Summertime is often a period where people like to make memories. Whether it's creating moments of happiness with friends or taking the time to clear out your ridiculous gaming backlog as the sun blazes outside, there's no time quite like it. However, what usually makes summer all the more enjoyable – especially if you're a footy fan – is a good old fashioned international tournament. The European championships always make for a great watch, but it's the World Cup that comes around once every four years which really cements the sport's global popularity. Whole countries will celebrate while others despair as their national teams find victory or defeat, and as such, the event is widely considered to be the perfect showcase for the beautiful game. Of course, a franchise as popular as FIFA simply can't go missing a relatively rare opportunity like this to release a tournament-themed package, and that's where 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil comes into play.
EA Sports has been known to use its World Cup tie-ins to test the waters for future mechanics, modes, and tweaks to existing gameplay, but don't expect too much of that this time around. As you'd expect, 2014's international entry plays almost identically to FIFA 14 – the only real differences come in aesthetic form and a few new game modes that unsurprisingly have a lot more to do with the event itself. Because of its tournament focus, there isn't as much content on offer when compared to the franchise's yearly instalments, but there's still a decent amount of brightly coloured modes of play to sink your studs into.
The release's single player and local multiplayer offerings are its strongest, and perhaps it's no surprise. You can jump right into the finals with your chosen team, start your World Cup journey from the very first qualifying matches that took place years ago, or even attempt to change history by tackling recreated qualifying scenarios where teams are about to lose their place in the tournament before you take control and save the day. There are plenty of bits and pieces to keep enthusiasts more than happy, and the authenticity of it all really helps it to feel like this is your own World Cup adventure – especially with a well-structured and rewarding campaign mode that sees you eventually captain your national team.
Meanwhile, with no Ultimate Team mode, the title's online components seem comparatively bare bones, even to the point where we sometimes struggled to find an opponent. You can launch into online tournaments and attempt to win your way to the final, or you can sample the game's Road to Rio de Janeiro mode in which you get closer to the iconic destination by winning matches one by one, but neither really compare to the simple joys of sitting on a sofa with friends and playing through the finals together.
Much like watching the real thing, experiencing the event with others feels like what the title was made for. Grab a few friends, opt to team up or compete, and either way you're guaranteed a great time. Of course, being equipped to be a great party game is nothing particularly new for FIFA, but the title's tournament structure means that you can blitz through the whole thing in a couple of hours before proceedings start to feel stale.
That said, there's no doubt that the release's lifespan suffers because of the real world event that it's based upon. Similar to Olympic Games titles, it's easy to assume that most people won't be coming back to this after the World Cup is over, which essentially gives you a limited time frame in which to gain maximum enjoyment from the product. It's perhaps because of this that the game's price point seems a little steep, especially when you can nab a copy of FIFA 14 on the PlayStation 4 for around the same amount of cash.
Speaking of which, if you've been lucky enough to have spent a lot of time with the series' brilliant first entry on Sony's new console, then you may find it difficult to go back to the franchise on the PS3. FIFA World Cup Brazil isn't necessarily a bad looking game, but if you've gotten used to all of the visual details that are present in the title's next-gen sibling, it can look downright terrible, from the blocky player models to the 2D crowds. You may also have to readjust to the gameplay, too, as the natural fluidity that comes courtesy of the PS4 release's smooth animations is, unsurprisingly, nowhere to be found.
However, there are a few bells and whistles that are unique to the sporty sim. Presentation-wise, everything is soaked in colour, from the menus to the pre-match graphics, which accomplishes the simple task of making everything feel warm and summery quite well. You'll also catch glimpses of pockets of fans that wear your chosen team's colours after you've scored or conceded. They'll jump around or dance for a couple of seconds before the camera switches back to the pitch, and while it's a nice idea, the models themselves are almost too ridiculous to take seriously, as even the most stoic groups of supporters wear huge top hats and move in unison to samba music. If anything, they only detract from the immersion as you and anyone else watching begin to laugh hysterically at the insanity of it all.
Despite the freakish fans and decidedly last-gen visuals, though, the game still manages to create a decent atmosphere. The soundtrack is full of sunny tunes that might even get you tapping your feet, while the chants from the crowd sound authentic and are well implemented. Meanwhile, the commentary from Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend gets the job done with some impressive team-specific conversation before kick-off, but we encountered plenty of instances where the duo would get excited for seemingly no reason, be it a shot that was clearly going wide or a safe save that was treated like the world's best goalkeeping. Still, we're just thankful that they're not as unapologetically biased about England's performance as they are during the real thing.
If you've spent a lengthy amount of time with FIFA 14 on the PS4, 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil's visual quality and gameplay fluidity can take some getting used to, but this is still an enjoyable package if you've caught World Cup fever. Played with friends, it complements the real event perfectly, but with a steep asking price and a limited online lifespan, you may be better off scoring a copy of the aforementioned annual release.