The FIFA franchise of football titles is probably the most well-known among sports gamers, and together with PES, arguably the longest-running. With that comes a wealth of knowledge and experience that developer EA Canada put to good use in the latest title, FIFA 14.
Right from the offset, the first thing that players will notice, is that the menu system has been given a complete overhaul compared to the way it was presented and could be operated in FIFA 13. The choices have been made larger, with colourful images occupying the spaces for selection. It is a much sleeker look, but it can be a bit confusing at times to locate the desired menu options.
Essentially the title functions in the same way that the previous title did, in the sense that players are still able to start a new career as already-existing real—world footballer, create their own character to play as - or take on the role of a player-manager.
Each choice has their own merits, but if gamers are looking for a more involved and hands-on experience, the player-manager option might be better suited for them. In this mode, not only will gamers be able to play all the scheduled matches, but they will also be in charge of changing the team line-up, make position changes and keep track of tactics – both on and off the field.
If that seems to be a bit too much, the option to create a new character in Pro Mode will be better. EA retained the ability to import a player’s face through their EA Game Face option, but in this version a couple of frustrations did creep up.
While the Game Face integration worked seamlessly in titles such as Tiger Woods PGA Tour by automatically retrieving facial photos from the EA servers, for some odd reason FIFA 14 requires players to re-upload their photos to the server and wait about 45min before they are converted into digital form. It might be a lot less time consuming if players just take to time to carefully curate their likeness with the pre-set options.
Once a character is created, they will be assigned to a specific club to play for in a couple of matches. Just as with FIFA 13, that will not last very long as the player will quickly be loaned out to a second-rank team in a God-forgotten city. And it is from here where they need to prove themselves and play well enough to receive offers from the teams that they actually want to play for.
Just a warning: players should keep in mind that when they create a character, the nationality they select will determine for which country they will be playing in international friendlies. So if players select South Africa as their nationality, they will end up playing on the South African national side against other countries. And we all know South Africa’s track record when it comes to football…
In terms of game play, a number of changes have been made to provide for a better playing experience. An issue that players had with the previous titles, was that the characters do not have enough freedom to conduct the correct actions on the field. Well, EA changed all that so that players will have more accurate moves, tackles and ball control with their Impact engine.
However, that also presents unskilled or causal gamers with a bit of a challenge: as things get more realistic, it does tend to make the title a bit harder to play. Greater effort now needs to be put into correct ball handling and shot accuracy, which often means a wayward football travelling to unintended places.
Graphically, the title definitely stands out from the previous iterations, as greater detail has been added to facial animations, stadium details and the players on the field in general. EA’s Ignite Engine, which will only be available for the PS4 and Xbox One versions, will also provide both graphical and game-play changes.
In the grand scheme of things, yes, FIFA 14 is a much better improvement of the previous titles, but at the end of the day, it essentially remains the same throughout. There are a number of changes, but the entire gist of the title is actually identical in gameplay: create a character, play a couple of matches, and work your way to the top.
Players of the previous games will find a lot of enjoyment from FIFA 14, but one cannot help wondering just how long EA will drag out the franchise. Other than the new engine that will be incorporated into the next-gen title, there are a lot of innovation – certainly not in the “plot” of the game.
If this is the first football title that new gamers pick up, they will have an incredibly good time, but returning players might find that it is just more of the same dressed up in a clean interface with better graphics and control.
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor