Review: EA Sports FIFA 14
Video gaming soccer fans look to the annual release of a new EA Sports FIFA installment with the same fervor that they anticipate the kickoff of their favorite league. We’re among this bunch here at Football Fashion and have been indulging ourselves in FIFA 14 (available at World Soccer Shop) on a Playstation 3 console since its release last month. This is what we thought of the 2014 version of the iconic game.
The graphics of FIFA 14 are not overhauled from FIFA 13. As the PS3 era comes to an end, they are about as good as you can get for a soccer game given the console’s seven year old technology. FIFA 14 looks familiar on the pitch. Some of the match play basic camera angles and renderings may have been tweaked but it is not a major reworking of the look and feel of FIFA 13.
As is their wont for new versions of FIFA, EA Sports has improved some of the non-gameplay animation in FIFA 14. Our favorite of these are arguably the best substitution animations in the history of the game. The view is now from the sideline and shows multiple players coming on an off their field. Their moods and senses of urgency are in tune with how well their team is doing.
Match highlights are present as always but load within seconds of halftime and the end of the game. They include the usual fare of close misses, spectacular saves and goals from a multitude of views including a few that we have not seen before.
Player likenesses are once again spot on in FIFA 14 with 3D scans of players from EA Sports partner clubs such as FC Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur used to create players from those clubs. The stars of the world’s game are all clearly identifiable in FIFA 14. However, lesser known players are molded from what appears to be a stable of generic models.
Get past the minute or so of startup time for FIFA 14 (mainly because of online updates) and you’ll be treated to a new, highly intuitive tiled game navigation menu. Brilliant from a Graphical User Interface perspective, the new menu is not only the most visually appealing menu in FIFA’s twenty one years but lets you quickly find what you are looking for with little effort. Given FIFA 14’s availability on mobile platforms, it’s not a surprise that EA Sports have upgraded the game’s menu to one that is touchscreen friendly.
From an in-game perspective, the mosaic style menu allows you to change team formations by selecting Team Management and moving the right joystick. This takes an entire step out of changing formations and is definitely welcome.
Expecting subtle changes similar to those introduced over the last five versions of FIFA, we prepared for the new game by finishing up an English Premier League season in FIFA 13. What we found upon kickoff in FIFA 14 were a series of changes that were more pronounced than the last few years and made for an immersive, entirely new football simulation experience.
Ball Physics – EA Sports has reworked ball physics of FIFA 14. The result is that the ball moves more realistically than ever before in FIFA 14. Low passes, crosses, shots and clearances are all improved over the highly-rated FIFA 13 to make them more lifelike in feel. This makes every single game in FIFA 14 totally different. The new physics system is especially noticeable in adverse weather conditions such as the rain and snow where the effect of damp pitches can be felt in every touch of the ball.
Defense – The defensive intelligence of the FIFA series has improved steadily during the PS3 and Xbox 360 era. However in FIFA 14 it has taken a massive step forward. Defenders will now shoulder and use their arms to block attackers more than ever before. They will also close down space, man mark star forwards closely, and crowd the box when under siege better than ever. We’ve also seen our fair of raised arms in pleas of innocence and bicycle kick clearances. While some might find this frustrating, we think that it is brilliant and a true representation of professional soccer level defending.
Attacking – Attacking in FIFA 14 also benefits from improved intelligence and its improved ball physics. Using skill moves while dribbling is now a bit easier while dribbling is extremely fluid overall. Shots (especially from outside the box) react in a manner that truly reflects player stance, pace and balance. Teammates also offer an improved level of support to attackers with the ball by rushing into open space. This is only when their roles are set up as such in Team Management. For instance, do not expect much support from your midfielders if you are playing in a very defensive manner.
Goalkeeping – Goalkeeping has progressively developed for the better in the FIFA series throughout the past few years. This year see goalies evolved into more daring players than ever before as they show no fear in one on one situations. They repertoires have also increased greatly with net minders pulling off spectacular saves even in lowly Amateur mode. When was the last time you were held to only 1-0 victory in Amateur mode thanks to the heroics of a keeper? It can happen in FIFA 14.
Difficulty – Coming off a few weeks of play in Professional mode in FIFA 13, we expected to steamroll into FIFA 14 in the same form we left off in its predecessor. Not the case as all this year’s improvements to FIFA make it a more challenging game. This is in a good way because of the realism of the game. There is no shame in moving down a level to get used to it.
FIFA 14 is chock full of the game modes that have long been part of the series and recent additions. There is something for every gamer in FIFA 14 from single player Career Mode to online leagues to the always up to date EAS FC Matchday. All great experiences in off themselves, here are our favorite updates to the world of FIFA 14.
Global Transfer Network – Career mode transfers in previous versions of FIFA were a bit tedious. Enter the Global Transfer Network that allows aspiring managers to create a network of scouts hit will hit shores near and far in search of talent meeting your criteria. It is essentially the FIFA 13 youth team scouting system for grown folks complete with detailed stats and player pictures.
Ultimate Team – The game within the game, Ultimate Team (FUT), has long had a team chemistry feature. Now players in FUT each have a one of twenty Chemistry Styles that can improve your overall team chemistry if they fit together correctly.
Brazil!!! – With the 2014 FIFA World Cup on the horizon, gamers will be trying their hands at international matchups a bit more than usual. If you’re like us, you’re ultimately bound to play as the five-time World Cup winners Brazil. Finally, Neymar and company are now a fully licensed team donning their new Nike kits instead of the generic strips of the FIFA’s past.
Enjoyable, immersive and addictive. FIFA 14 is the culmination of EA Sports’ PS3 era in soccer simulation games. As the game continues its annual series of improvements, it is now the best installment of the video game version of the world’s game yet!