Soccer fans, rejoice: FIFA 14 is finally here. And while it might not feature the sort of gameplay changing revolution that FIFA 10 did with 360 degree dribbling, FIFA 14 does boast the nuanced revisions the franchise’s die-hards crave.
The FIFA series just gets better and better, doesn’t it? We’ll admit that at first we were apprehensive by FIFA 14’s slower-paced gameplay than that of years past, but as you play the game more and more you appreciate the realistic feel.
From a gameplay perspective, gamers will find that patience, unlike in previous iterations, is the key to scoring. Gone are the days where you could just sprint past slow defenders and be one-on-one with the goalkeeper. You have to be more methodological in your game play, keeping possession to break down defenses. With the physicality of players noticeably improved, getting bumped off the ball while trying to make a darting run is more commonplace. This is where shielding the ball really is at its best.
Image: EA Sports / FIFA 14
The game has slowed down to make way for tinkering in dribbling, passing, defending and shooting. All four combine to make for a more fluid and life-like gaming experience. Defenders play tighter than before, trying to cut out your options to make it more difficult to pick out that killer pass. The counterbalance to this is a vastly improved teammate AI.
More incisive runs can be found around the pitch, but it’s up to the user to pick them out before the short window closes. On breaks, the computer makes smarts runs into space, drawing defenders or settling in for a key pass. The changes make for tougher scoring, but for those that enjoy the build up as much as the payoff, FIFA 14’s changes are a welcomed challenge.
The CPU’s tactics are also more sophisticated than in FIFA 13; teams press higher and more often — not just when the opponent is behind in the last 10-15 minutes of the game. For us, shooting was noted as the biggest improvement. Last year, we often would shoot whenever an open shot outside the penalty area presented itself. But depending on where the player was in relation to the ball, the shot seemed unnatural, or the game would defy physics in an attempt to create a shot that would look natural.
For instance, Pure Shot makes goals look crisp and at times, can point out why you probably shouldn’t have gone for goal. Free kicks are harder to master, especially when the AI goalkeepers are much smarter than their FIFA 13 counterparts. Each set piece you take might have the same result, but the look and feel will be different all due to Pure Shot.
Shooting basics are not the only part of the game that has changed either. Career Mode has gone a major upheaval in team management, particularly scouting and the transfer window. In a big change from seasons past, FIFA 14 no longer allows you to search for new players by their rating; now, they won’t be revealed to you until said players are actually acquired.
So how do you figure out who to buy? You utilize the completely revolutionized scouting network. Aside from being able to search the world for the best new talents better than ever before — you can now search for up to six different player types each trip, plus select certain attributes you’d like players to have — your scouts can now also be used to help rate your transfer targets. This change might be an annoyance to casual players who simply want to buy the best players, but it’s a FIFA diehard’s dream. Your managerial skills will be more tested than ever.
Image: EA Sports / FIFA 14
Online gameplay sees a new addition to its many modes. The popular seasons mode is now accompanied by co-op seasons, which we find to be a lot of fun. The adrenaline you feel when you are going into the final game of your season, the result determining survival, relegation or promotion, can now be shared with a friend. This online experience will definitely be a fan favorite.
Feeling overwhelmed? Well, don’t. Most of the key skills and basics remain the same. In the end, FIFA 14 provides the same level of excitement, exhilarating gameplay and distinct presentation that’s second to none.