FIFA 14 Review
With next-generation consoles right around the corner, it becomes increasingly more difficult for a sports game–or any game for that matter–to recommend the current-gen iteration. Thankfully, EA has made some notable improvements to FIFA 14 over last year’s slight disappointment.
Where FIFA 13 gave the impression of a series in arrested development, hanging out for the jump to next-gen, 14 proves the franchise isn’t standing idly by, refining gameplay, friendly and opposition AI, and more.
DEVELOPER: EA Canada
PUBLISHER: Electronic Arts
RELEASE DATE: 26/09/2013
The gameplay in FIFA 14 is more realistic than any other FIFA game has ever been. From the moment you score your first goal, FIFA players will realize a change in the way player physics work. Now, when shooting, the game will consider your players speed and direction to judge what type of shot is possible, and which animation to use. For example, players will lose a lot of power from a shot, if they stumble before taking it. Forcing a powerful shot from this position, however, will most likely result in the player throwing their body into the attempt at goal, making it harder to gather any potential rebounds. While the change may be subtle, it speaks volumes for fans of the long-time franchise.
The game also introduces a “Protect the Ball” button, which obviously builds on the series’ shielding feature. Where shielding occurred after multiple button presses, and could only work from a standing start, Protect the Ball is one button away and allows for dynamic protection of the ball, including while players are sprinting. This makes it much easier to field at a pass while sprinting. It also means that you have more control over the ball at stride, eliminating the ‘ping-pong’ feel of constantly turning the ball over.
Friendly and opposition AI has also been revamped. When attacking, player spacing has dramatically enhanced, allowing room for more varied and creative attacks. Defenders have also received a boost: keeping their positions, picking better angles for interceptions.
While the gameplay has undoubtedly improved, and animations are much more fluid, player likeness hasn’t changed too much. Having said that, FIFA 14 definitely delivers a more realistic soccer experience, that looks more natural and convincing.
At the same time, certain downfalls have made a return from its predecessor, such as the sporadic player auto-switching, which I noticed from the very first game. Another downfall is the vast gap in difficulty between Semi-Pro and Professional, and while this doesn’t pose a problem to me, it may pose a problem for newcomers who want an increase in difficulty, only to get completely sauced every game.
All the usual game modes have made a return in FIFA 14, from Career, to Be a Pro, to FIFA Ultimate Team. However, FIFA Ultimate Team now adds a new chemistry mechanic that increases how well a team gels based on individual player associations. These associations are no longer judged on play-style but are now based upon whether two players are from the same country, league or club. In short, players will have better luck just picking the most-skilled soccer players.
The real highlight of FIFA 14, or any FIFA for that matter, is still playing with two or more people on the couch. It’s an incredibly fun experience that’s amplified by near misses, premature goal celebrations, high-pitched squeals and smack-talking. If you haven’t yet tried it, FIFA 14 only makes the experience smoother and much more challenging, especially when playing with people who are familiar with FIFA games.
All in all, it’s difficult for me to recommend FIFA 14 on current-gen systems, with next-gen consoles less than two months away. It’s a hard decision to make: do I get it now or hold off and see what improvements next-gen brings? Those who decide pick up FIFA 14 now won’t walk away disappointed, but it may be worth saving your $60 to see what next-gen brings.
Having said that, FIFA 14 is a considerable step up from last year’s iteration, with gameplay being much more refined and natural. When coupled with the new shooting physics and improved AI, the game has never been closer to mimicking a real-life soccer match. When you throw in same-screen multiplayer and a couple of close friends or relatives, the experience that FIFA 14 delivers, takes on a life of its own. However, as a singleplayer, the subtle improvements fail to eclipse the series’ monotony that floods the game.
Nizulo was provided a review copy of this game.