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I am from California, and we Americans aren’t very big on soccer. The latest FIFA soccer game has done well in the U.S., but it hasn’t topped the U.S. charts week after week like it has in other countries. This is a real shame because FIFA 14 has the greatest sports game feature of the last decade: Pro Clubs mode.
In Pro Clubs mode, you create a character using whatever specifications you want. Would you like a 6-foot-6, 250-pound striker? Done. You want a 5-foot-5, 120-pound goalkeeper? Go nuts. There is nothing too crazy about that.
This is exactly the same process you would go through in an offline Career/My Player/Road to the Show mode in any sports game. However, after you create your character, you play with and against other people’s custom-made characters. Players can form their own teams and compete against others in a 10-tiered bracket. Simple, right? Wrong. It has never been done before.
Sure, NBA 2K has a similar mode to FIFA 14′s called The Park, in which players can take their My Players onto the streets and duke it out in 2-on-2, 3-on-3, or 5-on-5 pick-up games. I think The Park could really use a 1-on-1 mode, but other than that, it is a pretty decent feature. But it doesn’t come close to the Pro Clubs mode.
The games played in Pro Clubs are exactly like the games you would play in the regular game mode. There is commentary, you choose a home stadium, and you play typical 11-on-11 soccer. It is possible to play a game where both teams have full rosters. That means 22 real people are competing in a single game. This is incredibly chaotic and often doesn’t resemble a real soccer game, but it’s also super fun. The games are short, so fatigue isn’t an issue, and FIFA uses A.I. players to fill your rosters out if you don’t have a full 11.
There is even a way for one player per team to control every character that isn’t being being controlled by someone else. So, if you have three people, one player assumes his chosen position, a second does the same, and the final player controls every other position on the pitch. This can seriously limit the amount of bonehead plays made by the A.I. (of which there are many). You can also join quick drop-in matches to practice and improve your skills. Players are just randomly matched up against one another and pick their positions on a first-come, first-served basis.
Are there flaws in FIFA 14′s Pro Clubs mode? Certainly. The A.I. is horrible, the mode can get buggy and laggy accounting for so many players and online connections, and people troll the drop-in mode pretty frequently. But the potential of the mode is pretty limitless, especially since it has already been integrated into the most difficult sport to pull something like this off in: soccer. In basketball, you only have 5-on-5. Hockey has 6-on-6. Baseball has 9-on-9. Soccer has 11-on-11, so if you can tailor a mode for so many players and the sport that requires the most team cohesion, why not integrate it into every other sports game?
Here are some of my dream goals for Pro Club-like modes in other sports games:
NBA 2K series
This would be the easiest jump to make. There is already a precedent set with NBA 2K14′s Park mode, so just build off of that. Players could still play pick-up games in the park to hone their skills, and they could also create and join their own teams to compete in various leagues and miniseasons.
One player can dominate and win a basketball game on his own, so the selfish play that this type of online mode often sees will actually be a pretty positive thing in NBA 2K15. Fatigue may be an issue, but if the games are short enough, it won’t matter. Another option would be to have A.I. players that come in off the bench for a spell. The team customization options would be insane. You could design plays, switch into crazy zone defenses, play without a center or with all centers — almost anything. Plus, a 5-on-5 game will be way less chaotic and easier on the servers than an 11-on-11 game.
Electronic Arts’ NHL series
This one is an absolute no-brainer. The NHL series is developed by the same company as FIFA, so it wouldn’t even be stealing if NHL 15 featured a similar mode. Fatigue would definitely be a major hurdle. There would almost certainly need to be A.I. bench players (or heck, even real players if you want to use more than six people) that could give you a breather and sub in when you get that inevitable five-minute major penalty for fighting. Speaking of which, how sick would fighting be with all real people? Games would deteriorate into all-out riots all the time, and it would be glorious.
The customization options are a little limited because hockey is played at such a fast pace and pretty much the same way in every league and level, but they are there. You might use a team of five forwards to pack an amazing offensive punch or use five massive bruisers to send the other team home bloodied. I would love to see this type of mode in the upcoming NHL 15 release.
MLB: The Show
This is not exactly a perfect fit, but it is doable. The main problem I foresee with MLB: The Show is the length of games. They would certainly have to be shortened to five or six innings. Even then, depending on how long a player-controlled pitcher takes to work or how badly one team is whooping the other, games could be pretty long.
A.I. players would have to be used in order to fill out the nine spots on each team, and I am not quite sure how pitching would work. Maybe you could have the option to bring in A.I. relievers at some point. I recently reported here that the new MLB game will have an advanced tendency tracker that will be used to dictate your player’s abilities in minigames while you are offline, so that feature could really help in this area.
I’d love to see the developers give it a shot. I think that the Road to the Show mode offers the best sports-career simulation experience, so it’d be great to see that moved into an online setting.
I don’t see this working out. It’d be 11-on-11, but a football team really needs 24 players to be effective (11 offense, 11 defense, a kicker, and a punter). This is without mentioning return men and other specialists. I guess games could have players control one player on offense and one on defense.
Once again, I would love to see the developers take a risk and try something new. Every major sport is currently monopolized by one major game series, so what is there to lose? If you don’t buy Madden, you don’t get to play a football game.
Did I miss anything? Do you have any future game mode ideas? Let me know in the comment section.
Originally posted to Gamer Headlines.