In a year that will see EA putting out FIFA 14 across two console generations, an iterative outing on current-gen consoles was always on the cards. With the PS4 and Xbox One versions set to debut the EA Sports Ignite engine, you’d expect much of EA Vancouver’s creative acumen to be dedicated to its next-gen release. The effect of that shift is clearly visible on the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of FIFA 14. As far as new features and innovations go, this year’s game sees fewer changes than any FIFA game this generation. If this was any other franchise, that would be a deal breaker, but such is the depth of its offerings and the sheer quality of the overall experience that, try as you may, you simply can’t be disappointed by FIFA 14.
Unlike its rival, PES 2014, FIFA 14 no longer relies solely on core gameplay to get you hooked. From the presentation and its implementation of licenses to its expansive online offerings and addictive FIFA Ultimate Team, coming to grips with the gameplay intricacies is only the beginning of your FIFA 14 journey. It is this confidence in the overall package that allows EA get away with gameplay that sees few major changes from last year. The most telling tweak is in ball physics. Lobbed passes now carry more pace and, like PES 2014, the ball no longer feels like its glued to the players’ feet. There’s also more of a balance between offence and defence thanks to a tweaking of the jostling system, and this translates into fewer instances of stronger players effortlessly manhandling their markers. Pacy wingers still feel overpowered though, to the point where they could be exploited online.
Even players renowned for their deft first-touch, like Iniesta and Pirlo, will often have the ball bobble off their feet.
The first-touch has also received a bit of a tweak, but the change here mostly affects the game adversely. Even players renowned for their deft first-touch, like Iniesta and Pirlo, will often have the ball bobble off their feet or rebound away to increase the risk of a turnover. Sure, you can use the trap button to get around this, but the very best players really should be able to receive passes impeccably, just as tall, strong players are always difficult to shake off the ball.
The retail game does appear to be a significant improvement over the demo, which was sluggish to the point of feeling unresponsive. Proceedings are far more crisp in the final game, and default game speed also seems to have been ramped up a bit. AI is a definite step up from FIFA 13, with players making intelligent runs and also covering well when on the defensive. I can’t say the same for the goalkeeping. Shots on goal are parried into the path of a striker way too often and I’ve encountered some real goalkeeping howlers. There are also way too many instances of goalmouth scraps that devolve into uncomfortable pinball mini-games, with defenders hopelessly unable to get the ball out from under their feet.
If you mostly play FIFA 14 offline – and I’m not sure how many people do – there sadly isn’t too much new to look forward to.
There’s really nothing that will jump out at you as being a drastic change. While some of the tweaks are unwelcome, they don’t do much to change the overall quality of gameplay, which is still largely in tact from FIFA 13. If you mostly play FIFA 14 offline – and I’m not sure how many people do – there sadly isn’t too much new to look forward to, aside from maybe some fun Skill Games. The only addition to the Career mode this time around is the Global Transfer Network, which lets you send scouts all over the world to search for players based on skill criteria set by you. It doesn’t do a whole lot to change the Career mode, but its great to hear Martin Tyler and Alan Smith give their views on your on-going transfer activities during matches. EA has once again outdone itself in the commentary department.
Online is where it’s at, of course, and here again, there’s nothing drastically different from last year. Ask a FIFA fan, though, and they won’t be complaining. With EA Sports Football Club, Pro Seasons (solo and co-op), and Be a Pro Online, FIFA offers the depth and quality of online multiplayer nothing else on consoles can match. The online code is great for most part, with instantaneous matchmaking and lagless gameplay, but I did face a few cases of dropped connections right at the beginning of Pro Seasons matches, with results going both in and against my favour for reasons I couldn’t fathom. Then there’s the single biggest USP of the series – FIFA Ultimate Team. It does see a few changes this year, and we’ll have a separate review for FUT in the coming days. We think it deserves it.
FIFA 14 sports an overhauled UI, but while it’s well designed, it’s extremely unresponsive.
FIFA 14 sports an overhauled UI, but while it’s well designed, it’s extremely unresponsive, especially in menu-heavy modes like Career, but also during in-match pause menus. During gameplay, it’s visually indistinguishable from FIFA 13, but commentary, as I said before, never ceases to impress, with timely context-based commentary and accurate play-by-play calls.
Individually, FIFA 14’s features and game modes don’t really do anything new from last year’s game, but if there was ever a game that was more than a sum of its parts, this is it. It’s an experience that stretches far beyond what you do on the pitch for 90 minutes. In Matchday, it has the pulse of real-world football. In EA Sports Football Club, it gives you another avenue to support the club you love. In Ultimate Team, it lets you mix all of that authenticity with the sort of fantasy only video games can deliver. Sure, all of this was there last year as well and won’t do much to convince those who are on the fence, but when it all comes together, it’s something special that you’ll only find in FIFA.