FIFA is EA’s flagship series beloved by many football fans across the globe. Its direct competition, Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer has not made the generational jump this year and therefore FIFA is the only candidate for a gamer to choose if they are feeling the urge to delve into the beautiful game. With FIFA 14 being out on many different platforms, current generation and next generation – is it worth forking out the money to experience what the next generation version has to offer?
FIFA is one of EA Sports biggest series, and one that no doubt makes them a lot of money. It’s managed to finally knock off PES in many respects and there’s a only a few things missing from the game (UEFA Champions League/Euro League) that PES has. FIFA 14 on the current generation of consoles is a great game. It’s changed enough from FIFA 13 to justify another purchase and continue building towards Ultimate Team glory. However, the justification of buying FIFA 14 on both current generation and next generation consoles can be questioned. There just isn’t enough extra content to enjoy in the next generation version, although, there are some great signs for the future.
FIFA 14 introduces a more build-up oriented style of play, having you focus on passing the ball around and waiting for a gap to open up rather than just hitting a lob pass over the defenders, having your attacker latch onto the ball and scoring a goal. It’s a welcomed and much needed approach to the game and one I have found to be more enjoyable and certainly more realistic. Defenders will now track runs and (properly) cover for their team-mates if they’ve gone darting off on a counter attack and will adequately close down play if you’re dwelling on the ball too much. They also attempt to intercept the ball a lot more while pressing higher up the field. When you’re in the attacking half – more often than not two opposition players will try to close you down and isolate your options. Forcing you to pass out, switch the play or pass backwards. It’s a wonderful challenge, and one I had to come to terms with when I first started playing the game. Playing lob passes over the defenders worked much less, and I had to find different avenues to penetrate the defensive line.
Comparing FIFA 14 to the past few iterations, playing the ball out wide and focusing on crosses has become one of my main attacking strategies. However, when playing as one of the better teams in the game (Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and co.) I can work the ball through the defense without relying so much on just that tactic. Playing as a more lowly team (Accrington, Sydney FC and so on) – I found myself using crossing quite often and it became a major factor in the way I scored goals. The balancing of both methods of play is crucial to the success on the pitch both online and offline and make for some wonderful back and forth action. The slow pace of the game is excellent and something I’ve been craving for since FIFA 10. But don’t be fooled, while the pace element of FIFA has been pulled back a few pegs, quick counter attacking football is where you can deliver the most damage. Players have different styles of movement and agility about them – more often than not a winger can use their skills and movement to slide past a brick wall style of defender when on a counter attacking run. Each player has a sense of weight to them and using it to your advantage is key to keeping possession and scoring goals. It’s a realistic approach to football and it really pushes you to be creative with your passes and to watch the runs your team make around you – as you’ll eventually be able to deliver that key pass, or make that key run and score a goal.
All of the modes from the current generation of FIFA are present in the next generation iteration. Be A Pro, Career Mode (with the new addition of the Global Transfer Network), all of the online modes and obviously Ultimate Team are all here to be enjoyed and each play well when the servers are working. Career Mode (and Be A Pro – which is now known as the player option when starting Career Mode) are the modes I enjoy the most and spend the most time in. I’ve roughly put about 25 hours into both modes (combined) and am really enjoying my time with them. Everything you love about both modes are here but everything runs a lot smoother than it did on the current generation of consoles. Menus fly by, the advancing of the year is quick and checking your inbox takes less than a second. This is where I’ve seen the most improvement over the two generations – the speed of navigation through the menus. Everything is so swift. Comparing this to the PS3 version of FIFA 14 (which I’ve put around 30 hours into) – it’s a race between a hare and a turtle.
Ultimate Team is no doubt FIFA’s biggest mode. The Ultimate Team community on the Xbox One version of FIFA 14 is huge, as you’d imagine. I’ve never had an issue getting in a game with someone else and the marketplace is always full of in-game players you want to spend your hard earned coins on. I’ve put roughly three hours into my Winchester FC team, but sadly just don’t find the draw many others do. I’ve always been a Career Mode kind of guy when it comes to FIFA – but I can report that everything works well, online and off.
Sadly, the EA servers are still as shoddy as ever which is a shame – but one that came expected. I have only been disconnected while playing online three or four times but throughout my Career Mode I’ve been disconnected a lot while playing offline matches. Not that the two really impact each other – it’s just that you lose the 100 XP you’d usually get after finishing a Career Mode game if you’re logged into your Origin account. EA really need to look into these server issues as they do contribute to a lot of player frustration when there really shouldn’t be any.
Comparing the current generation and next generation versions of FIFA 14 – there isn’t that much of a difference. The crowd is much more lively and are presented in blocky, 3D models of fans that cheer when you score or all stare at the goalkeeper in unison if the team concedes. It works, and adds to the overall feel of the game but the crowd just seem very robotic. There’s no real emotion to here – but it’s okay, as you’re not really focusing on them when you’re playing anyway. Another change to the next generation version of FIFA 14 is the new Ignite Engine EA have been talking up throughout the lead up to the release of the new consoles. To be honest, there really isn’t much difference at all in the way the game plays or feels. Yes, players do have more animations when they do things such as switch the play and compete for headers – but other than that, there isn’t much difference that can be seen from the naked eye. Something that I do find quite neat however, is the commentators referring back to key highlights throughout the game when the ball is out of play. Highlights such as goals, tackles and bookings are all looked back on with a few words from the commentators. It’s an awesome little touch that adds to the realism of the game. Other things like this such as quick throw-ins and substitutions that happen instantaneously when the ball goes out of play are welcomed additions and keep the pace of the game flowing. The graphics are of course better and both consoles display at a native 1080p which is very nice. However, as an overall package, the next generation features are not very noticeable but are additions that were not possible on the current generation and make the game slightly better and more realistic.
The next generation iteration of FIFA 14 is nothing special. It’s the same great game that came out on the current generation of consoles in September with a few minor tweaks to the gameplay. If you have a next generation console and don’t have FIFA 14 for your Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 – I’d definitely recommend you picking it up as it is an excellent addition to the series. If you do, however, have the game on your current generation console – the price tag just does not justify the purchase and it’d be better to wait for a price drop. FIFA 14 on the next generation has some great little additions and I hope that EA Sports expand on them come next year. It’s a sure sign that the future is bright for EA’s football simulator.
Images courtesy of fifplay.com, goodgamebro.com, telegraph.co.uk and digitalspy.com
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