's New Football Games
For years FIFA and PES have been at the heart of the football gaming scene—almost entirely unopposed—and reaped the rewards of controlling this immensely popular market. This year, however, with a couple of new IPs on the horizon, 2022 promises to mark one of the greatest reforms in the landscape of football video games since the release of the very first FIFA title in 1993. The two Goliaths that once ruled the realm of football simulators are set to face stern competition for their thrones. Naturally, this is an exciting revelation because it will push developers to elevate their products and put forth the best versions of their yearly football titles. In this article, we will examine the current state of the football gaming industry while also looking to the future and delving into the new IPs that are set to be released.
This year with FIFA 22, EA has delivered a tidy but generally underwhelming and uninspired entry to their coveted global franchise. For the most part, FIFA 22 is another case of EA over-relying on their golden goose which is the vast array of licenses and club partnerships available at their disposal. This coupled with the astute visual presentation and the grand variety of game modes makes the final package feel more well-rounded and complete than other football games released this year. That being said, it seems you can’t teach an old dog new tricks because FIFA 22 is as comfortable with its lack of innovation as the average fan is playing and rediscovering the new game. Very few efforts are made to reinvent the wheel or simply improve on the previous game—click here to read more about the new features introduced in FIFA 22. The inflated promises of hyper-motion and the power of next-generation consoles expectedly fall flat on their face and serve more as trivial distractions rather than inciting tangible changes to gameplay. Lucky for EA, their lack of ambition won’t be the main subject of criticism in the football gaming world this year. The hot seat is already occupied by KONAMI and the studios’ latest release: eFOOTBALL.
It is no secret that eFOOTBALL had a catastrophic launch. The release build of the game was so dreadful that it quickly became the subject of mass scrutiny and controversy in the football gaming community. In fact, the launch was so turbulent and so poorly received that it prompted an official apology delivered by Konami to their devoted fans. Playing the game firsthand gave us a clear understanding of why Konami felt the need to issue the apology. Every facet of the game is rotten, from top to bottom. The mechanics are clunky and unintuitive, the graphics are comically awful and the gameplay is painfully dull and repetitive. The only possible redeeming factor is the fact that Konami released the game as a free-to-play title. Interestingly the public was generally opposed to this decision with most PES fans going as far as to say that they would rather pay for the game if they could get the old PES back. Nevertheless, Konami are sticking to their guns and to their credit they have since released a statement explaining that eFOOTBALL will be receiving consistent and devoted support throughout its lifecycle. The hope is that these many updates will eventually elevate the game to the standards of quality and realism that Konami and the PES series in general, are known for. The first major update of the eFOOTBALL lifecycle is v1.0.
Following the backlash and criticism of eFOOTBALL’s launch state, Konami decided to issue a public statement in which they apologized to the fans and promised to continue improving and updating the game on a consistent basis: “this work will be continuously updated, quality will be improved and content will be added consistently.” To their credit, Konami has mostly delivered on the promise of consistent updates with the game receiving frequent patches and minor bug fixes contributing to a generally smoother gameplay experience. However, while the frequency of updates had been steady and commendable Konami had yet to deliver on the two most important fronts: content and gameplay. But as we know eFOOTBALL is still—controversially—a work in progress, which bring us to the new V1 update. The v1.0 patch has replaced the old v0.9.1 build of the game and improved drastically on the things that matter by adding fresh content and revamping the gameplay—click here to read all about the new v1.0 update.
UFL is a AAA, Free-to-play football experience developed in Unreal Engine for the PS4, PS5, Xbox One and Xbox Series S/X. The game has you starting your own club and competing against friends and other online opposition to improve and grow your team. Developer’s Strikerz Inc have maintained that UFL will be a predominantly online experience that is free and fair for all competitors. In our eyes, UFL shares a lot of DNA with the FIFA Ultimate Team mode. The core objectives of building a team, grinding for rewards, and competing to climb up the ranks are all part of UFL. The main difference here is that UFL is free to play and that it won’t include annoying and overbearing microtransactions the likes of which are so integral to the FUT model. These distinctions are perfectly summed up by UFL’s central slogan: “FREE TO PLAY, FAIR TO PLAY”. From this, we get great insight into what the developers are striving to achieve and what their mission is. Strikerz Inc’s aspiration is to create a game that rewards players based off skill, performance and time spent playing. This approach is refreshing when compared to EA’s controversial pay-to-win philosophy that encourages spending real currency to upgrade your team and get in-game rewards. EA have already faced and overcome great legal obstacles just to keep FUT packs and loot box mechanics in the game. The result of operating in this legal and moral grey area is that FUT is allowed to thrive year after year and bring in gigantic profit margins. However, this year UFL looks set to challenge FUT’s popularity and perhaps shine a light on the game mode’s biggest flaws. In that sense, UFL isn’t just another football game challenging FIFA for the throne. It represents much more than that. UFL symbolizes a level playing field, and at its heart, it represents the spirit of pure, honest competition. Strikerz Inc CEO Eugene Nashilov summed it up perfectly at UFL’s latest gameplay reveal—which premiered on January 27th, 2022—when he explained that the goal with UFL is to “create a game that is immune to the issues that are blocking the general progress” of the football gaming industry. Of course, we do have a few reservations about the UFL project which mainly regard the lack of licensed teams and players. These limitations could be detrimental to a game that promises player’s the ability to build their own dream team. Wanting to sign your favorite players only to discover that they aren’t in the game could be the deciding factor for some to revert back to Ultimate Team. Hopefully in time UFL’s library of licensed clubs and players grows to the point where it can compete with EA’s infinitely extensive list of football partnerships.
In the end, UFL looks to be a truly ambitious project that takes bold steps to bring much-needed change and shake up a stagnating industry. As with any game, there will of course be flaws and shortcomings but that should not stop us from applauding innovation and new ideas. In this way, Strikerz Inc aren’t just small-time indie developers creating a passion project but pioneers setting an example. This game’s success could pave the way for a boom in new football games; created by smaller teams, reinvigorated with the belief that they can rival corporate behemoths such as EA and Konami.
GOALS is the next ambitious football game on the horizon after UFL. Much like UFL, GOALS focuses on online multiplayer and takes the same ‘build your dream team’ route popularised by EA’s FUT mode. Sadly, due to the fact that the game is in early stages of development it means there is much less information on it. GOALS is much more of an obscure project relative to the other games mentioned in this article. There are a few concrete facts that have been shared with the public but nothing involving real gameplay footage or a trailer. What we do know about GOALS is that it’s another new football game being created by a small team of passionate developers. Another thing that has to be noted is that GOALS will not include any licensed players or clubs. Instead, the game features randomized AI-generated players which are all unique and tradable on the blockchain. The idea is that by playing the game and upgrading your players they gain greater value and can then be sold for real monetary rewards through the use of cryptocurrency. In fact, the vision for GOALS is deeply entwined with the growing cryptocurrency market and the global phenomenon of NFTs. The GOALS team seem to be adopting a ‘Play to Earn’ strategy which incentivizes gamers to spend more time playing the game in order to receive tangible digital rewards, redeemable on the blockchain. This approach is evidently very new and experimental which means there is no way to predict how it will be received in the wider gaming community. It remains to be seen whether it’s a concept to which gamers will gravitate to or outright reject. The balancing act will be in making the rewards attractive enough that they keep you playing but not too crazy that they outweigh the gameplay and mechanics. In any case, the team behind GOALS have maintained that cryptocurrency and NFTs will be an integral part of the game. That means if you're a crypto cynic or you have a certain distaste towards digital currency then this game probably isn't for you. On the other hand, if you have been craving for a football game to incorporate more modern concepts like NFTs and crypto then GOALS should be right up your alley.
In summary, GOALS is an intriguing and experimental take on the football video game genre. The game looks to push the industry in a novel and distinctly modern direction by introducing the use of cryptocurrency and NFTs. On the other hand, players will likely await the release of real gameplay footage before judging the game. If the gameplay is fun and rewarding then the idea of adding crypto and NFTs just becomes a supporting pillar of the experience but if the gameplay is disappointing then these additions will be regarded as empty gimmicks that spoil the game's potential. In the end, time will tell whether the GOALS team are capable of delivering on the hype and incorporating these progressive concepts in a way that feels authentic but also fun for the player.
After decades of coasting at the top of the industry, unrivaled and unchallenged, EA and Konami are finally facing pressure by the arrival of the new kids on the block: UFL and GOALS. Years later we may look back on 2022 and the release of UFL as the catalysts for change. The year where corporate giants were exposed for their passiveness and greed and the year where new standards were set in the football gaming genre. Whether you’re a devoted FIFA fan or a die-hard PES player the prospect of having more options and new games to choose from is unquestionably a step in the right direction. Until then, stay up to date with all things FIFA, PES and eSPORTs related by joining us here at Game Champions.