FIFA 14 review for Xbox 360, PS3

Platform: Xbox 360
Also On: PS3
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Sports
Medium: DVD-Rom
Players: 1-8
Online: Yes

Over the years the FIFA series has found ways to wow soccer fans with each and every release.  Every year the series becomes smarter, features graphical improvements, and plays just a bit better than the year before.  This statement holds true for FIFA 14, but due to the capabilities of current hardware you have to wonder if the developers have squeezed every bit of what they can from the Xbox 360 and PS3.  Good thing for soccer fans the next generation is just around the corner.

While the differences this year in video and audio result in little more than a few animation tweaks, new commentary, and slicker presentation, it?s the more subtle and effective differences in game play that make FIFA 14 a must buy.  While there is an emphasis on faster paced gameplay that will appease the masses, this doesn?t mean the new controls and gameplay enhancements are geared simply towards arcade style action either.  What EA has done this year is take what was best about the simulation aspects and improved the controls, along with general gameplay, to a point where even a first time player can pick up and enjoy FIFA 14 while still keeping the existing fans happy.

fifa-13_1Instead of going into the typical banter associated with yearly updates for sports titles, I?m going to base this review on what you can expect to see changed from FIFA 13, just to show how much attention gameplay has received this year.  FIFA 14 is all about the experience, the tempo of a match, and working your way down pitch to creating the perfect strike with the ultimate objective of scoring that all important goal.  Here are some brief points showing how FIFA 14 takes the best from previous entries, while adding enhanced gameplay, to make this the soccer game to own.

Starting with ?Precision Movement?, where every step counts as players can plant, pivot, cut and shift with aggressiveness, acceleration, and the feeling of real momentum in motion while you move down the pitch.

?Pure Shot? allows a player to adjust their stride and approach angle when aiming and trying to hit the back of the net. Shots on goal feel more rewarding and satisfying when you launch that perfect strike, and even more gut wrenching when you just miss your mark whether it?s over the net or just an inch off the bar.

fifa14_gen3_it_protect_the_ball_wm?Real Ball Physics? is essential to FIFA 14, and while I was disappointed that the developers saved the Ignite Engine for next gen, it is amazing just how alive the ball feels in FIFA 14 versus previous versions.

?Protect the Ball? allows for greater control when fending off or blocking defenders, even while dribbling at full speed.  Now you dictate the pace through the midfield as you out muscle opponents for position before receiving the ball, then turn defenders to carve out your opportunities.

?Team Intelligence? is the term used to describe better decision making, smarter marking, and improved run tracking for the entire team.  Defenders will now recognize opportunities to provide stronger support and win back possession.  Even the attacking players will have new ways to outsmart opponents and break down defenses more than before, while creating space for themselves to make their way up the pitch and find the best position for that perfect strike.

fifa14_gen3_de_protect_the_ball_prt2_wmOther aspects such as ?Sprint Dribble Turns? and ?Variable Dribble Touches? provide players with greater touch and pacing while building superior strategies to gain position using natural momentum to keep possession of the ball.  All of these aspects break down to a smarter, more realistic, and better experience than offered in the past.  While some of the controls have been simplified, I feel that the gameplay aspects have been honed to fit everyone. It?s not very complicated to learn, while not taking away from that FIFA authenticity.

FIFA Ultimate Team returns, and for those looking to play right away, but also looking forward to next-gen, will be pleased to know that your progress, rosters, in-game currency, items,  club level, XP, season progress, trophy case, leaderboards, accomplishments and career mode rewards will all carry over to the new consoles.

fifa14_gen3_it_pure_shot_wmAs for other gameplay modes fans can expect to fill their days and nights with activities that include Skill Games, Co Op Season mode, Match Day Online (real time suspensions, injuries, rosters), and Career Mode (now more refined and easier to navigate).  While there are no ?new? modes to speak of, there have been a number of subtle tweaks that will make playing these modes feel fresh, new, and engaging.

FIFA 14 may seem like the same old song and dance on the surface, but once you get into the game you?ll appreciate what the developer has done to enhance the overall quality, even if the glitz and glamour suffers a bit by not advancing along the same path as the improved controls.  FIFA 14 isn?t going to blow fans away with new and innovative modes and visuals, but what you do get is a solid experience that now, thanks to a simplified control scheme, makes the game more exciting to play while remaining true to the realism that has made this series a fan favorite for the last 10 years.

Grade: A-