(Due to FIFA 14 featuring many similarities between both the current-gen and next-gen versions, this review contains excerpts from our FIFA 14 review for the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 version. You can find out what is new in the PS4 version of FIFA 14 near the bottom of this review.)
FIFA 14 continues to build on the highly-successful FIFA formula found in recent entries over the past few years, with just enough minor tweaks and improvements to keep the overall game still feeling fresh and new in many respects. Many of these changes have been for the better, making FIFA 14 a more challenging, realistic and rewarding soccer experience for long-time fans of the series. Don’t expect something revolutionary here, but rather a game that has been refined to near perfection.
FIFA 14 tries it’s very best to play like a true soccer simulation and it does a very good job at hitting that goal (no pun intended). One of the most noticeable differences found right away are player’s movements and gameplay style, which have been tweaked enough to add to the overall realism. Dribbling the ball is not as easy this year, as movement with the ball requires a bit more time and a more methodical approach since soccer balls will no longer stay glued to the ball handler. First Touch Control is still here for FIFA 14 and its impact is even more noticeable when controlling players of different skill levels. Superstar players, like cover athlete Lionel Messi, can easily perform more moves and get away with things when handling the ball that players of less skill would not dare attempt. FIFA 14 also features a bogged-down gameplay tempo. This slow-downed approach doesn’t just affect dribbling, but offense in general. Movement up field requires a bit more time as players do not attempt to rush downfield trying to find open gaps. Players must take their time moving around, trying to create passing lanes, fight for ball possession, and more. Since FIFA 14 tries to play like a simulation, rather than an arcade experience, the tempo and overall speed has been stalled a bit, forcing those who want to succeed to carefully pick their passes and shots, as zipping your way across and down the field will no longer work.
To couple with the slower gameplay of FIFA 14, AI improvements have been made leading to more difficult opponents to play against. Opposing AI is much rougher and has no qualms with smothering you for possession of the ball. Defensively, they easily box players into tight situations, force interceptions, attempt tackles, and can disrupt the flow of an entire offense. The AI advancements for the opposition can lead to a truly challenging game experience. AI-teammates can be just as effective on the field, but seem to also be more prone to making boneheaded plays and decisions. Tendencies to run into the middle of opposing coverage looking for a pass, offsides on numerous occasions, and watching a ball simply roll across the field without making any effort to retrieve it make up a majority of my concerns with AI-teammates, but when you take away those problems, they tend to do their job very well.
Improved physics also add to the realism found in FIFA 14. Tackling animations feel more natural, which seems to have lessened the amount of yellow cards being handed out throughout a game. Players transfer weight when attempting shots, changing direction, and fighting for possession. The size and strength of a player has a purpose, which stands out most when fighting for ball control. Ball physics have also managed to improve adding some unpredictablility every time the ball is moving. Besides no longer sticking to player’s cleats, situations like off-balance shots at the goal, and long-range passes tend to showcase the rather wild nature of the ball when in motion.
FIFA 14 features two unique career modes. One, for aspiring soccer superstars, and the other, for handling managerial club duties as a manager. The manager mode features the new scouting system titled “Global Transfer Network”. Players can manage up to six scouts, who can be sent across the globe scouting new talent for your club. The system works quite well. Specify the position, age, and contract length you are looking for in a potential scouted player. Once completed, scouts are sent to the destination of your choice to start looking for the next Messi with constant updates and reports becoming available for players to view. It is an extremely beneficial feature that adds some more depth to the managerial mode in FIFA 14.
Plenty of other game modes can be found as well. Ultimate Team Mode is back with a few tweaks, the biggest being the new Chemistry styles. Help boost team chemistry by not only matching players by club, nationalities, and league, but also focusing on loyalty, which can help improve the overall club play and abilities. There are an abundance of mini-games for players to better help perfect their overall game. This is a major bonus, as the slowed-down approach to FIFA 14 can take some practice to get used to.
EA Sports has managed to superbly nail the presentation for FIFA 14, giving gamers the same levels of excitement and anticipation when watching a televised match. Stadiums are bursting with phenomenal crowd noise. Commentary remains some of the best in sports video games today. Not only precise when calling the action, both teams of commentators sound natural delivering the action, doing a grand job of updating players on matches around the various leagues, recent news within a specific club, and plenty of past mentions regarding rivalries, debuts, and other noteworthy facts and stats.
A new and improved user interface has been implemented for a menu screen. Even though very similar to the appearance of Windows 8, the new menu interface makes breezing through various menus quick-and-easy with the new tile layout found in many recent EA Sports titles.
What to expect in the Playstation 4 version of FIFA 14?
For those who held off on FIFA 14 for current-gen, it certainly warrants purchase on next-gen consoles, but if you already own either the Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 version, there might not be enough new content to warrant shelling out another $60, or $10 if you use the upgrade plan. The core game itself remains identical to the PS3 and 360 version. All the same game modes are there to be found including Ultimate Team, Head-to-Head Seasons, as well as various career modes to choose from.
The graphics on the next-gen version of FIFA 14 are much sharper and cleaner than its current-gen counterpart. Player models are of higher resolution and look much more detailed. Stadiums are accurately portrayed with a comprehensive amount of time going into making everything look and feel alive. The jump in graphics between the PS4 and last-gen version are not as large as some other next-gen sports titles that recently launched, but the graphics have received just enough upgrades to make it a more visually-appealing FIFA title.
The footwork of players has also been improved slightly and is noticeable even from a distance. EA will likely look to continue to correct some problems with player’s movement, as well as the physics of the ball itself, with their new Ignite engine moving forward.
FIFA 14 does also make use of the PS4’s Remote Play ability with the Playstation Vita. This allows players the ability to play FIFA 14 on their PSVita all over their house with some slightly downgraded visuals. Those who use the Vita with FIFA 14 will also have to get accustomed to using the touchpad on the back.
Not much has changed drastically from FIFA 13, but the minor changes to the gameplay have proven to be beneficial to the overall package with the more realistic approach a greatly added enhancement. Animations are smoother than ever before. The FIFA presentation still stands far above the rest by giving gamers the closest experience to watching a game on TV. If you can handle the lack of major overhauls, a few AI quirks, and a more methodical approach to video game soccer, FIFA 14 is one of the finest soccer games ever assembled and certainly worth every penny. This title is a surefire goal.
(This next-gen review of FIFA 14 was completed using the Playstation 4 version.)