As an Englishman there is one game that I will buy every single year, one game which regardless of the small amounts of updates it may have received since the previous version I will have pre-ordered for months in advance. One game which if I want to play with my friends I will have no choice but to pick up the newest version every year or risk being a social outcast, I am of course talking about FIFA.
We have come a long way since jumpers for goalposts, football has evolved both on and off the field, turning from the pastime of the working class into a massive financial behemoth. The most popular sport in the world deserves a top video game, thankfully both EA and Konami provide us with a strong game year on year and though the battle between FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer is always a close run thing in terms of quality the sales figures are polar opposites.
The party line from EA is that gameplay has been further tightened up to mimic the real life game and whilst this is true it does make this iteration of FIFA more like a simulation than ever before. The first time I played I struggled to control the ball and I have played FIFA since 1995, yes this makes it more realistic and requires more skill but it can be off-putting at first until to you get into your groove.
New gameplay mechanics such as improved ball control and the new Pure Shot feature combined with improved animation and ball physics do help to make FIFA 14 an improvement over last year. This is particularly noticeable when you are in that final third of the pitch, the ball moves more precisely and you really start to feel that uncertainty of what a player might do next, as if you were watching a real game.
The passing on FIFA has never been as slick as PES in my opinion and can feel almost sluggish in places. When using poorer players the lack of first touch and general ball control is a lot less intuitive but arguably more realistic, making it all the more rewarding when pulling of a shock cup upset against a bigger team.
I was pretty excited when I heard about the new “Ignite” graphics engine for FIFA 14 but sadly this will only be utilised on PS4 and Xbox One, not on PC or the current generation of consoles. It is a bit of a shame really as despite the many tweaks over the years the old “Impact” engine still remains largely intact without update and is really starting to show it’s age.
In fact, when I compare to FIFA 13 the graphics seem to have taken a tiny step backwards, the in game graphics seem a little rough around the edges and the cut scenes don’t seem to be as sharp. To be fair though this doesn’t really impact on the enjoyment of the game and perhaps it is just that I was expecting too much in terms of a graphical update. Given the lack of attention EA have given to the older console versions I probably shouldn’t have got my hopes up.
The game still looks good and a lot of the player models look very accurate, some of the lesser known players have obviously received less love but this is to be expected. One thing is for certain, I am really looking forward to seeing the updated graphics on the next generation systems as those versions promise to be more revolution than evolution.
The audio is always something that sets FIFA apart from Pro Evolution Soccer, you just can’t beat the authentic feel of the televised game and this time round it doesn’t disappoint. The normal commentary team return with the usual flow of comments not just around the game in hand but also in relation to past games, playing careers and various fond memories, it only helps to add to the authentic feel, you really get the feeling that you are watching a real game of footie.
As you play your game you are treated to live updates from other games where the commentary team are interrupted by another pundit conveying key information from the other fixtures, again this only adds to that “live” feeling and when you are playing a league season you can be spurred on knowing that other results are going for or against you!
The audio manages to be slick without being too overbearing and really adds to the atmosphere and presentation of the game, you really do get all of the glitz and the glamour of the Premier League. Along with the in game commentary there is a nice selection of new music for when you are navigating the various menus and taking part in the various training mini games.
Whilst you can of course play FIFA in single player the game really comes alive when you play with someone else. In FIFA 14 we are treated to the usual myriad of game modes, couch co-op, online play, exhibition, leagues, be a pro, team play and Ultimate Team modes are all here for your enjoyment with Ultimate Team again the biggest draw.
FIFA Ultimate Team is what the die hard fans come back for year on year, the most popular (and most competitive!) game mode in FIFA is what sets it apart from competitors. I am sure we are all familiar with the premise by now, earn coins to buy packs of player cards to build your fantasy team, other games like NHL and Madden do the same but this has a culture of it’s own in England, cards change hands for crazy prices. It is now a little easier to build your ultimate team, you can of course buy packs of players for real money if you choose but you can also embark on a larger single player offline campaign to win a plethora of leagues and cups which will give you plenty of coins to play with. EA have also confirmed that your Ultimate Team progress including coins will carry over from PS3 to PS4 and Xbox 360 to Xbox One should you choose to upgrade later on.
If you feel brave you can also challenge the team of the week for a match against your Ultimate Team, the team of the week is a combination of the top performing players throughout the world for the previous week and beating them on the harder difficulties is certainly a challenge but the harder the difficulty the more coins you get to spend.
The newest multiplayer feature is the co-op online seasons mode where you and a buddy can play through a whole season on the same side, this feature does a great job of re-creating that couch co-op experience. The sheer volume of different multiplayer modes always give this game enough legs to last the 12 months until the next release.
Another solid member of the FIFA family but had this only been released on the next gen systems I don’t think we would have heard many complaints from the gaming community if they had to stick with FIFA 13. Yes FIFA 14 is an improvement but speaking as someone who would pick it up no matter what I am grateful for the imminent arrival of the new offerings from Microsoft and Sony because it is pretty obvious that the current generation has been pushed to the limits.
The decision to buy now or wait until November really depends on you as a gamer, if you can wait then I would recommend holding off as by all accounts the PS4 and Xbox One versions will be the real deal. If like me you have friends playing right now and don’t want to wait then take solace in the fact that you will be able to upgrade to the next generation version for a small fee, even Amazon have now started offering the generation switch by giving a huge part exchange price boost on your used FIFA 14 copy so the PS4 or Xbox One version will only cost a small sum.
Just as a side note for anyone considering picking up the WII, 3DS, PSP, PS2 or Vita versions of the game you should be aware that these are all labelled up as “legacy” editions which only have squad updates and kit changes. I do have a little gripe with the pricing of these versions as I don’t think people should be expected to pay this kind of money for what is essentially a lick of paint, particularly disappointing with the Vita version but without enough systems out there to raise demand you can see why this makes sense for EA.
The overall changes that have been made don’t really make a huge difference, the lack of real stadium names for all teams still annoys me (Villa Park please EA!!) and whilst I appreciate that this is due to licencing issues with clubs it would still be nice to play as my team in their stadium. Having said all that this is still a very good football game, it is just that this time around the improvements on the last version are really not worth the cost of the upgrade to the casual player.