Another year, another installment of the FIFA franchise. Fortunately, unlike other yearly releases, every year EA Canada seems to find a way to make each game better than the last. FIFA 14 is no exception. Most (99% would not be an off estimate) of the legacy issues are taken care of, and the issues that are evident, I’ve only noticed them once or twice in my hours of playing. Haters of sports games will be quick to object and cut in with their complaints of “FIFA 14? Oh you mean Roster Update 14?” Enough about the game has been changed to where its easily tangible to even the most thick-headed gamer.
The first thing you notice about FIFA 14 is the streamlined control scheme. Previous iterations had complicated, multi-step inputs, all while holding down the left trigger/L2, that you had to do to make the players pull off tricks like their real-world counterparts. This year, most of the moves have been placed on the right stick, with intuitive movements leading to ankle shattering spins, fakes, and bridges. To help you master all the new movements, FIFA 14 brings back the immensely helpful practice mini-games during load screens. Not only is this an ingenious way to keep players from looking at loading screens, but it also has a ranking system built-in so you might even find yourself restarting the mini-game and ignoring the little “Press Start to Begin Game” prompt, just to get those last 100 points to rank up from silver to gold.
FIFA 14‘s presentation, as always, is somehow cleaner and shinier than last year’s version. It uses the distinctive tiles look that EA Sports has come to adopt as their default style. Somehow this flowed a lot better than it did in Madden 25 which already was a huge improvement over previous years’ releases. While some things were still hidden under a page or two of menu screens, most selections had a shortcut on the main page to save gamers some time.
An area where I spent a lot of time was in the Manager Mode. While the main goal is to play through a season and win all different cups and championships inherent in European soccer, (what’s wrong with one league and one playoff bracket and one championship???) I had most of my fun doing all the front office general manager stuff. Figuring out which positions you’re stacked at and which players you can sell for cash or loan out for experience is fascinating. I played as FC Bayern and since our gameplan centered around a lot of midfielders and only one striker, I sold our star striker and spent that money to buy a better goalie and a couple of great prospects that I loaned out to lower league clubs so they could work on their game before joining the team at the start of the next season.
Setting up scouting networks, negotiating deals with clubs then the players you’re targeting, even last minute wheeling and dealing before the transfer window closes gives you a great feel for the life of a club manager. Do you start the same eleven for an extended amount of time to get their form up higher or do you constantly rotate players in and out of your lineup to make sure no one falls out of form down the stretch? The news tab lets you know what experts around the league and even the world think of your moves. I was blasted in the press for bring Theirry Henry out of American exile for $1.5 million, then was immediately lauded as a genius when he scored 6 goals in 5 matches.
As great as EA Canada are at getting rid of bugs and features that don’t work, some slip through the cracks. The psychics engine is cleaned up to the point where you don’t see any of the ragdoll flops during gameplay that plagued the game a few years back, but I noticed it a few times during celebratory cutscenes after scoring a goal. Play in the box has gotten more grounded with players feeling much more solid than they have in the past, but this is negated by defenders not running to close gaps between them, which leaves you wide open for a shot on goal. Lob shots and passes have an insane amount of accuracy whereas in real life they are harder to predict and control. I went an entire match just chipping the ball over the goalie’s head and he never once learned from my tactic and stayed back to defend to goal instead of charging at me.
To be honest, all these negatives are minor and only really serve to take you out of the immersion that the rest of the game offers. Another year, another FIFA game. Like the phenomenal and dependable Argentinian star, Lionel Messi, who graces the cover for the 2nd year in a row, FIFA 14 is the best in the world.
[+Streamlined control scheme makes ball control a breeze] [+Immersive Manager mode] [+Practice mini-games that are almost as fun as full matches] [+Headers and play in the box in general feel more solid and grounded] [-Wonky ragdoll collisions still show up from time to time] [-I can’t set up a scouting network in Africa? Wtf?]