You have never played FIFA properly – one man’s journey into a personal football hell

Here’s Samuel Horti to explain how his discovery of FIFA’s in-game assists and his decision to prove he didn’t need them led to the longest and most painful day of his footballing life. 

Samuel Horti

It was in late 2010, while casually browsing a remote part of FIFA 11’s settings menu, that I realised I’d been lied to for all of my gaming life. Each flick of the control stick brought more heartbreaking news. Pass Assistance: Assisted. Through Pass Assistance: Assisted. Shot Assistance: Assisted. Lob Pass Assistance: Semi. The 30-yard screamers, the inch-perfect through balls and intricate one-touch passes – they had deceived me. My abilities were illusions. I was barely controlling FIFA: the game was doing almost everything for me.

I instantly knew I couldn’t continue like this. So, determined to prove a point, I switched all controls to ‘manual’ and decided that the only way to prove my worth was to beat the game’s best on the hardest difficulty. Lining up against the Classic XI with my favourite FIFA side MK Dons (don’t ask), I had no idea what I‘d started.

For those of you who don’t know your elasticos from your heel chops, manual controls match your input exactly with the on-screen action. Crosses, shots and passes go precisely in the direction you point the control stick, with exactly the amount of power set. It may not sound like a big deal, but – as I was to find out – it makes a Richard Dunne-sized difference.

My first match was a massacre. My one shot went for a throw-in, and every attempted pass fell at the feet of an onrushing opponent. Unable to retain possession, my defence was under constant pressure and I conceded goal after goal. I can’t remember the score, but I’m sure I looked over my shoulder after the game, just to make sure no one was watching. As any stubborn gamer would, I restarted the match with the same teams, eager to make amends for the embarrassing defeat.

fifa 11

After five games, I hadn’t bagged a single goal and had been consistently beaten by cricket scores. It was mere consolation when I finally hit the back of the net as I was beaten soundly for the umpteenth time, with Hugo Sánchez, Rudi Völler and Eric Cantona slicing through my defence like a knife through League One butter.

Over the next week I kept trying. I didn’t get close to winning during my first 20 attempts, but I could feel myself getting better. Long-range passes started to find their target, and I regularly achieved a respectable 40% possession.

I came agonisingly close around the 20-game mark with a painful penalty loss. Like a marathon runner passing the 25-mile mark, I knew I was nearly there. Then, after more than ten hours of virtual football, it finally happened. Towards the end of a tense affair, Aaron Wilbraham got his beautiful bonce on the end of a cross to break the deadlock. Against all odds, my MK Dons managed to heroically hang on for a historic victory. Well, historic for me, in any case – but I was far too exhausted to celebrate.

Since then, I’ve insisted on using manual controls. I don’t win as often as I used to, but there’s something satisfying in knowing that your team’s actions are dictated directly by you. Devoid of the forgiving default settings, FIFA becomes a totally different animal: one I’d urge everyone to try to tame, if just for the humbling experience.