|System: Xbox 360, PS3*, PC|
|Dev: EA Sports|
|Pub: Electronic Arts|
|Release: September 24, 2013|
|Players: 1 (2+ Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Joshua Bruce
So, let’s just get this out of the way up front–I am not a diehard FIFA fan. Hell, I’m not even a soccer fan. In this review, I’m not going to compare previous installations in the franchise and tear apart the feature set by dissecting it into little bite-sized bits for easy digestion. All I can do is tell you about my experience with the game, and that’s exactly what I intend to do.
That being said, FIFA 14’s ability to keep me engaged and playing match after match is commendable. Once the obligatory Origin account confirmation and Email contact info were out of the way, I was able to find my way into a match almost instantly. The game even set my difficulty for me based on the fact that I had never played a FIFA game on my current console, an added bonus that I was eternally grateful for because it was a difficulty level that I was comfortable with from the beginning.
Before beginning my first game, a skill challenge was presented that gave me a little insight into the shooting system. This was invaluable during my playtime and gave me a sense of preparedness for my upcoming match. These varied skill challenges pop up before every game in exhibition and give you the opportunity to earn badges for your efforts. However, they are not required, so if you feel like jumping right into the action, a simple press of the start button will speed you on your way.
When my game began, I noticed the simplicity of the control scheme immediately. While there are much more complex control schemes available for the more hardcore fans of the game, the classic controls fit me just fine. The player movement and ball handling were just part of the character motions, so directional movements to throw off defenders and to create windows for attack were fairly easy to pick up on. The push-and-pull, almost non-stop struggle for the ball was always present between my foes and I, which made for games that passed much more quickly than I would have anticipated. And of course, slide tackling an offensive player was always wholly gratifying, especially when it resulted in an interception for my team.
However, scoring did take me a little time to perfect. I found out almost immediately that charging headlong toward the goal on the attack wasn’t exactly the most efficient way to score, though it did work on occasion. I quickly realized that cross-passing to a teammate in the center of the field for a more direct shot, header, or flip-kick was not only a much more effective way to make a goal, but was also a hell of a lot more fun than just running straight at the goal and jamming on the circle button. Over time, I became pretty adept at setting up my shots and creating the space to be able to take better ones. This made the gameplay steady and tense, and kept me engaged throughout each game, something I’ve never really been able to say about a soccer game before.
Something else that surprised me was how well matched the games always seemed to be. I never won a game by more than one goal, which is possibly a testament to my ineptitude in sports games, but it also added to the overall feel of the game. When I played soccer games previously, gameplay always felt lopsided to one team or the other, making for a blowout, with my team on the losing side more often than not. Overall, the game is paced amazingly well, and when a good shot actually occurs, it can be a pulse-pounding experience.
But there is much more to FIFA 14 than just solid, easy-to-pick-up gameplay. Entertainment value is there to be had at all levels, especially if you are sitting next to a friend who wants nothing more than to kick a blazing shot down your goalie’s throat. However, the feature set of FIFA 14 is robust enough for any fan of the series, from professionals to lowly neophytes like myself. More seasoned fans of the series can dive into career mode, scout young players, manage teams, or even dig into Ultimate Team to “get their kicks” in FIFA. See what I did there?
Aside from the impressive gameplay of FIFA 14, another factor that must be considered is graphical quality. I am pleased to say that FIFA 14 does not disappoint in this respect. Visually, the game looks sharp and clean in all respects. Player animations are fluid and work well with one another; I didn’t see a single glitch during transitions between animations. Something else of note that is worth mentioning is how FIFA has retained its top-down sprawling view of the field over the years. Where other sports games have shifted to a more cinematic approach, which can cause gameplay issues, with FIFA you always know where you stand and how the game is progressing around you. The presentation is as expected for an EA game--ridiculously well polished. EA has become masterful at presenting their sports titles in a way that emulates a television broadcast, and FIFA 14 is no exception.