Now comfortable and confident with its position right at the very top of the football gaming league, FIFA remains a solid and reliable choice this year. But with Pro Evolution Soccer slowly but surely closing the gap between itself and EA's consistent franchise, does FIFA 14 do enough to secure its lead?
The short answer is yes – albeit not a resounding one. In order to really pass judgement on the annual series, it's almost a necessity to look back and remember what mechanics and improvements helped to make the game what it is today – and in that regard, this year's instalment doesn't add all that much. That said, the changes that have been made are just enough to keep its nose in front.
When you first boot up the release, it's immediately apparent that one such change was long overdue. For a while now, the title's menus have been a bit of a mess – particularly in Career and Ultimate Team. With so many categories and subcategories to scroll through, getting into the content that you actually want to play has been an exercise in unnecessary frustration. In the latest entry, however, the user interface has had a complete overhaul, and now sports a fresh-looking, easy-to-navigate, square-grid menu system. And the best part is that the majority of the long load times that came with the older versions are nowhere to be found, although we still came across some serious input lag when rearranging our squad.
A shiny new interface usually doesn't mean much when it comes to a sequel, but the series has been in desperate need of one for years now. It's been a long time coming, but its introduction alters every function that stems from it. For example, Career mode was bogged down in so many submenus that it could take minutes to simply get from managing your squad to checking your emails, but the revision means that you're able to quickly shift between the main tabs while retaining control over the content each of them holds. To be fair, it still isn't perfect, but with so many options at your fingertips, there really isn't much more that can be done.
Speaking of the game's most complex mode, it houses another of the title's biggest alterations. As a manager, you're now able to recruit and dispatch talent scouts all over the world, who'll then report back on players that meet your desired requirements. The depth on offer marks a definite improvement over the previous system, giving you the opportunity to single out specific traits that'll strengthen your squad, making it much easier to pick out the fastest wingers, the most accurate strikers, and the bulkiest defenders.
Meanwhile, Ultimate Team continues to be an integral part of the FIFA experience, with EA pushing the addictive mode further and further into the limelight. And why not – the component is arguably the franchise's most inventive and easily its most successful. Much like fantasy football leagues, your goal is to cobble together the best team that you possibly can, and you do this through purchasing packs that contain a random assortment of players.
The packs themselves can be bought with in-game currency or actual money, which no doubt leads to a nice little profit for the publisher, with fans constantly clamouring to find the likes of cover stars Messi or Bale in one lucky selection. Another of EA's properties, Mass Effect 3, features a similar system that's built into its cooperative mode, and both rely heavily on the addictive quality that comes with never quite knowing what you'll unlock.
FIFA's take on the trading card mechanic takes it one step further, though, giving you the opportunity to swap your findings with other users, which results in a market-like atmosphere. You'll be taking your unlikely squad into tournaments, only to come up against opponents who have somehow managed to get their grubby mitts on a collection of some of the best players in the world, and it's this constant sense of progression and the burning desire to build upon your team that sustains the mode.
But essentially, it's the small additions to the mode which allow it to evolve. Previously, the inclusion of formation cards meant that players were stuck in their predetermined role until you came across consumable tokens that could be used to alter it. If you were trying to switch up your squad's formation for tactical purposes, this convoluted way of adjusting things would often sour the process – but now, formation cards have been removed, meaning you can set up positioning any way that you want. Not only does this allow for more experimentation, it also gives you access to further customisation, as you can utilise chemistry cards to permanently increase the stats of your team. In essence, this light RPG mechanic means that you can transform a darting midfielder like Iniesta into a more aggressive attacker, if that better suits your style of play.
Of course, all of the modes in the world wouldn't be enough to save a sports title if the core gameplay didn't hold up, and in that regard, FIFA 14's is as rock solid as ever. Barring a few minor tweaks to things like through balls and lobbed passes, there really isn't much new to see here, despite what the developer might state. It's still the most accessible football that you'll find on a home console, and general play retains that slightly weighted feel. The only instantly noticeable change is that you no longer have to hold down L2 when performing skill moves with the right analog stick, which makes the techniques far more user-friendly, especially to less familiar users who aren't keen on wrapping every finger around the controller.
Despite the lack of obvious additions to the core gameplay, the more superficial aspects of the beautiful game have been nicely tuned. Shots that are destined to go wide of the goal, for instance, now tend to hit the woodwork much more frequently, as a satisfying 'THONK' echoes from the speakers and the DualShock 3 vibrates madly. On top of this, stylish, contextual strikes are also more frequent, giving almost every match at least one cinematic moment that's full of flair.
The players may still look like strange rubber men and the commentators still spout lines that you've already heard hundreds of times before, but FIFA 14 manages to do just enough to keep its lead on the competition. While it's more evolution than revolution, the series finally sports a suitable interface and plays host to a number of subtle but welcome improvements. EA continues to build upon an already unbeatable champion, but if you haven't yet taken the shot, it might be worth waiting to see how your team fares on the PlayStation 4.
The supposed slower pace was a bit of a ruse, then? I skipped on FIFA 13 so am definitely going to get this year's release - but I'm waiting for the PS4 version I think. I watched some people playing it at Eurogamer and it looks so pretty. The on-field stuff looks largely the same, but when it pulls out to the crowd shots for free kicks and stuff it looks amazing!
@get2sammyb The pace is a tad slower due to the tweaks that have been made to through balls and lofted passes (they're generally harder to control, which often helps stop people abusing super-fast players) but unless you're paying serious attention I doubt most players will even notice.
It's still possible to dominate with relentless long passes and attacking football, despite the changes. I'm honestly not sure where the franchise can go from now in terms of gameplay - what else is there to really improve upon or add?
I never had a football game on PS3 but, even though both FIFA and Pro 14 are good titles I guess I will skip both and buy a PS4 title next year.
However after reading the reviews, even though Ultimate Team seems interesting, I was favoring Pro since Champion's and Europa League are selling points for me. The game is also fully localized in my native language. If I find a cheap copy around Christmas I may get it.
We have said it a lot of times but I still can't believe that there is no proper football and basketball game on the Vita.
My main problems with FIFA 14 are the same with every football game: offside and passing. Most of the times I'm caught offside I'm nowhere near it - I have a video of me being at least a good ten foot onside! As for passing, until developers can make it work properly I won't be buying another football game. I'm fed up of having a man out in the open, on side and passing to him only for the ball to go to the other side of the pitch to a player with three defenders around him.
It's not even like I suck at football games as I've been playing them for years (and they don't exactly change) but it's just so frustrating that they still - still! - for no reason whatsoever randomly decide to mess you up out of the blue. That nine times out of ten the computer just happens to score seconds later (despite me breaking the players leg - no booking? - or winning the ball yet watching my man do a worse first touch than Dirk Kuyt so it goes right back to the computer).
The big thing this year was enjoying scoring more than ever, shame the computer half the time makes you feel like Danny Wellbeck (who told him he should be a footballer?) than Leo Messi.
@belmont FIFA's really good on the Vita. The only problem is that the latest version is still the same as the original one they released at launch. If you can put up with the out-of-date rosters, just get FIFA Football for cheap. I recommend it.
@rastamadeus Gotta love FIFA for that. Those goals the computer score where they seem to ride EVERY tackle n knock a pea-roller past your keeper that agonisingly creeps over the line for a cheap goal you can do nothing about. Im guessing FIFA still does that too?
@MadchesterManc Yeah, it can happen. The AI has a habit of trying to walk the ball into the net sometimes, and the result is some really crap looking goals.
I'm finding it a bit slower in build-up, but aside from that it is actually very much as you were from last year. Not that that's a bad thing, the subtle changes have made a big difference imo
Tap here to load 8 comments
Leave A Comment
Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...