The Evolution of EA’s FIFA Series: 1995 to the Present

EA’s FIFA 18 was released earlier this month to enormous fanfare. With the ultimate football poster boy Cristiano Ronaldo on the front, official licensing agreements with thousands of clubs and motion capture used to lovingly reproduce the running style, technique and even celebrations of the world’s most recognisable footballers, FIFA 18 is a game that encapsulates the extremes of modern football.

The mechanics of FIFA 18 are honed and micromanaged as closely as star player’s diets and training regimes, while the over the top splendour, posturing and hype of Electronic Art’s flagship title are a match for the ludicrous paycheques and celebrity posturing of pro footballers.

It wasn’t always this way, however. Our childhoods often seem like eras of lost innocence, but when I downloaded the FIFA 18 demo to play against a friend this weekend the voiceover announcing ‘EA Sports – It’s in the Game’ took me back over two decades to my first FIFA experience.

In 1994 I was nine years old. At that age it’s little exaggeration to say that, as with countless boys worldwide, football was my life.

If I wasn’t playing football I was watching it – the World Cup in the USA was on that summer. But what if the weather was too poor to play and there was no football on TV?

Enter FIFA Soccer 95.

FIFA Soccer 95 was the first football video game I ever played and only the second FIFA game ever. Following on from the previous year’s FIFA International Soccer, FIFA 95 was a Sega Megadrive/Genesis exclusive and used the same engine as its predecessor.

I’m certain I actually remember the first time I heard ‘EA Sports – It’s in the Game’ as the cartridge loaded up. The voice was so American and over the top – and so at odds with the rest of the game, a lovingly crafted paean to the game of football with meaty challenges, blurry but enthusiastic crowds and wildly over-celebrated goals.

It’s impossible to put a number on the amount of hours I played FIFA 95, either against the computer, or in competitive two player against friends, but an indication of its addictiveness comes from the night my parents left me in the charge of a babysitter when they went out.

The babysitter, a 30-year-old friend of the family, was meant to send me to bed at 9. When my parents arrived home at midnight we were both still playing FIFA 95. ‘Just one more game…’ the babysitter kept saying.

The FIFA series has changed so much and so little in the interim. The game is a thousand times more intricate, detailed and realistic, with endless skill moves and tactics to try out, yet the core appeal remains the same – the ecstasy of scoring and the agony of conceding, the dream of scoring the perfect last minute winner to rub your friend’s nose in it.

I suspect that EA know this. Why else keep the cheesy ‘it’s in the game’ voiceover as the entry point to the sleekest, most beautifully produced game on the market?

My friend and I unwittingly tested the theory this weekend. We were meant to go out but, instead, stayed in and played FIFA 18 all night.

Just one more game…