FIFA ‘14 does not revamp previous fundamentals, nor make the same sweeping changes as its predecessor. However, it has benefited from a series of subtle revisions that highlight and bring out the very best of the FIFA experience. At first glance, the majority of FIFA ‘14’s innovations appear superficial. Yet, EA has taken numerous steps to add a new level of realism. With each passing match, I realized that these subtle additions had a cumulative effect on how the matches played out, and consequently, how I chose to approach each game. This series of delicate shifts have a cumulative effect that improve and polish the user’s attacking game — an effect that will keep you coming back again and again until the next installment in the franchise.
Because the changes are so refined, it’s difficult to filter them all out. For starters, the animations are vastly improved. From the way the player model moves, to interacting with the ball, to interacting with each other, it’s all composed in a much more natural way. You can now recognize the way players transfer their weight, including collisions during tackles; they each seem like physical entities which in turn make the game more attractive to watch. It also allows you to decipher ones general style of play.
EA is official referring to this updated animation system as Precision Movement. This makes players much more expressive on the ball; running with the ball is much smoother, and players seem to be much more animated in-game. Additionally, players can now shield the ball using the Left Trigger, giving the user more options when attacking in tight spaces, as well as the necessary ability to turn a defender.
Shooting has seen some significant improvement as well. There are a greater variety of shots: Knuckle Balls, Swervers, and Screamers. In conjunction with improved ball physics, one can now expect to score goals that they never would have obtained in FIFA ‘13. Nevertheless, despite these added features, the game still requires the user to have absolute control over his player in order to be rewarded with a goal.
Now, the most noticeable improvement in this title is certainly the improved AI. Computer teammates currently make many more intelligent plays, including “off-the-ball runs” and even signaling for the ball accordingly. After some logging some solid hours of gameplay, I found that splitting a defense with an immaculate “through-ball” was just as exciting as scoring a goal! It also felt like my teammates were making the right plays 90% of the time, which made the end result extremely gratifying.
Improved AI movement has led to more encouraging “build-up” plays. I noticed fewer “end-to-end” displays, which ended up inducing an increased tactical element. Games can still run at a frantic tempo, but they can also slow down to the speed of a Chess match. The strategic element seems much more comfortable in this year’s build.
Those pining for an improved online experience will also be satisfied with FIFA ‘14’s variety. The game has everything: ongoing seasons, “friendlies”, “one-off” matches, skill games, and, the most crucial piece to the puzzle, “Ultimate Team.” The most evident addition to Ultimate Team is “Chemistry Styles,” in which the users possess a greater range of customization for their “squads.” With “Chemistry Styles,” EA has essentially employed skill trees that lead stat boosts for players. This produces a more sophisticated “Ultimate Team” experience, and it should undoubtedly satisfy the more hardcore users. Furthermore, EA has increased the number of competitive “Divisions” to 10 — giving users a larger mountain to scale for definitive supremacy.
In closing, FIFA ‘14 isn’t necessarily a huge stepping stone for the franchise since the game doesn’t require you to add any new skills to your locker. However, the changes implemented have made FIFA more realistic, attack-minded, and satisfying for the hardcore soccer fan. When it comes to exciting gameplay and incredible replay value, FIFA ’14 definitely executes and delivers.