A few days ago, I completed my long belated playthrough of Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic (expect a review soon) and today while I had a free moment at work I found myself musing over which game from my rapidly expanding Steam library I should tackle next. As I considered this, another thought popped into my head; KOTOR is the third game that I’ve completed in the space of just under two months, the other two being The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time and Grand Theft Auto V. Each of these games have required a reasonable investment of anywhere between twelve to forty hours apiece to complete, and initially I couldn’t work out where I had managed to find the time alongside a six day working week. And then in a moment of genius, the answer hit me:
I haven’t bought FIFA this year.
Let me explain; anyone who knows me personally or has read a few of my FIFA reviews will know that I am a fan of the series, and ever since I purchased an Xbox 360 for Christmas 2008 I have also gone and picked up the yearly installments, from FIFA 09 right through to FIFA 13. While I’ve bought several other games for my 360, more often than not it has been a FIFA disc which has made itself at home inside my console. FIFA is a harsh mistress to say the least; you know as you plough through Career mode after Career mode that you are exploiting the same old gameplay tricks in the 1000th game that you picked up after 5 or 6 matches, and yet you keep going. And when January comes around and a patch is released updating team rosters and overalls, it’s time to start all over again and once again lead (insert lower league team of preference) to European glory. It’s a game that sinks its claws into fans very deep, very early and proves as a result to be an enormous time-sink. For a conservative estimate, I would say that I’ve put at least 150 hours into each version since 09…although if I remember correctly, extended multiplayer sessions of FIFA 10 in my first year at university might have stretched that figure beyond 250 for 2009/10. Once you do the basic math, that’s over 750 hours of game time – or a frankly startling 31 days straight of virtual football.
Fast forward to the present and FIFA 14 is now the latest version on the market, and I’m simply not interested in it for one very good reason – FIFA in the year of a new console release always produces an inharmonious mix. The current gen version suffers from a lack of development time and ends up being even more of a carbon copy of the last game than normal, and while the next gen version will generally look prettier, the developers haven’t had the time to fully get to grips with the console meaning the game is not quite as good as it will be when it is optimized for the next season.
Perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise that I’m taking a break from the series; I wasn’t going to get FIFA 13 until I was given it as a birthday present because I was becoming quite fatigued with the series. Even then, I still put more hours than I really should have done into it (mainly because the soundtrack didn’t get quite so repetitive this year). Now that I’ve committed to not getting 14, for the first time in years I can constructively use my free time to play lots of different games; hence the three games done and dusted in a month. And to be brutally honest, with the backlog of games that I currently have, I prefer it this way. The question for me to ponder is, now that I’m free of the vicious yearly sport-simulation cycle, what single good reason is there for me to be drawn back in?