There’s a change of pace about FIFA 14 that can be a little jarring at first. Those long-used, run-and-gun attacks up the centre of the pitch so beloved by FIFA players are met here with a steely wall of defence and a disheartening counterattack.
This is a slower, more considered take on football that rewards careful build-up of play and thoughtful strategy over brash tactics, and the game is all the better for it. A slew of clever changes to the physics -some visible in the eerily realistic-looking animation and some working their magic behind the scenes – and clever control changes set this year’s game apart from its predecessors. And in typical FIFA style, it’s all wrapped up in some wonderfully compelling game modes and the glossiest of presentations.
This doesn’t mean you can carve a maze-like path around the pitch without consequences though. For every twist and turn you make, your players visibly shift their weight around and throw their arms out to keep balance. Overdo it, and the ball, which is no longer magically glued to a player’s feet, drifts wide or too far out in front, giving defenders the perfect opportunity to swoop in and steal it.
Naturally, some players are better at keeping control of the ball than others, depending on their stats. Figuring out who’s the best man for the job and doling out the right strategy to the players is all part of the fun, and it’s made easy thanks to a comprehensive and easy-to-use set of management tools that you can dive into before and during matches.
The best players are better equipped to perform showboating skill moves too, which are easier to pull off since you no longer have to hold down a modifier button. With just a few waggles of the right stick, you can indulge in all manner of body feints, stepovers, and sideways rolls, which – when combined with the looser dribbling and slick animation – look spectacular.
The ability to actively shield the ball helps things along, giving you a little more time to plan an attack and giving your player those crucial seconds needed to line up a shot. It works well offensively too; some well-timed shielding lets you throw your player’s weight around and turn on sixpence, and allows you to force defenders away from the ball.
Fun skill minigames, swift loading times, and some excellent commentary (complete with rambling pre-match banter) put the finishing touches on what is a fantastic football experience. And, like previous FIFA games, FIFA 14 is beautifully presented. Animations are smooth, and famous players, kits, and stadiums are faithfully re-created with great attention to detail.
Fifa, like Call of Duty, is a title that simply sells. While this year’s Pro Evolution Soccer has provided the more technical game with its emphasis on ball physics and fine control, Fifa has the branding and legacy to attract players without even trying. Thankfully, it has made the effort, and Fifa 14 is a fine, if predictable result.
Image: gamesweasel via flickr.com