Ever since ‘winning’ the award for the second time in a row this year, EA have been trying hard to shake off the title of Worst Company in America, and their work shines through in FIFA 14. They’ve listened to the community, and modified their game accordingly. In fact, they’ve gone beyond just adding a couple of highly requested features from the FIFA community. They’ve taken the initiative to make FIFA 14 better to play, easier to navigate and manage, and more enjoyable to win. FIFA 14 feels different to any of the previous installments from EA, and there are a number of reasons for this. I wouldn’t go as far as describing it as a different breed of football game, but there certainly is a significant shift in how the game plays.
Play seems slower, and more deliberate. Due to the new Precision Movement system, players can no longer change direction at insane speeds. They have a weighty momentum, and you can feel it when you’re on the ball. FIFA 14 is tough at first, not being able to stop and turn on a dime, but you’ll soon get used to the weight of the players. This makes the play feel more realistic, as only players with high ball control and agility will be able to dance in between defenders, similar to real life football.
This means that you become more reliant on passing and midfield play. Fortunately, the passing in FIFA 14 is the best I’ve seen from EA. Short passes are more sensibly placed, and through balls cut through defences with ease. Teammate Intelligence, another of the headlining features of FIFA 14, makes passing even more useful. Runs from strikers and wingers are better than ever, bending and changing direction to trick defenders rather than just steaming in a straight line towards goal.
Strength is also now more important due to the new player momentum system as well, especially in midfield. EA have advertised this as Protect The Ball, which boils down to a better mechanic to shield the ball. If you run alongside a stronger opponent, be prepared to lose the ball unless you can shield correctly. Strength certainly isn’t the be all and end all though. It’s more important now, but don’t go building teams based purely on it.
You will need to adapt to survive in FIFA 14
You will need to adapt to survive in FIFA 14 though. Regardless of what your play style is, you can’t play it like it’s FIFA 13 and expect the same results you used to get. Fortunately, Skill Games are back from FIFA 13, and this time they are 4 or 5 new ones. Most of the old Skill Games have been modified slightly, but some remain almost identical to their FIFA 13 counterpart. All of them have something to offer you, and are a very good way to learn how FIFA 14 plays. Not to mention some of them are incredibly fun and addictive. You can spend hours trying to beat your own high score, let alone competing in the new Friends Leaderboard that it displays every time you complete a Skill Game.
You can’t talk about a FIFA 14 without discussing the various game modes included. Put simply; they’ve all been improved from what I’ve seen. Co-op Seasons is this year’s new addition, which lets you play Head-to-Head Seasons with a friend, online against 2 opponents. I was slightly disappointed to see that you couldn’t play it with another controller on the same system, but that’s a very minor gripe.
The new scouting system is Career mode’s most noticeable change. Global Transfer Network now lets you scout players across the world with a large quantity of criteria to choose from. Youth scouting still exists, but it pales in comparison to GTN. You no longer see the Overall stat of players that you don’t own in FIFA 14, so you have to find and buy players that you really want by a few key traits. Small changes like the inbox being cleaned up and non-vital messages not stopping the calendar from advancing make Career mode easier to play and enjoy.
Ultimate Team has received a large overhaul this year, with lots of changes, tweaks and improvements. Player cards are differently shaped, Chemistry links are worth different amounts and Managers have a league, but those are some of the least important changes. The consumables pile is unlimited, and multiple copies of the same consumable with stack next to each other so you don’t have to trawl through 30 gold contracts to find a silver one. In addition, the Transfer Market as it’s now known is vastly improved as well. You can search for players by name, there’s a button to quickly compare the price of a player with the other versions of him on the market and there’s even a button to re-list everything in your Transfer List at the same price and duration. The whole mode feels so much easier to navigate, which alone makes it more enjoyable than ever. Add in the fact that players no longer have formations, and new Chemistry Styles can be used to apply constant stat increases to your players and you have an Ultimate Team mode that’s better than ever.
It also wouldn’t be FIFA with the large list of licensed teams, leagues and stadiums. There are now 33 leagues, consisting of over 600 teams, not to mention more than 16,000 unique players. New additions this year include the Argentinian and Colombian leagues, while EA has also increased the number of real-life stadiums to 32.
Visuals and Sound
Visually, FIFA is better now than ever
Visually, FIFA is better now than ever. The menu system is refined into large thumbnails that give it a clean, fresh look. It’s quick and easy to browse through the game modes and options available, and even the font adds to the cleaner look. The visual improvements don’t stop here though. It isn’t graphically superior to previous FIFAs by much, but the improvements are subtler. Player faces look more realistic than ever, in most cases at least, and animations look far more realistic. This is partly because of Pure Shot, another one of FIFA 14’s new features.
Pure Shot makes players adjust their body realistically when they’re about to take a shot, and it works well. Strikers will curve their body naturally before they try to stroke the ball into the far corner, or take an extra short step to prepare themselves for a volley. This helps the game to feel more realistic than it’s predecessors, as there are no more awkward sliding animations if a player wasn’t adjusted properly when you pressed the shoot button. This system also makes for more impressive goals; dipping and swerving shots look and feel great when they hit the back of the net, or force a great save from the keeper.
The improvements to FIFA 14’s sounds were only small, but noticeable at times. Commentary had new things to say about each team, and new remarks for a good goal or a bad tackle, but it wasn’t long before old sayings started to creep in. In all fairness, this is to be expected, as no-one buys FIFA for the stellar commentary, and it’s been a long time since they’ve advertised how many unique commentary lines there are. Aside from this, the in-game sounds like striking the ball and the crowd’s cheers don’t appear too different to other games in EA Sports’ long running series.
Ultimately, FIFA 14 is a refined culmination of the past 7 or 8 generations of football game on current generation consoles. It’s been tweaked and polished into the best FIFA yet. I look forward to seeing how it plays on next generation consoles, as it was thoroughly enjoyable on what is considerably aged machinery now. I won’t pretend that FIFA 14 will be considered universally as the best football game ever though. Some won’t like that the game is less reliant on pace, some will, and the same goes for the new shooting mechanics. I loved both, as they made games feel and look more realistic when coupled with the visual improvements. After all, if I had to sum FIFA 14 up in one word, it would be; realistic.
- Available On: X360, PS3, PC, PS4, X1
- Published By: EA
- Developed By: EA
- Genre: Sports
- US Release Date: September 24th, 2013
- Reviewed On: Xbox 360
- Quote: "Ultimately, FIFA 14 is a refined culmination of the past 7 or 8 generations of football game on current generation consoles. It’s been tweaked and polished into the best FIFA yet."