FIFA 14: It’s Slower But Is It Better?
After years watch players holding the sprint button down until their fingers turn numb and smash iobbed through balls at their strikers knowing chances are they’ll work out, EA has done the unthinkable. EA has changed things up.
EA has decided to slow the FIFA series down.
FIFA 14 will be slower. Well, not the game itself. Rather, the pace will be slower. Look, we’ll let producer Sebastian Enrique explain this one.
“People were saying FIFA is too fast,” explains Enrique. “The reality is that the game speed hasn’t changed in the past four or five years. It’s the same game speed but what has changed is the gameplay changes that affects what we call the mechanics, which is what you can do with the game – so what you can do when passing, what you can do when shooting, how you move. Those are the mechanics. When you combine all those things, it gives you the dynamics, which is how people behave when they play the game.
“So that fast speed is not that the game was faster, it’s that the dynamics of the game kind of lent themselves to a fast pace game. So the pace of the game, how people were playing – sprinting all the time with low traffic of the ball in midfield – that’s why the game felt faster. That’s how we translate that feedback into okay, it’s not that the game is fast, it’s that the dynamics are too fast. After that we think okay, why are they too fast? Because of x, y and z. Okay, what are the things we can do in order to provide for a more realistic game? The battle for possession, that build-up play is more rewarding?
“That’s what led to the Locomotion system, the tighter marking, the viable dribble touches, the sprint turns, all those things help to change the dynamics of the game… not to make the game slow but so the dynamics of the game mean you can’t sprint all the time, so now you have to think about how to play the game.”
FIFA 14 – A Slower Game
When you cut through the marketing hyperbole, the main change in FIFA 14 is the Locomotion system, which simply put means it takes longer to change directions.
This solves the problem of FIFA players holding the sprint button across the virtual 90 minutes, which had the inevitable side effect of making the fastest players and teams better than everyone else. Now if you’re sprinting and you want to suddenly change direction, it takes much longer, leaving the ball unprotected.
You can still sprint down the wings and play with pace but it involves much more care now, and you can’t zig-zag through defenders while holding sprint. If you want to cut defenders up with sharp angles, you have to slow down to do so.
That, alone, makes FIFA 14 a slower, more considered affair.
Perhaps more realistic too. There’s more satisfaction in picking apart a tight defence with a series of passes than there is in outrunning other players on the pitch (which is still possible the right scenarios – it’s just not a go-to tactic anymore).
FIFA 14 – True Shooting
Shooting has also been fixed, to shift closer to real football. Shooting from range in FIFA when the chance presented itself was a mostly unengaging affair – the ball would usually travel at the same speed with the same trajectory. The only real factors that influenced the shot from range would be if you were shooting in an unfavourable situation (on the player’s weaker foot, with your back to goal, etc) that would see the ball dribble towards the cornerflag rather than into the bottom corner of the goal.
FIFA 14’s shooting system takes into account several factors before you shoot – the path of the ball, the path of the player, the height of the ball, the ability of the player – so you can crack fizzing half-volleys from distance at goal if the ball sits right. The animation has also been tweaked so players naturally twist and turn their body to shoot, rather than having the game load up a canned shooting animation depending on the context.
If you remember playing football at school, you’ll know that there are times when you’ll shoot the ball not because it’s the right thing to do but because the ball has sat up in the perfect position, and it would almost be a crime not to wallop it as hard as you can. FIFA 14 evokes that same feeling, where if the ball is in the right position and you’re in the right position, you will shoot.
FIFA 14 – Protect The Ball
Another feature is that Protect The Ball, which is activated by holding Left Trigger. Nothing particularly innovative or unusual in that, except it’s been designed to pronounce the advantage bigger, burlier players have, where they muscle smaller players off the ball.
Sounds good in theory but in practice, it didn’t quite work out. Protecting the ball by shielding it was fairly ineffective and only invited defenders to nip it off your toes and spring into a counterattack. It did more harm than good. The feature only really came into its own when running down the wings, and you could use the button to shoulder defenders away.
The problem is because you’re likely to be playing fairly slowly anyway, owing to the Locomotion animation that discourages endless sprinting, and it’s in those situations that the engine struggles to distinguish between when you want to shield the ball and when want you nudge a player off the ball.
There’s time to fix this though and if it works as we expect it will, nudging players away should become a vital part of a FIFA 14 player’s arsenal.
FIFA 14 – Same Old?
The Locomotion system changes FIFA 14, mostly by slowing the pace of the game down. It makes FIFA 14 feel more involving than FIFA 13 did and there’s now a sense of satisfaction in unlocking an opponent’s defence, which simply wasn’t present previously in the series when you relied on speed to outrun defenders. Together with the new shooting system, FIFA 14 does have moments of exhilaration that was missing from FIFA 13.
Old problems are still present. There are still the awkward moments when the physics engine and collision detection conspire to make the game look bad – we had one moment when the keeper went to throw the ball out and he tripped over a striker who had fallen over seconds before.
We also want to see if lower league teams actually look and feel like lower league teams – it was strange having the Port Vale keeper throw himself around the goal like Manuel Neuer, for example.
But at this stage, FIFA 14 has done enough that weary ‘it’s the same old schtick’ cynicism feels unfair, as even the alpha build we played provided air-punching and swearing with joy moments than FIFA 13 failed to reach.
There’s still some work to be done but so far, so good.