Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports
Review Platform: Xbox 360
Review Copy Provided By: EA Sports
Release Date: September 24, 3013
Last year, my brother and I played a game of FIFA 13 together. It was the first time I had played since a few games here and there in college. I’d never been much of a soccer fan, despite having played during my middle school years. But there was something very very compelling about the nature of that game. The way the ball moved, the way the players became fatigued, it all eluded to a deeper strategy. A newbie like me couldn’t possibly have understood all of the nuance of the game. I had fun though, and my brother and I began playing several games a day during my visit. When I returned, I promptly picked up my own copy and played a lot. I got better, practiced at control and shooting, got whomped online, and fleshed out an Ultimate Team. The times were good, and I’m pleased to say that FIFA 14 takes what the previous game did and improves upon it.
The first thing I noticed in 14 was that the good players are good. Really good. Better than the lesser players. This might seem a bit odd for those not versed in the game, but past iterations have not had a strong parity between players of skill and those lacking. Sure you’d notice the difference in speed between a player rated 90 and one rated 60, but the ball handling and shooting was done more on the user-end. In the newest version, players with skill have a legitimate advantage. Players like the cover’s Messi are able to handle the ball with insane precision and dance circles around lesser players. It adds so much importance to managing those on the bench versus those on the field, and changes the dynamic of an attack on the opposing goal.
Speaking of precision, the ball reacts more dynamically to the placement of the foot, the power, and the spin. This creates a very impressive new dynamic in terms of both the field game and the shooting game. Passing to players has to be controlled. You can no longer just mash your way around the field by laying on the pass button. Not to mention that it has a strong impact on ball control and it means that you won’t be taking on the goal box with a 55 rated player. He’ll lose the ball in a heartbeat. The shooting is equally affected, now causing the user to have to rely on timing and placement for creating a really good shot. Already the benefits of this new level of control are evident online. People around the world are already mastering this new dynamic, and placing the ball in the corner of the goal with absolutely stunning accuracy.
All of these new changes to the game mechanics are accompanied by a beautiful overhaul of the user interface. It mimics the current design of the most recent Xbox dashboard, with squares and rectangles populated with imagery and information. It’s clean, crisp, and easier to navigate. This is especially welcome for the game’s menu-heavy Ultimate Team mode. It benefits the other modes as well, allowing for quick transitions between sections and modes, and looking snazzy all the while.
FIFA 14 also adds co-op seasons, so you can start to gun for the World Cup with a buddy. While you’re building your team, scouting for new players has been refined. And when you’re on the field, the new gameplay additions will feel welcome, allowing you to get closer to the game. And if you find your skill falling short, the collection of tough-yet-tutoring minigames will improve your understanding of the game. It’s the best looking, most complete edition of FIFA there’s ever been. And while I haven’t experienced the whole series, I’ve asked those who have. The verdict seems unanimous.
There’s still something left to be desired with FIFA 14, but the game makes a strong argument as to why it is so beloved around the world. This is EA Canada’s love letter to soccer, and it is as beautiful as it is fun. Meticulously designed from the most basic of basics to the complex modes and the robust seasons and online play. You can have fun with this game at any skill level, and there are tools to help you jump in if you’re new. If you’re a fan of soccer, you’d be doing yourself a favor with FIFA 14.
THE NEXT-GEN DIFFERENCE: A LOOK AT FIFA 14 ON THE XBOX ONE
I have now spent an extensive amount of time with FIFA 14 on both the “last-gen” and “next-gen” consoles. Here’s how it plays out:
Player animations are much more varied in the next-gen version. When I was playing on the Xbox One, the experience felt more organic. What was most stunning about this seemingly subtle transition is just how subtle it was. The game now has such natural looking players, that it is a testament to the power of the next generation that I noticed at all. You see, when the behavior of the player matches my innate expectation for how a soccer player would act and appear in a given scenario, the really is a next-gen experience. I’ll elaborate.
Seeing players fumble about on the pitch is what reminds you that FIFA is simply a game you’re playing. With the XBOX 360 version, I noticed this a lot. It’s something that gamers become accustomed to. But watching the players move in the Xbox One version, I didn’t get yanked out of the game. Instead, I found my heart fluttering with the announcers that get overly excited for every event in the game. FIFA 14, in one small change, has drawn me in like no sports game ever has. This just gets compounded by the significantly better looking visuals.
Another stunningly small but beautifully effective change in next-gen: the crowd. Crowd animations are better than I have ever seen them, and the stadium’s cheering is now more dynamic as to what happened, to which team, and where the fans are. Playing in surround sound, you can hear different ends of the stadium celebrating different things. It’s another change that adds to the naturalism of playing, and lets you really embrace the game and the sport in a way that video games have never allowed before.
Concerning the gameplay, everything is largely the same. The controls are identical, the modes are identical, and your progress can also jump from the old consoles to the new. This means that any feared hiccups or fresh starts are completely unnecessary. The transition is painless, and you can even carry over ultimate teams. It’s the sort of small addition that really goes a long way with gamers that care about their long-term FIFA modes.
NEXT-GEN SCORE: 5/5
For everything else, the above review will suit just fine. the game is excellent, and even more so on the next-generation of consoles. The controls are tight, the world-famous gameplay is intact, and everything that made the last-gen version great is still here. EA has completely transitioned the series well, and it is a treat to have such a full-bodied game on release of a new system. If you have the option of one or the other, Next-gen is clearly the way to go. If you don’t have access to the next-gen hardware, FIFA 14 is still a must-own for sports fans.