- Street Date:
- September 24th, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Roger Shao
- Review Date:1
- October 9th, 2013
- Game Release Year:
- Xbox 360
- EA Sports
- EA Canada
- ESRB Rating:
- RP (Rating Pending)
As the reviewer is an ardent follower of the series since 'FIFA 2005,' there is a familiarity with the series at its highest highs and its lowest lows. With that in mind please understand that the review of this game is focused primarily the comparison to last year's 'FIFA.'
Along with the changing of seasons yet another 'FIFA' title has come to grace our consoles, and once again the programmers at EA Canada still haven't figured out how to make our fullbacks aware of the existence of the offside trap.
Being the definitive 'FIFA' licensed version of soccer (football to those of us who reside outside of the US) since its beginnings on the PS1, 'FIFA Soccer 2014' is another in a long line of arcade soccer simulations that is heavy on the arcade and mild on the simulation. With the upgrades to the new Xbox One and Playstation 4 on the horizon, one can't help but feel that most of the effort this year might have been saved for the next generation consoles.
While historically viewed as a step down in terms of gameplay when compared to its main rival 'Pro Evolution Soccer' by Konami, 'FIFA's recent complete overhaul in mechanics, combined with a decided lack of improvement by 'PES' have vaulted 'FIFA' to the top of the soccer video game world.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Taken in a vacuum, 'FIFA 14' is a gorgeous game. The intro video rocks, showcasing "in-game" graphics that a passer-by could easily mistake for a live match and a soundtrack that really gets the blood and dare I say legs pumping. Seeing the virtual Messi dance around three defenders using impossibly nimble footwork makes the game's promise that the player will be able to pull off similar moves in game, outright exhilarating. The menus have been redone this year and now have the touch screen OS look that most new software interfaces have adopted. The menus look great; gone are the cluttered menus with popup boxes and the increasingly annoying multitude of subcategories containing its extensive content.
Within the game, 'FIFA 14' continues to shine. Once you've configured your setup and controller settings (long time 'PES' players switching over will be grateful for the alternate control scheme), you'll be presented with the best load screen ever devised, a training mini game! Not only are load times very manageable but you'll be able to do free kick, crossing or finishing drills and thereby, improve your skills and never a waste single valuable gaming second.
The presentation is top notch with Martin Tyler and Alan Smith announcing the action and hundreds of real world stadiums painstakingly modeled, creating a feast for both your eyeballs and your ear holes. So far, everything is exactly what is expect of AAA game with the exclusive license and way too much money to spend. Unfortunately, money cannot buy good gameplay.
Immediately evident to anyone who has played last year's version is that 'FIFA 14' is decidedly a slower game. While the players don't all run slower, and the ball doesn't act like it's just rolling uphill, but it nevertheless just FEELS slower. Now this is not in it of itself necessarily a good or bad thing. Fans of the series have been clamoring for a slower, more nuanced game that reflects the increasingly deliberate pace of the game played in European leagues. F.C. Barcelona and its many copycats have ushered in an era of slow buildup play and last year’s arcade release with its many two pass goals had to be toned down to reflect this change. Unfortunately, the way that EA Sports has attempted to slow the pace down is to make every player a world-class klutz. There is absolutely no reason why Cristiano Ronaldo should lose his balance when receiving an over-the-head through ball from Xabi Alonso. The former has one of the best first touches in the world, and the latter is a master of the chipped long pass. But time after time, I find myself slowing my run to wait for a ball in midair that is hanging up there way too long, and then completely losing all momentum for the break away by seemingly being unable to do a simple forward touch without CR7 stumbling all over his two left feet.
In addition to general clumsiness, 'FIFA 14' has both player physics and jockeying for position racketed up to 13. If you are controlling a semi-quick player and want to actually see him use his speed to burst past a defender, you better have at least a five yard separation. As long as the defender is within arm's length, the game will default into a "shoulder nuzzling" animation. "Shoulder nuzzling" is so termed, because it begins with two players bumping shoulders which then results in both being reduced in speed to a crawl. Now if you are running side by side with a defender who is bumping you, of course you will not be going full speed, but usually this scenario only lasts for a few seconds as either one will use their slight speed difference to quickly pull away or lose the ball. In 'FIFA 14,' a defender can ride your shoulder all the way down the field without putting in a tackle, which happened all too frequently during normal play.
Further tweaking the physics engine, 'FIFA 14' makes all momentum changes feel like you're trying to do a three point turn with a Winnebago. You're never quite sure when you've come to a full stop, and when you do, you'll take forever to start moving again.
On the plus side, 'FIFA 14' offers a variety of modes, so much so, that if desired, you’ll never have to actually 'play' the game. That said, these secondary modes are often quite enjoyable. Ultimate team is once again back and completely overhauled this year, introducing an expanded roster and increased options in card trading and team tactics. Career mode offers the couch manager in all of us, control of our favorite clubs with the aspiration to guide them to victory. The mode is basically a watered-down version of EA’s FIFA Manager, but it is a nice diversion and can give players new to the management simulation genre a good taste of what’s to come.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
'FIFA' has always come out on top in the graphics department when compared to Pro Evo Soccer but this is the year that has changed. With 'PES' sporting the new FOX Engine, 'FIFA's lack of improvement really stands out in comparison. The graphics are basically the same as last year's, and the textures and skins, while upgraded to include all the teams new kits, sport the same glossy overexposed sheen that plagues EA games. The animations and player collisions remain good with occasional quirks; however, the change in overall player weight and agility really hampers what could have been a much smoother experience.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
An entirely new soundtrack was developed for this year's edition and just like last year, it provides a satisfying blend of pop, rock, and rap drawn from artists around the world. The commentary team is as astute as they've ever been. Improving from last year, Martin Tyler and Alan Smith add even more to their repertoire with player, team, and situational specific comments for both the pregame and in-game dialogue. This is the level that I've come to expect from sports game commentary, and I expect every EA title to match or exceed them in the future.
Depending on how much you enjoy the new gameplay changes, the replay value could range from never to months in the future. Ultimate team and Career mode offer satisfying distractions, and the My Online Club feature allows you to see how your team is doing in real life and can even incorporate their running real-life performance into your players' ratings. Online games are mostly lag free, that is, if you can find an opponent located close to you, which should not be a problem as 'FIFA' is played in nearly every corner of the globe.
'FIFA 14' seems primarily to be a stopgap between this generation's hardware limitations and next generation's promise. With 'FIFA 14' slated as a launch title for both new consoles in November, it will be interesting to see the differences between the two games. If you’re thinking of buying either the Xbox One or the PS4, I would strongly suggest holding off on the current generation versions and instead wait for the new consoles. Something tells me that is where the money is.
- Dolby Digital
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