There’s always that white elephant in the room whenever football simulation games are concerned. This holds true especially when the majority of players only really have two choices among the competition. For the EA Sports’ FIFA franchise, each year’s subsequent release will always pose two questions, namely ‘What else can we add on or improve in this new iteration when previous versions have already covered everything?’ and ‘What can we do to leave Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer in the dust?’
With FIFA 14, EA Sports has pretty much retained everything from the previous year’s release, with some minor modifications here and there. Of course, the effects are much more prevalent in next gen console versions of the game, such as those for the Xbox One and the Playstation 4, where the new Ignite Engine promises better and smoother graphics as well as a smarter AI. For other consoles, however, it’s pretty much the same old version with a couple of tweaks that would either change the game for better or worse, depending on who you’re asking.
Much of the changes between FIFA 14 and its predecessor with have to do with ball control. Shooting, dribbling, passing, and intercepting the ball is now more challenging, with ball physics and player movements coming into play more than ever before. This will require more precision when it comes to user input, which although adds more realism to the game, also clogs down on previously fast paced action. Of course, there’s always the unpredictability of your shots or passes going way off course.
With that, players can perfect their skills in practice sessions, which can now be accessed through the totally revamped and Metro-styled menus. Players can also customize players, teams, and tournaments that they can use online with players from all over the world. Another addition to the game is the modifications within Ultimate Team mode, where players can acquire the services of football legends in certain versions of the game, as well as a new Chemistry Styles feature where players can group teammates together and bolster each other’s abilities. This, along with the skill trees feature designed to further boost players’ attributes, makes FIFA 14 feel like more like an RPG than a sports game.
Co-op modes and multiplayer still perform as they did in previous versions, although Career Mode now introduces a new global scouting feature, where players can send off scouts in search of players that will make great additions to the team. This provides players with better opportunities to add more of whatever is lacking in your roster, and makes team management a much more realistic and enjoyable experience.
The game features several teams both old and new, including all twenty Brazilian clubs from the 2013 Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A, as well as the Brazilian national team and the Wales national team, which will be making their return in the series. In addition, new club Eksraklasa will also be making its first appearance in the franchise. There are also about sixty stadiums available, some of which were modeled over real venues, adding further realism in the game.
All in all, one of the biggest changes about FIFA 14 is that it adds a whole new layer of realism in the football experience, both on the field and at the sidelines. Everything is left to the players, and whether that would help or hurt the title against PES remains to be seen. It does, however, greatly enhance the experience, since every action can adversely affect both individual and team performance. Every piece of the action must be scrutinized, and players will have to fully rely on their skills as well as on the greatly improved AI to score goals, since they would not be getting help from automated controls, which are becoming less and less with each iteration of the game. While this feature would eventually bog down the performance of less skilled players, true fans of games such as these will revel in being able to gain full control of every shot and every bounce of the ball.
The jury is still out as to whether or not FIFA 14 has the advantage against its bitterest rival in Pro Evolution Soccer. Still, the gamers win out in the end as the stiff competition will only result in bigger and better games from these two developers. However, it would seem as if the plateau has already been reached when it comes to the current generation of consoles, and players would have to wait at least a couple of years until next gen devices such as the Xbox One and Playstation 4 are used to their full potential. What can be discerned is that FIFA 14 does not greatly improve on the previous year’s game, nor did it do anything to hurt the franchise. With its rather safe changes in the game, it should be expected that major changes would be seen when hardware capabilities allow it, which is still a couple of years into the future. This latest game in the storied franchise will, however, hopefully satisfy fans of football video games until that time comes when epic changes in otherwise tapped out genres can begin anew.
Tested on Xbox 360. Final Score: 8/10
FIFA 14 was developed by EA Canada and was published by Electronic Arts. It is available for the Nintendo 3DS and Wii, Playstation 2 through 4 as well as for the Playstation Portable and Vita, Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. Android and iOS mobile versions are also available and are free to play. The Playstation 4 and Xbox version are scheduled for a November 2013 release while versions for other consoles were released this September 2013.