Prior to this month, I think the only soccer game I've ever played is World Cup Soccer on NES. And that was because it was a Kunio-kun game. I've never been interested in soccer. I don't know anything about soccer. I don't understand the rules outside of "kick the ball into the net." And yet, these FIFA games get such critical praise. So I went and grabbed a super cheap copy of FIFA 18 and figured, what the heck?
Here's my ultimate history of soccer as a sport... I know that in Karate Kid, Daniel shows Elizabeth Shue how to bounce a ball on her knee. I know that Pele is a guy that was good at soccer. I know that Will Ferrell starred in Kicking & Screaming. I know that my friend Mike coaches his kid's soccer team and he said that the other dads take it super seriously.
None of that helps me here. But I have played a ton of Rocket League over the past few years, so I know that soccer is kind of like Rocket League but with people instead of cars. Maybe there's hope for me.
So I started playing FIFA 18 about a week ago. It's been a really tough week as it happens. Not to get into it all but we had to put our cat down - 13 years old - and it was really unexpected. So things have been super sad around our house. So it's kind of strange that my down time has been consumed by a video game about a sport that I know and care very little about.
But here's what's made it fun for me...
You can start a career as your favorite pro striker. But I don't know any. Or you can make a character, but I have no fantasies about being a great soccer player. But y'know who does like soccer? My brother-in-law, James.
Now this is super funny to me, but not anyone else reading this because you don't know James. But yeah, I'm playing FIFA 18 as my brother-in-law, which is hilarious to me. One time a couple of years ago, me, my wife, my sister, and James went up to New York and I was telling James about the movie Red Sparrow. On the bus ride home he decided to watch Red Sparrow on his cell phone, and I looked over, and he's switching between Red Sparrow and the World Cup and my mind was blown. I remember thinking, "what is wrong with this guy? Jennifer Lawrence is on his screen and he's looking at soccer scores?"
Oh, the other thing you need to know is that James loves bagels. One time, we helped my mom move and she got bagels for us all, and I watched James eat three bagels that morning. It was nuts. But the weird thing was, he wouldn't touch the Asiago bagels. Nope. This dude only likes plain bagels. It's like... how does that work? You're into something, but only the most basic form of it? James is hilarious.
And so here begins the tale of Jimmy Bagels. He graduated from college - oh, yeah, we went to college together in real life, and I think I did a lot of things to embarrass him in college. He could tell you stories that make me come off as a real jerk, but I'm the one writing. Anyway, in FIFA 18, Jimmy Bagels graduated from college and then instead of going to law school he was drafted by the New England Revolution.
So far things are going well. I played through the pre-season as Bagels and it was the easiest difficulty since I'm so new at this. It was way too easy, so I kicked up to Amateur for the start of the season. A few games in, I think it's probably still too easy. I'm winning by blow-outs and there's no real challenge. But again, I'm still learning the ropes.
The weird thing is I did something I'd never expect myself to do - I googled the rules of soccer so I'd know why I kept getting offsides violations. So now I know how that works.
And yeah, weirdly I'm having a really good time with this game. It's solid. And it's genuinely exciting when Bagels gets a goal. I'm weirded out by the fact that I'm enjoying soccer as it's maybe the only major sport I've never cared about.
I've learned that if you kick the ball towards the net, and an opponent knocks it into the net, it doesn't count as a goal for you. Lame. Jimmy Bagels needs to put up some numbers. Those would count in Rocket League!
No matter. It seems that Blackburn Rovers have signed a one year loan contract to have young Jimmy Bagels come play across the pond. And while they're a minor, they still expect way more out of him than the Revolution ever did. There's more pressure, but it's making things more exciting.
It's strange to me. I've never cared about soccer. And yet, this game has me fairly hooked. If nothing else, I can point to FIFA 18 as the game that made me finally understand the appeal of soccer, and dare I say - even enjoy it.
The original Destiny was one of the main reasons I bought an Xbox One. There was something about that game - a certain Phantasy Star Online-ness that made me just KNOW that I'd love the game. And I was right. At a time Destiny was what I'd dubbed my "snow game." That is, the sort of game that I'd fire up if I had an unplanned day off due to a snow storm or some other unforeseen event and could dwindle away the hours guilt-free. Destiny WAS my snow game. But now Destiny 2 has come along and basically improved upon everything. It's got to now be about as perfect as a game like this could be. It's just now November as I write this, and I feel rather confident that Destiny 2 will remain my so-called GOTY.
Destiny 2 is so good in fact, that I'm not really ready for it to end. I'm about three-quarters through the story, but I've intentionally slowed down my progress. I'm in no real rush to see the credits roll. Instead, I'm happy to come back to the game between other games. Maybe that means playing some still unresolved side-missions; maybe it means hitting up public events; or maybe it just means roaming around aimlessly shooting aliens in the friggin' face. Whatever. It doesn't matter. I just love the world, the atmosphere and the guns.
Speaking of side-missions, it's a testament to how fantastic this game is that I'm playing all the side-missions. In any other similar game, I'd simply rush toward the ending, hitting up nothing but story quests. But Destiny 2 is far too compelling for me. I feel the need to clear out any little marked piece of map. Basically, I want Destiny 2 to just keep on going. Sort of like how I feel about Skyrim - there are some games that I want to know are just continually there for me, even if that means putting off "finishing" them for as long as I can.
There's just something about this world. It's totally the kind of sci-fi that I fall for. But it's also everything together: the character designs, the environments, the music... it's actually kind of hard to explain what makes a game like Destiny 2 so great. I guess I could say it's "everything," but that's pretty vague. And what I really mean is that it's a bunch of teeny tiny things. Maybe it's better to say that everything is just right. This comes down to the physics of a jump, or the ease in which you might switch to your third weapon slot - say a sniper rifle - and zoom in and make a headshot killing a witch while effortlessly swapping back to your main rifle and taking out another enemy in the foreground. This may sound so pedestrian in a 2017 shooter, but I tell you that when done as smoothly as this, it's like ballet.
When a game "just works" this well, it makes everything so gratifying. Switching weapons feels good; firing them and recoiling feels good; movement feels good. And then there's the loot. Oh dear goodness, the loot! Not since Diablo III have I been so compelled to pick up every last item I could get my grubby mits on. And really, the loot is an area where I think that Destiny 2 has far surpassed Phantasy Star Online for me.
I'd be remiss to not mention the multiplayer here. It is so easy - and perfectly possible - to treat Destiny 2 as a single-player game. Which is to say that you can totally ignore other players. You can choose to not join a clan. You can pretend your buddy list doesn't exist if you really need to. But the way it weaves in multiplayer is brilliant. Other players are just around, and they feel totally organically part of the world the same way an NPC would. I've had plenty of times where a bunch of randos meet up and take down a public event and then head their own ways. Other times I've joined clan-mates for some difficult section, and then also head our own ways while staying in the same group. In this way we remain in the same persistent world while only crossing paths sporadically. It just feels awesome.
Y'know what? Maybe that's my thesis. Maybe that's all I really need to say about Destiny 2: it just feels awesome.