FIFA from EA Sports returns to the PS3 platform in FIFA 14, which released with some hype behind four highly touted new features to improve the overall gameplay experience. These four major new features for this year’s game are Precision Movement, Pure Shot, Protect the Ball and Teammate Intelligence. FIFA 14 also features the robust FIFA Ultimate Team and Co-Op Season modes, 31 leagues, 600+ teams, and a ton of various gameplay modes. Thanks to the sum of many improved parts and having a good game to begin with, FIFA 14 feels like a great title. If there is a downside, it’s that FIFA 14 isn’t revolutionary or incredibly innovative on the antiquated “Gen3″ console.
Precision Movement – A feature that aims to create dynamic movement from real world players. Although FIFA received a new physics engine already, this movement feature was created from a new locomotion technology to determine how players move in all areas of gameplay. Every step will matter, as all 22 players on the field (aka pitch) will cut, plant, pivot, rotate and shift their momentum with greater realism. Perhaps the biggest change will be seen in the way players either receive the ball, or work with players on give-and-go or through ball scoring attempts. The differences are subtle and experienced players will notice right away, although casual fans of FIFA may not notice much difference at all.
Pure Shot – Shooting has always been much more art than science in FIFA, and in FIFA 14 the new “Pure Shot” physics will be the single most noticeable difference to players. The behavior of the ball when a player strikes it aims to be much more realistic than ever before. There’s a combination of new physics (foot sliding, skipping, etc) for players and ball physics that change the way players will line up or time their shots. It feels more “different” than it does “improved” but after a few games, it becomes a subconscious adaptation for players.
Protect the Ball – A much needed improvement, this feature aims to recreate the ability for some teams to possess the ball better than their competition. Now, weak attempts to take the ball away won’t be rewarded, as players with possession of the ball will be able to fend of players and block them from the ball while running with it. There’s a position battle element that goes into determining who will have possession, which works well. This is another great improvement for the franchise that may not add a lot of sizzle, but adds to the overall improvement to the game.
Teammate Intelligence – Aiming to improve decision making from A.I. teammates, EA has introduced this new feature into FIFA 14. The idea is to make goal-scoring chances more exciting and flow better within the game. Attacking players should watch the backline better to avoid offsides, and checked runs will be performed to confuse defenders. Those same defenders will be making decisions on their own as well, trying to hone in on the opponent’s best player. There is also more pressure applied by defenders on attackers who slow down. It adds up to an improved A.I. for teammates, making it the best new feature the series is offering in this year’s edition.
FIFA 14 keeps the franchise right at the top in terms of pure entertainment out of the sports genre. Non-sports fans will enjoy the game, and the many different gameplay feature and 600+ teams built into the game ensure that no matter what a gamer is in the mood for, it can be done within FIFA 14, even if it’s just to run through drills to improve their skill. The improvements in shooting and in teammate intelligence will be felt heavily by hardcore FIFA fans, but the precision movement and ball protection features frankly aren’t all that noticeable when thinking about last year’s game. In terms of pure variety of gameplay options, FIFA 14 is nothing short of incredible.
In terms of on-the-pitch gameplay, FIFA 14 certainly shines. The controls are excellent, the physics are slightly improved from last year and overall it feels like a slightly better version of FIFA 13. However, that’s also the problem with the gameplay – nowhere does it feel truly innovative as it has before in years past.
FIFA 14 features impressive player models, good physics, and incredibly well rendered stadiums. Highlights from the graphics will be the players themselves, their look (very realistic), their gait, and how they look in movement on the pitch. The replays are rendered impressively, although there’s no improved textures so all the graphic improvements will be more on the physics side rather than in improved modeling, textures, and colors. Overall the graphics in FIFA 14 are very solid, but hardly different than in FIFA 13. If there are kudos to hand out for graphics, however, the team at EA Sports deserves some for the improved menus and navigation, which look great and offer a solid user interface experience.
Again, evaluating the sound, the feeling is much the same as when evaluating the graphics. There are no major improvements to the sounds of the game and the commentators sound as good as they ever had before. There is no major innovation here but there probably did not need to be, as FIFA sported perhaps the best stadium crowd noise and play-by-play than any other sports game.
FIFA 14 for PS3 may not be incredibly innovative, but there is little doubt that it is one of the best sports games available and perhaps tops out of all the “14” releases we’ve seen in 2013 on Gen3 systems. Players will see an improved product but expectations should be tempered to not expect something wholly innovative. Overall, FIFA 14 is a great game that can be enjoyed by sports and non-sports fans alike.