FIFA 14 review
EA love to give us buzzwords to describe the key elements of the latest instalment of FIFA, and the word surrounding FIFA 14 is ‘precision’, it’s even in the name of the new physics system that EA has been working on for two years and unveils for the first time. ‘Precision Movement’ is designed to make everything on the pitch look, feel and move more naturally; with players runs and turning ability no longer just dictated by their stats, but also by balance and weight distribution. So while giving the ball to Bale or Ronaldo and running is still a viable tactic in one sense, some extra care and attention is needed in order to mesmerise the defenders around you. A quick flick of the stick won’t just see you effortlessly change direction, instead you’ll feel a noticeable shift in the player’s weight and balance as he digs his heels in to slow down. Get this wrong and the opposition will step in and take the ball, but get it right and you’ll slip past. The game feels heavier, and while that sounds unattractive, in fact it’s slicker and pleasing to engage with.
The pace of the game is also a big change; noticeably slower from the start. Gone are the frenetic, end-to-end games of FIFA 13, replaced with patient, thoughtful passing moves that are explosively shifted up a gear when Xavi plays that killer pass. It’s much closer to the real thing in terms of pacing, and you can’t help but admire and enjoy it. The midfield is now as it should be – a key area of the pitch, not the autobahn of relentless runners in both directions it has been in the past.
‘Pace’ as an overall theme has been massively improved too. No longer will you have to endure those frustrating instances when a lumbering centre back is able to keep up with your flying winger – skip past him or play a clever ball in behind him and he’s out of the game, caught on his heels. The ball hasn’t escaped the treatment either, with obvious movement through the air depending on how you hit the shot. The ball will dip and swerve depending on how it’s struck – just as the real modern footballs do, so it’s now more important than ever to close down the likes of Lampard and co.
Precision hasn’t just been applied to movement however, with player touches also tweaked. Fans of the left trigger sprint button will find themselves becoming angrier sooner as it’s no longer the simple case of trapping the ball perfectly while running at full tilt. Lionel Messi can’t do it every time, and neither can you, with loose touches inevitable in your early games. The same is true of the passing system, with you having a greater say in the exact direction and angle of your pass. And with improved defending, getting the weight and angle right is the difference between scoring or having to deal with a counter-attack.
Defenders certainly know how to stand up for themselves this year too, and while attackers have the pace and tricks to cause problems, never has the size and strength of players felt more obvious. A new attacking control allows users to hold the left trigger to shield the ball from the opposition when being closed down, but look out for powerful jockeying and plenty of moves breaking down because you were pushed off the ball. So while playing as Barcelona has its advantages, getting into physical battles with the opposition is ill-advised. The game engine seems to have a better understanding of the contact nature of the sport now, with shoulder-to-shoulder battles featuring more frequently, but with less referee interference.
Stepping back and looking at things around the pitch, EA have made an extra effort to make the entire ‘matchday experience’ a more attainable feeling while playing FIFA. The crowd are better animated, with extra banners, flags and displays. Look out for Champions League-esque advertising of the Champions Cup in Career Mode, with the tournament getting its own branding.
On the subject of Career Mode, this is an area that has been beefed up too, with an intense new scouting system that builds on the existing youth scouting system, but expands it to your entire transfer operation. In same ways it’s overcomplicated, with the transfer value and wage demands of even the most high profile players unknown until you’ve watched them. You now get more emails and player interaction than ever, and the whole thing feels a lot closer to a football management sim than ever before. Football diehards will rejoice, more casual players will lament the extra admin work.
In short, FIFA 14 is indeed another step forward in the series; the Precision Movement system eradicating kinks that have held the franchise back for years. This might just be the best we’ve seen in some time.