Continuing their sports domination, EA has just released FIFA 14, the latest in their long-running soccer franchise. Long-time fans of the series may be wondering whether there is enough new content to make this a worthwhile purchase, or if they should just hold out for the next generation consoles. Those who are having a tough time deciding should note that EA's new Ignite engine, which includes “Human Intelligence” AI and several other changes, is exclusive to the PS4 and Xbox One release. With that said, the version found on current gen consoles has a few noticeable differences from last year's game.
For starters, those looking for that one major innovation that will drop jaws and force sports fanatics to pick up a copy, won't find it here. Now, that isn't to say that this installment is devoid of new content. There are plenty of tweaks and changes that, while they may not immediately grab the player's attention, make a world of difference. For starters, players now have real control over the ball. That may seem like an obvious note, but it's one of the major improvements in this title. No longer is the ball glued to the player, allowing for more realistic maneuvering. This increased control offers many new ways to dodge and twist around opponents, but it also adds a bit of difficulty as well.
This is something that we could mention a lot while reviewing FIFA 14. With the increased realism comes an increase in difficulty. For example, it's easy for the ball to drift away from a careless player who may be used to the physics present in previous installments. Controlling a character may also take some getting used to, as there's an increased sense of momentum and kinetic energy. Characters now have to take time to properly shift their weight around. In the end, while this makes for a more realistic game, it doesn't necessarily make for a more enjoyable one. Those who are used to the ball physics and character movements of previous games should definitely take some time to practice before throwing themselves head first into the new season.
FIFA 14 sports some refined AI as well, which acts as an interesting tease for EA's next generation releases. No longer will players be able to run up the middle of the field with ease, as seen last year. The opponents this year have stronger lines of defense to break through and their offense can be relentless. The new AI can and will box the player into a corner, making for an aggressive game. This is also where the revamped physics come into play. Mastering the improved ball control and maneuvers should be top priority. As it takes longer for players to shift their weight around and change direction, players may find themselves having to focus more on defense than they may have previously. It helps that the boost in artificial intelligence has affected the players own team as well. Teammates line themselves up according to the player's actions, and were usually exactly where we wanted them to be. Manually switching through players was also an easy task, allowing for more precision when making up new strategies on the fly.
As for the other features, players can look forward to much of the same. Gamers can still play through seasons, pick a country and team (with a few new South American additions), and customize their character. There's also head to head, ultimate team, online play, and a variety of other modes that FIFA fans have come to expect. The menu system has also been modeled after the Xbox dashboard, which is a nice, clean way of keeping things organized. Really, players should keep in mind that the major draw of this game is its tweaked features. Whether or not that's worth the purchase is debatable.
On the visual side of things, FIFA 14's graphics were serviceable, though they left us eager to see what the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions would offer. Those who choose to wait can look forward to more dynamic crowds and weather systems.
The fact is, FIFA 14 takes several large steps towards full realism. However, this may be what puts many fans of the franchise off from purchasing this latest installment. This is a title that many fans may want to demo or rent in order to check out its new feel. The console version of FIFA 14 was released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on September 24th, with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions set to launch alongside their respective consoles.