GAME NAME: FIFA 14
DEVELOPER(S): EA Sports
PUBLISHER(S): Electronic Arts
PLATFORM(S): PS4, Xbox One
RELEASE DATE(S): December 13th, 2013
There are certain things that are guaranteed in life: the sun will rise and set, water will always be wet and FIFA will continue to release yearly. It’s these guarantees that make life worthwhile for many of us. Some people don’t ‘get’ the annual release of sports games, but for those who do, well let’s just say it makes our year.
One thing that has not been a guarantee in the past, however, is the version of FIFA that releases with a new console, either at launch or shortly after. In fact, the first editions of FIFA on most consoles have been outright failures. Hell, on the PS3 and Xbox 360 it took about 3 years before we got anything close to a decent FIFA game. So a bit of worry for the next-gen version can be understood. Thankfully, those fears can be allayed. Here is why.
If you have played any of the recent FIFA games, you will have a fair idea of what to expect, but there are so many changes and improvements that make it quite a different game, even compared to the 2014 edition on previous generation consoles. In terms of the set up and menu system, it is identical to the current gen versions in almost every way.
The modes are mostly the same, so I am not going into great detail with them, but I will mention them briefly. The amazing FIFA Ultimate Team returns in all its greatness and, again, stands out as the best mode in the entire game. If you haven’t tried it still, you are really missing out. Career mode, Be a Pro mode and Exhibition matches all return. And then, of course, there is the Seasons mode with the newly added co-op seasons option, ranked online matches and also FIFA Club mode.
Oddly, EA have decided to leave out a few of the modes for some reason. It is odd because it doesn’t seem like something that should have been difficult to include. Custom tournaments and leagues are no longer there, so if you have ambitions to play a ‘mock’ World Cup in anticipation of the tournament this year, well you are out of luck unfortunately. The missing modes are probably the least played, but the option would have been welcome.
While there are very few changes from the menu, modes and setup, the big changes really all take place on the pitch. Those improvements I mentioned earlier take various shapes throughout the matches and all of them add up to an experience that simply should not be missed.
First off, EA has introduced its new Ignite Engine, which also includes ‘living worlds’. This refers to the experience around the pitch. It means glorious 3D fans in the stadium (finally). Fans that will cheer and jeer depending on the action on the pitch. It’s the first time that I have ever really felt an effect from the crowd, like they were actually reacting to what happens in the game. So at home, if you’re losing, fans will try encourage you to get that last minute equaliser, or winner. It feels amazing and I have had goosebumps a number of times. Something I didn’t think possible from a sports game, but it does exactly that. It makes you feel a part of the spectacle, as though it were real life.
Living Worlds has also been extended to the actual game. Over the years, we have become used to a little pause and load every time the ball goes out for a throw in, or for a free kick. Improvements have been gradual in this department with occasional quick throws and free kicks entering the game, but the next-gen version really takes it up a notch. Throw-ins are realistic and instant with ball boys throwing a ball to the player to get on with it. If there is no ball boy, then players will go and fetch the ball. Another ball on the pitch? Watch as a player on the field kicks it off so the game can continue. It’s the little touches like this which have made the entire experience feel so much more wholesome.
Production on the game just feels at its highest level ever. The pre-match introduction now shows parts outside the stadiums. It just all feels so vibrant and real. Highlights are also improved and will be shown at times during the match when something needs to be emphasized, such as a good chance at a goal. You can even expect an improvement of the highlights when you score; great use of camera angle and speed effects make it feel incredibly realistic.
The only thing that detracts from the realism is still the commentary, sadly. While there are some great additions, particularly online where a commentator will say things that are relevant to real life events, like Merry Christmas or Happy New year, it still becomes terribly repetitive. Even worse is how disjointed the commentary feels at times. I have heard the one track so many times when I score a header and the commentator says what a good strike it was with my player’s weaker foot. Or sometimes I have heard that I scored an incredible goal from distance, when really I have just tapped in from the 6 yard box. It’s baffling how the commentary can be so weak when everything else is so strong. Hopefully this will be fixed in the years to come.
The last few improvements all have to do with the actual gameplay. The AI feels more solid than ever, in terms of both your opponent as well as your own team AI. Gone are the days where it was just end to end football with no concept of tactic or strategy. Now you will be forced to move the ball around, intricate passing is vital and accuracy is of the utmost important. You can’t just ping the ball around effortlessly anymore, but rather you need to be more forceful in what you do, putting in more effort, resulting in far more rewarding consequences.
The AI is by no means perfect though. Many a time my players fail to react as naturally as they should, especially when running onto the ball. There is this jolting slow down when the player takes the ball which feels like a cheap trick by the AI to prevent run away goals. It’s not too frequent and there are ways around it, but it just doesn’t feel natural. Another issue is still with your own AI defence which at times go AWOL when you need them most. Tinkering with tactics really doesn’t help. Thankfully though, it happens far less than before.
With all of the above, the potential of the Ignite Engine is there for all to see. FIFA 14 on PS4 (and Xbox One) is by far the most complete FIFA game of all time. It has made changes which were vital to the experience. The graphics have also improved tenfold with more realistic faces than ever before. The likenesses are uncanny at times, though, of course, there are still some generic looking players. But the movements and animations are all fluid and simply brilliant.
I have played a lot of sport games and a lot of football games. I have played FIFA since the first one back on the Megadrive in 1994, and I have played and loved PES since PES 3 on the Playstation 2. I have even played Liberogrande, This is Football, Goal!, Striker 99 and a whole host of other football games. I can quite honestly and confidently say that FIFA 14 on the next-gen consoles is the best football game I have ever played. That doesn’t mean that it can’t improve. There are many things that still need fixing and changing to increase the realism, but compared to anything before it, this is the greatest so far.
If you are a football fan, you shouldn’t think twice about getting FIFA 14 on next-gen, even if you already have it on the older consoles. It’s a very different game and is well worth picking up.