This review was contributed by Rob Pike, freelance writer.
A few short weeks ago, I was playing Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 to death, asking myself if I was playing a decent game. I have played football games all my life but always leaned towards PES for its Sim-like gameplay. Even the most biased of PES fans are coming to the conclusion that FIFA has taken the football gaming crown and worn it with pride for some time now. FIFA 14 is no exception,
Coming straight off hours upon hours of PES, the effort and budget put into FIFA becomes evident from the moment I turned the game on. It instantly remembered I am a Liverpool supporter, play on professional difficulty and use the alternate control method. It’s little things like this combined with more licences than I care to count which ensures FIFA is still the benchmark in football gaming.
The core gameplay is very much the same as FIFA 13 so I will try and focus on the additions this time around. A fantastic and very much unmentioned addition to FIFA 14 is non-stop play. When the ball spills out for a throw-in, players will sprint to pick the ball up and throw it back into play without cutting to a black screen. Many fans will applaud this addition as it also doesn’t reset player positions and if you’re on a break, you can continue your momentum by throwing to players in space you have created. The downside to this feature is the rare occasion the ball rolls half way down the pitch and players chase a lost cause,but thankfully this is a rare occurrence.
The impact engine has been tweaked and improved so there are fewer player tangles (as funny as they were in past games) and fewer own-team tackles. It’s still not perfect, but the improvement is evident in every physical interaction between opposing players. The one thing that felt a bit off to me was the speed of the game. Football is a fast paced game, but the speed of games had the ball bouncing around like a pinball machine. Thankfully, EA have a speed setting and I found the perfect speed to match real life football was ‘-2’. This is very much down to personal opinion but definitely worth experimenting with.
Goal keepers are the best I have ever seen in a football game. At times super-human, at times rubbish, these are nonetheless easily the most life-like the series has put forth. Second effort saves and game changing reaction saves are standouts. When playing with my mates the keepers were one of the most talked about improvements this year.
Like the gameplay, the modes in FIFA 14 feature no major changes or additions, but just enough small improvements to warrant a purchase. Career mode has a new “tiled” lay out which is a joy to navigate, with no lag evident that made last year’s career a chore at times. Another feature requested by the fans is the ability to start your career with current squads and bypassing the transfer window. This is set up well with recent signings made by the team in real life showing up before you start career as “news stories”
Scouting has also been enhanced and put in the player’s control. It’s a fairly simple system giving you the ability to send scouts to which ever country you like and telling them what sort of players to search for. If you’re after a young striker with a bright future you can send your scouts to all corners of the globe to find one for you. The scouts then give you a short list and you decide whether to scout the player further or inquire about a future transfer possibility. Features like this give you a great sense of power and ownership of your team.
This continues as you start career mimicking real life transfers and loans – all of which adds to the immersion. Ultimate Team returns as a mode that can destroy your free time and social life very quickly. After teasing you with a match filled with superstars that have good on-field relationships, you are soon put in charge of a team filled with average players who have remarkably poor on-field relationships. Players are encouraged to keep players in their preferred positions and players from the same club and or country, which will keep their morale high and ensure a better on field performance. Other game modes have also had little touch ups but nothing game changing this year around, but hopefully EA make some more additions to the modes in the next generation versions of the game.
A massive part of any sporting game is the atmosphere created by the crowd. As a long term PES player I always go through the trouble of adding my MP3 chants from the internet to add to the immersion. This is also possible in FIFA 2014, but not necessary as the chants already in the game are spot on. Teams have 6-7 specific chants and they sound just like their real life counterparts. There is nothing quite like hearing the Kop belt out ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ when victory is imminent.
The soundtrack has fantastic diversity with reggae, house, indie and rock songs all making an appearance. The songs feel like they have been carefully chosen to match the tempo and excitement of a football game.
FIFA 2014 is one of the best sports games you will play this year. The polish in everything from the menus to careful song choice show every dollar EA pour into the series is well spent. My excitement for the next generation versions cannot be contained. EA has spoken of a new engine featuring in the next gen versions as well as some very neat looking stadium features. Although EA hasn’t overhauled any game modes, it’s hard to say that they have held back on current gen consoles. Some great additions have been made and makes this a must have for any football fan or sports fan in general. Its pick up and play controls make it also make it a fantastic local multiplayer game even for non-football fans. While PES is always improving FIFA has added even more polish to its crown this year.