I have mixed feelings towards FIFA 14. I thought this years version was going to be even better than the previous, given the changes and “improvements” they have made. Not everything is bad, but for me, a lot of things are unbalanced. Pace and heading are just two examples. FIFA 13 was a generally well rounded game, and was fun to play. There’s no doubt the new gameplay does take a while to get used to, and if your the sort of player who hates losing playing Ultimate Team, I strongly suggest getting used to the gameplay before doing so. Even if you were awesome at FIFA 13 online, things are very different in this year’s game. I really want to like FIFA 14, on paper the changes sound great, but in reality they are far from it.
These issues may be down to the fact that with the launch of Next-Generation consoles just around the corner, most of EA’s resources could be poured into FIFA 14 Next-gen, with them using the new Ignite Engine. So maybe FIFA 14 on Xbox One and PS4 may be more like the game I was expecting this year. Some people love FIFA 14, I’m not saying anyone is wrong or right as to whether it is any good or not, but having invested hours upon hours into it, at times I would rather switch back to FIFA 13.
FIFA 14 is the most realistic game EA have released to date. With it being the closest it has ever been to portraying real-life football, it has with it lost some of that fun which many fans loved. Player’s touches are more realistic than ever, with even the top players failing to control balls, but on a much harsher scale than what was implemented last year. It’s clumsy, but every footballer on the planet, even Ronaldo, miss controls the balls, blasts shots over the bar and over-hits crosses and passes. I really enjoy having a more realistic experience. My issue however is that it feels that a lot of the time it is out of my hands what my players do. I have conceded some goals which were out of my control. How has my defender failed to clear the ball? The answer was he “fell over”. Got his legs tangled with each other, allowing the opposition striker an easy one-on-one. FIFA 14 is plagued with moments like this, moments which aren’t realistic in the slightest.
Playing offline, these issues aren’t so big, as your playing the computer after all and they don’t always capitalize on mistakes made by your players, rather than yourself. But it is when playing online that the issues are blown up, as 9 times out of 10 you are going to concede a goal due to it, as a human player is a harder opponent than the AI. Well most of the time anyway. I’m not being bitter because I have lost games on Ultimate Team, you have to be a good winner, as well as a good loser. But what is increasingly frustrating is when I lose due to a stupid goal caused by my defending failing to do something so simply. Oh and from my experience, the majority of goals scored and conceded are headers. They are, let’s say, just a little unbalanced.
Pace has long be a thorn in EA’s side. Most players try to obtain the quickest players to run onto through balls via outpacing the defenders. This has been toned down in FIFA 14 thankfully. However it seems that defenders are also super quick, despite their stats saying otherwise. How on earth a defender with much lower pace than Walcott can catch up with him is beyond me. The idea was right, but the implementation is anything but. I’m not suggesting that Walcott should automatically be able to burst through onto a one-on-one every single time, as there are a lot of factors – angle, defenders position, distance etc, but defenders pace needs tweaking.
Dribbling can be slow and painful, It wouldn’t be so bad if players didn’t turn like cruise liners, but they do. It has never been this important to pass and move, but it seems players are able to easily exploit defences by playing a pass and running forward by holding LB as you do so. With the pace of gaming being slowed down, that effects dribbling as well, but it feels clumsy, with the ball sometimes getting stuck behind your players foot. It adds to the realism, but takes away from the fun factor hugely. Passing and dribbling feels a bit clunky and rigid. In PES, passing felt smooth and fluent, but in FIFA, to me it doesn’t feel like that.
Having said all that and my issues with the gameplay, there are some positives. Shooting remains one of FIFA’s strong points, with EA adjusting the Finesse shot. It is now harder to score finesse shots from outside the box, one area the balance actually seems to be perfect for once. FIFA 14 is a huge learning curve, with it being way different from anything we have played before. It takes a lot of time, and skill to truly master it. But once you get the hang of it, there is real satisfaction when things go right. If you want to have to take into the account numerous factors for each attack, then you will enjoy FIFA.
It’s a very methodical game this year, and some people will hate it. For all the frustration I felt at times playing, there can be real satisfaction. I’m just not sure how much more I can take though of having Messi lose the ball constantly to your average defender, having a defender catch up with Theo Walcott more times than they should, conceding and scoring headers from virtually every corner and cross and having world class players mis-control a simple 10 yard pass countless times when not under pressure. And to top it off, I have at times experienced a small delay between pressing a button to that action being performed on the pitch, resulting in that chance to shoot or to play the through ball vanishing in the blink of an eye.
I spent the majority of my time within Career Mode and Ultimate Team. Career mode has remained pretty much the same as previous years, allowing you to either create your own professional and start your journey, or take up a career as manager. In Manager Mode, EA have added in a new feature called “Scouting Network”. This drastically changes the way transfers are handled. No longer are you able to filter potential signings via Overall Rating. Instead, you have to scout players you are interested in to find out their overall ability and their stats. While it’s a nice touch and adds to the realism, it feels rather pointless. I know who the big name players are, as they are the players I want to sign if I have the funds. If it is a player you are unfamiliar with and are signing them as they will improve your team, rather than the fact they are a household name, then the Scouting Network can be a bit tedious. It takes roughly 2 in-game weeks to scout a player to reveal some guidelines about their stats. If you want to find out more accurately how much Pace or Strength they have for example, you need to continue scouting them.
Of course, if you want to sign a player, you don’t have to scout them. In FIFA, it’s been great to be able to conduct transfers quickly and easily. You find a player who will improve your team, make an offer and hopefully sign them. It was straightforward and quick. The downside to PES is only being able to negotiate with a few players at a time, drastically slowing down the time it takes to sign players. Scouting Network feels like it is just prolonging the time it takes to buy players. If you do wish to use the Scouting Network, you can send your scouts to certain countries with instructions for the kind of player you are interested in. They should then, hopefully, come back to you with regular updates of who they have found. That’s when you then scout anyone your interested in. The problem is, sometimes your scouts don’t do their job and return empty handed. Even by scouting highly populated countries like Spain or France for example. And before you know it, the transfer window has closed. This hasn’t happened every time, but when it does, it is hugely frustrating. Overall Career Mode is solid again this year, with it being nice to be able to purchase the ability to Edit Players amongst other small details on offer.
Ultimate Team is the signature online mode of the FIFA series, and this year Ultimate Team is as good as ever. Several improvements have been made, including there now being 10 Divisions in Online and Offline seasons, providing more of a challenge to get to that coveted Division 1. For anyone unfamiliar with Ultimate Team, you get to create your own team and build a squad of superstars. You start with a team of basic players, but can sign players via the transfer market or from buying Packs. If you plan to buy FIFA points to buy packs with, be careful! EA have been incredibly sneeky with this regard.
My first piece of advice is not to buy a code for Microsoft points from any retailer to redeem them to buy points with. Even though Microsoft points have been scrapped, it is displayed that you buy FIFA points with MS. I bought 800 MS points planning on buying the 1050 FIFA points. However I found out that I couldn’t buy them, even though I had just purchased MS points. It converts those MS points to real currency, yet that real currency was different to the 800 MS points required from FIFA. Basically, I lost out. I had to buy several lower tier packages, resulting in me gaining less FIFA points. I also noticed that no matter what amount of FIFA points you plan to buy, always buy the 250 FIFA points, up to the amount you wish. This way you will get the most points for your money. It usually works out that the more you buy, the more points you will get. Not in this case. You will lose out by purchasing the higher tier packages rather than buying said amount in quantities of 250. It’s a clever piece of business from EA, but one which is disgusting.
You will be pleased to know however that you can change your players numbers this year, so no longer will every goalkeeper have the No. 2 shirt! Another welcome change is having all your contracts, fitness cards etc stack, making it super easy and quick to apply your consumables to your players.
There is no doubt FIFA 14 is still a great game. The licenses and stadiums are enough to attract all but the most hardcore PES fans. But I can’t help but feel that FIFA 14 has taken a step backwards rather than forwards. It feels to me that EA had these grand visions to make the game as realistic as possible, but by doing that they have massively reduced the fun factor which is crucial in any game. And to make it worse, trying to make the game more realistic has actually resulted in lots of things being extremely unrealistic.
FIFA 14 has moments of brilliance, only to be ruined by moments of “WTF”. There will be times when you are shouting at your TV in frustration, but equally moments when you sit back with huge satisfaction with the goal you have just scored.
On paper the ideas were great. Unfortunately not all of them have taken the series a step further. Is this the best FIFA ever? Not in it’s present state.
*Reviewed on Xbox 360