*Authors Note* FIFA 14 is available for PS2 (yes you read that right), PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, Wii, 3DS and PS Vita. For the purpose of this review the Xbox One version was played. For those afraid of spoilers, let me hit this nail on the head early… the game is about grown adults kicking a ball into a net, sorry.
Honestly, that spoiler I just mentioned pretty much sums up my thoughts on the game of Soccer, as an Aussie Rules fan, who tried to watch soccer I found myself often becoming disengaged due to the fact that not much happens in the middle of the field, and the action only occurs as that ball approaches either ends goal, and even then, there was no promise of excitement as you can walk away from the sport or your TV having sat through a nil all result. I could never get excited about that prospect, but what has regularly excited me is the FIFA series. What I have always felt it does supremely well is that it makes that action in the midfield feel important and relevant to a games result, something I’ve never felt when I play/watch the real thing, and this is a testament to the consistently excellent AI that EA delivers us with the most recent generations iterations of the series.
While the FIFA series has been known for its incredible quality over this past console generation, the series has never been known for its groundbreaking innovation, simply put, the series never really innovates, but what it does, and does extremely well is refine itself, polish out kinks and make more subtle changes that make the gaming experience more involving. For FIFA 14 it has been the gameplay that has seen the most work, with the most notable improvement being in the ball control, an element that surprisingly enough redefines the way you play the game.In past iterations of FIFA or even the Pro Evo series, the ball tends to have this knack of sticking to your players foot, with this latest entry, that hand holding feature has been removed forcing the player to move carefully to ensure constant control of the ball. A subtle change in theory, that makes an incredible difference in the more chaotic periods of play. Subtleties such as the way a players weight transfers as they change direction, and the need to maintain or manage your momentum are factors which must be considered as you play, and even when you don’t realise, they’re having an impact. Minor tweaks to the way with which you fire for goal have created added diversity as well as when someone comes screaming in to defend you, such as fend offs but can also be used to turn your opponent around when charging towards goal. Passing is still solid, but I suspect that with the myriad of improvements made over the last few entries that this may be the next feature in need of further polish.
We mentioned this in our recent review of Madden 25 but this is clearly a focus that EA have had with this year’s sporting entries, but the AI in FIFA 14 is incredible. Players who break into open territory are always appreciated, rather than in past entries where you may feel the need to float yourself up a lob and then attempt to chase it down. As far as the defensive end is concerned, your teammates will not get sucked into the ball as much as they have in past entries and tend to hold their positions a bit more, thankfully resulting in a lack of open gaps in the defensive end. These subtle tweaks will take some adjusting to as it is plausible that many of you may find yourselves offside a little more than usual, but understanding these changes and adapting will prove to be rewarding in time. Tactics aren’t a strength of the series, and this lack of tactics has probably been taken further with these changes because it can make for a faster, more free-flowing game, with a peppering of last minute goals.The last few series entries have been looking quite similar and not much has changed with FIFA 14, sure, everything looks a little more polished and refined, and the next gen versions do look impressive, but are not yet that jump we’re coming to expect, but it is the more genuine animations that make the game more immersive, and realistic. Add to this that statistics continue to get discussed by the commentary team, players experience a good run of form are identified and even the pre-match makes hints and nods to real events that when coupled with an already excellent game that much more engaging.
The FIFA experience was already bursting with depth and possibilities, possessing certainly the widest range of modes and events to immerse yourself in. There is so much to do, from the one off friendlies, both offline and online, career mode and ongoing seasons, skill games, and of course the ever improving, and increasing in popularity Ultimate Team mode. Ultimate Team has received only a few minor tweaks for this latest entry such as Chemistry links which brings some mild RPG elements to the affair, allowing you to assign players a type of class which loosely tweaks a few key player attributes such as the players passing, dribbing, shooting or defending abilities, and fans of single matches will greatly appreciate their return for 2014, while the refreshed user interface that shares a lot in common with the Xbox’s dashboard is very clean and efficient to navigate.If you’re after that next big leap for the FIFA series that tends to come every 3-4 years, FIFA 14 is not it. What it is however is one of the finest, most polished series entries we’ve seen with unbridled depth for the sporting genre. Adjusting to minor gameplay tweaks made to FIFA 14 will take time for the hardened veteran FIFA fan, but once you do you will find a new layer of realism to embrace. The visuals whilst not setting the world on fire, look appealing and the action going on around the ground again looks spectacular. There is something for every type of soccer fan here, from the more casual consumer who just wishes to play the one-off match to the hardcore fans who want to delve into the deep waters the game provides. If you’re a soccer fan, FIFA 14 is not going to let you down, we just hope for a bit more of a leap next year.