Sports gamers are in an awkward position this year as the next generation of consoles looms. A fresh crop of sports titles will arrive along with Xbox One and PlayStation 4, making it difficult to invest in a few months worth of current-gen sports games. It represents a different challenge for developers like EA Canada, which has to convince gamers there is enough improvements in FIFA 14 to warrant a purchase.
There are enough enhancements in FIFA 14 to differentiate it from last year’s version of the game. EA’s latest football title continues the franchise’s consistent streak as one of the best sports titles on the market. Once again, FIFA’s competition is not other soccer games, but instead is sports gaming’s cream of the crop — Madden and NBA 2K. While FIFA 14 is certainly an improvement over FIFA 13, it is another example of how current-gen hardware has been pushed to its limits.
FIFA 14 does not differ greatly from last year’s version of the game. However, that is not necessarily a bad thing as the development team has added minor gameplay enhancements to go along with the best elements of FIFA 13. Animations and physics are more realistic than ever but poor A.I. still hampers the game at times.
Collisions factor in momentum and player weight, creating more lifelike impact. It will take even veteran FIFA players a few games to get used to the updated physics but it is an overall improvement.
Ball physics have also been improved so that the ball truly feels like a separate entity. The ball no longer magnetizes to offensive players. It can make keeping possession a chore but punishes gamers who overdribble. The new ball physics allow players with higher ratings to stand out more than average players.
Defensive A.I. has improved dramatically. Attacking the goal requires some patience and crisp passing. However, the improved A.I. ends on defense. Computer-controlled teammates on offense offer little help. They frequently get caught offsides, which also disrupts the game’s flow.
Global Transfer Network
Career mode has a completely revamped scouting system called the Global Transfer Network. Managers will be able to give scouts more precise instructions on players so that they can track down athletes based on attributes, player type or what league they play in. The new scouting system does not show a player’s overall rating, placing more importance the scouting report and how each player can fit into the team.
The Global Transfer Network is a polarizing feature that gamers will likely either love or hate. The transfer market is more like its real-life counterpart but not being able to see player ratings will anger many gamers. The extensive scouting system can turn off casual football fans, who may not know exactly what to look for on the market.
It’s not often a game’s user interface significantly affects the overall experience. However, the redesigned menu system in FIFA 14 makes the game more enjoyable. Players can easily navigate through the clean menu system. The dynamic interface will display bits of info from recently played games. For example, your record in career mode will pop up right on the home screen if you’ve been playing the mode. Gamers can jump right into their saved mode through the enhanced menu without any extra steps. It is so simple and easy to use, it’s a wonder why it was not developed in the past.
The FIFA franchise has consistently had top-notch commentary for several years and this year is no different. Commentators will bring up real-world drama relevant to each match. In addition, the two-man commentary team is joined by a third member who serves as a man in the studio. In theory, this is a welcome addition but it fails in execution. The in-studio commentator rarely ads value to the presentation. He is merely there to introduce the traditional duo and throw it back to the pair after halftime.
Sound is as brilliant as ever and crowds feel more in tune with each match. Player visuals are on par with last year’s version of the game, which could lead some gamers to believe it is a reskinned FIFA 13. However, there are tons of new animations that make players movements more smooth and precise. Despite this, it appears EA Sports has extended the graphical capabilities of Xbox 360 to the max.
FIFA has consistently been the pinnacle of sports gaming. EA Sports continuously adds features and enhancements that improve upon a tried-and-true formula. FIFA 14 is the most recent addition to the storied franchise. However, it is also an example of the limitations of current-gen consoles. Complaints regarding poor A.I. are raised each season and the game’s graphics have little room to improve on current hardware. There is no doubting the greatness of FIFA 14 but early adopters of next-gen consoles are better off waiting for the Ignite engine-powered version of the game.