Amongst the many titles in the Xbox One’s launch lineup was FIFA 14, the latest entry in EA Sports acclaimed soccer/football series. Xbox or not, all platforms should be proud to boast this title in their libraries, as it is an incredible simulator.
EA Sports really outdid themselves with this entry, as it improves on just about every element of its predecessors. At the forefront of the game’s improvements is the new physics engine named EA Sports Ignite. In a game that is all about running and moving, having a good physics engine is paramount. Indeed, Ignite provides the game with astounding displays of dynamic movement. Running looks and feels incredibly lifelike: you push off slowly and progressively gain momentum.
As you move along, your movements feel heavier as all your weight is shifting into the speed of your run, ultimately upping the potential for clumsiness, just as you might expect were you running faster yourself. Pivoting across the field and changing directions is similarly more realistic, cutting your speed and making your player stumble a little as he balances his speed and weight in shifting directions. Defending your ball is now a wonderfully realized system. You can now more accurately block defending players as you dribble your ball across the field and keep them from sweeping the ball from right under your feet.
Likewise, kicking the ball in a variety of methods feels incredibly believable, and the sheer types of possible passes have increased that now include slices and lobs, among others. As expected, you can add more or less oomph into your kick, and watch the ball glide or lob accordingly. And with the increased range of motion granted by the new physics engine, kicking the ball becomes even more lifelike, as your ball’s direction can change with precision according to the angle of the analog stick. This allows for an outlining of a more precise trajectory as it relates to force and the distance from the target.
Unfortunately, one area of FIFA 14 that doesn’t seem to have been fine tuned is passing to another player. Directing a pass never seemed to be as accurate as kicking the ball in general, so my ball would sometimes be picked off by an opposing player or end up being passed to a player otherwise not targeted. Passing is a very important part of soccer, so I would have hoped that this area been more optimized.
Another very welcome improvement comes in the form of an improved AI. Here, computers play just as efficiently as you’d want a real player to. When on the offense, your teammates will run into more open plots of field and make themselves open for a pass. Similarly, they will make efforts to guard against opposing players who threaten to steal the ball from you. When on defense, teammates will rush in on opposing players and cut their passes off, or eliminate possibilities of receiving a pass. When approaching a player with the ball, they will attempt to intercept the ball. One surprising element of the AI I was very happy with was that computers will make sure to avoid downed players or hop over them so as to not trip over them themselves or to lose momentum with a speed bump in the way. An improved AI makes for a more challenging and enjoyable experience, as playing against a bunch of dimwits usually isn’t very fun.
While gameplay mechanics and physics are clearly at the forefront of the game’s great quality, there are host of other lesser qualities that certainly add to the game’s value. Among these include a fun soundtrack and an incredibly extensive character customization feature. Indeed, the options for customizing your character are so profound that I can’t imagine two players ever creating identical players. Here, players have the option of not only manipulating all the aspects of a player’s physical appearance, but they can also vary individual skills and propensities, allowing you to make a character who is more offensive or more skilled at various other aspects.
One last touch of praise for this game is the sheer amount of modes to try. Aside from the expected multiplayer options is FIFA Ultimate Team, which allows players to create their own fantasy team and synergize it according to various degrees of “Chemistry Styles”, which are essentially measures of how well one player pairs up with another and can influence the degree to which an individual character’s skill may be affected by the skill of another. A fun, mini-game diversion from standard play can be found in Skill Games, which doubles as something of a practice mode where players can practice certain skills and attempt to break their own records or the records of friends. Tried and true as always, there is also the career mode, where you can play from either a player perspective or a managerial perspective through a season.
The game does have a few flaws, however. I’m not a complete newbie, but I wouldn’t call myself fully familiar with the games either. As such, I tried looking for a tutorial mode to refresh myself and learn some new tricks added to the game, and unfortunately I was unable to find one. Unless I am just illiterate and can’t read, the closest thing I could find to a tutorial was the Skill Games section. While helpful, a dedicated tutorial would have helped in piecing various techniques learned together rather than learning them in isolated skill games that don’t relate much to one another. Unfortunately, this lack of a dedicated tutorial makes the game a bit less accessible to newcomers.
Lastly, I was a little disappointed in the game’s graphics. Particularly on next-gen consoles, I would have hoped and expected something more impressive. This especially considering that there is greater technical prowess for developers to show off. Coming from a game where you’re in a perpetually zoomed-out frame, the graphics can come across as cheap and unpolished. Regrettably, this game’s graphics engine is beginning to show its age.
Its few flaws aside, FIFA 14 is a great game and an even better soccer simulator. The improved EA Sports Ignite physics engine makes a world of difference, and allows for a very realistic and enjoyable experience that all types of gamers can find some enjoyment in.
[+Fantastic physics engine][+Improved AI][+Plenty of game modes][+Extensive character customization][-Awkward passing][-A bit difficult to learn how to play][-Dated graphics]