FIFA 14 is a mainstay when it comes to sport’s titles available year after year. You can always expect a new entry alongside the likes of Madden, NBA 2K, among others. This particular version of FIFA is the same that was released back in September for Xbox 360 and PS3, albeit with a few minor improvements. While they don’t do much to change the base game, they do help create a better and more immersive experience.
Developed by EA Canada / Published By Electronic Arts
Available on Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, PSP, PS Vita, WII, 3DS and PC. Reviewed on Xbox One.
*Review copy provided by EA
All that you’d expect to find in a FIFA game is here: career mode, one-offs, seasons, skill games etc, alongside the biggest mode, Ultimate Team. If you’ve played a recent FIFA game before, you know what to expect when it comes to its content. But let’s talk about the two most noticeable changes in this next-gen iteration of FIFA 14: gameplay and graphics.
Gameplay has largely remained the same except in one place: animations. Thanks to the extra power provided by the Xbox One, the animations on the players are much more robust and varied, especially when in the match. At the beginning of each match, the players enter the field and the teams introduce themselves to one another. Animations tied to these parts, the small interludes between penalties, making a goal, and time-outs are rough, with characters jerkingly changing from one stance to another, walking around like robots. But once you’re in the game and either in control of the ball or chasing it, it becomes a completely different game. Every players animates realistically. You can see how your characters shifts his weight when changing directions, how the opposing team stumbles when you lead them one way and suddenly change directions, how they dodge you when you slide in an attempt to take the ball away from them. It all leads to a more realistic, challenging experience.
Why challenging? Alongside the added attention given to animations, there seems to have been a boost to the oppenent AI from previous entries. I personally noted the improvement from the previous entry in the series, FIFA 13 and even the Xbox 360 version of FIFA 14. Enemies seem more aware of your position at all times, chasing you down relentlessly and doing everything in their power to take the ball away from you. They won’t fall for you trying to slide between their legs to trip them up. Out of all sports games, I’ve always found FIFA to be the most accessible one, making it possible for you to win a match from the very first time you play. Not that it’s easy, it’s just manageable. In FIFA 14, this remains true, but the shift to smarter AI and more animations leads to you having to adjust your previous strategy. When you first boot up the game, it throws you into a match: Real Madrid vs. Barcelona. I went in, trying to play the game as I had played previous entries – being very cocky – and I got my ass handed to me by the other team. They attacked my usual pattern in an intelligent way and constantly took the ball away from me.
This added realism is also helped by the fact that the ball no longer feels magnetized to your feet. It’s just as easy to get the ball as it is to lose it. Meaning that the more fancy you try to be with your weaving and bobbing, the harder it is to manage the ball and the easier it is for the opposing team to just run up to you and kick it away from you. After this embarrassing defeat, I modified my play style and learned to hold my own. It’s a very positive statement towards the game’s AI when I say that the whole time, it felt like I was playing against other players online, not the computer.
In addition to this, the graphics have received a noticeable bump, making the experience that much more immersive. Players all look eerily similar to their real-life counterparts, and their clothes all animate properly, with the short pants moving back and forth as you run, same with the jerseys. The lighting is also perfect, alongside the more realistic crowd. Instead of the usual cardboard cutout crowds we’re used to seeing in these games, FIFA boast a fully 3D crowd that reacts to the way the game is going. The stadiums also deserve a mention, with the field especially looking like a real place. Some of them feature fully detailed exteriors that can be seen as the camera pans around when the game is starting. I also found that players in past iterations of the game looked like they were floating ever so slightly above the field, something that isn’t present now. Maybe it was just me, but it’s good to see that the added detail extends to that aspect. Anyone walking by your TV as you play this game would probably think you’re watching a real game on cable instead of playing one.
While the base experience remains largely unchanged, the little improvements made to the graphics, AI and gameplay go a long way to making this the most immersive FIFA to date, making it increasingly difficult to tell game and reality apart.