FIFA 14 Xbox One Hands-on Preview - A Different League
Written Wednesday, October 23, 2013 By Lee BradleyView author's profile
EA Sports is rather proud of the next-gen version of FIFA 14. It’s the first time, they say, that a fully featured FIFA game has debuted on a new console, one that has all the modes and options of its current-gen equivalent.
Indeed, FIFA 14 on Xbox One has even more content than the Xbox 360 version, as it boasts Ultimate Team Legends, adding 43 of the best players in history to the hyper-successful mode, including former Real Madrid galactico Luis Figo, Brazilian World Cup-winner Romario and floppy haired midfielder Pavel Nedved, all of whom were announced today.
But that’s not really good enough, is it? Merely having all the modes of the current version is hardly a major selling point, and the addition of Legends is nice but not at all indicative of next-gen tech. We demand more and thankfully, that’s exactly what EA Sports is providing. More than just a reskin, or worse a straight-up port, FIFA 14 for Xbox One is a brand new game, built from the ground up with the console’s improved tech in mind.
So what is EA Sports actually doing with all that extra firepower? I’ll tell ya. Much of the Xbox One’s extra horsepower has been pumped into the artificial intelligence of the players. Everyone on the pitch now displays better awareness and positioning, as well as an improved capacity to shield the ball and anticipate challenges. You’ve heard all this stuff before, of course. EA Sports has never been shy about talking up minor improvements as earth-shaking revolutions, but the evidence is there to see.
With the AI for each player now capable of making four times as many calculations simultaneously, you’ll notice midfielders skipping over outstretched boots, strikers receiving the ball more intelligently and... a noticeable lack of plain stupidity. Chuck in the fact that multiple players can now attack the ball at the same time (on Xbox 360 the engine could only handle two at once) and all these minor changes add up.
This also extends to the animations. Current-gen versions of FIFA reached the maximum number of player movements a while back. It had topped out. Thanks to the extra space and power afforded by the next-gen, however, EA Sports was able to create an animation for every single pass and shot; from lobs, to chips, shots and through-balls, the latter of which EA Sports says is a first for the series. Put all this together and FIFA 14 for Xbox One is a much more realistic game of football.
To accompany this, the presentation takes inspiration from football coverage on TV. The default camera is lower now, designed to bring the new crowd into view a little better, showing off each individually animated fan. It also brings the camera closer to the players, giving us a slightly better look at the astounding - though still a bit waxy - models, complete with simulated cloth and grass particle effects.
One new presentational flourish that doesn’t work so well concerns the off the pitch stuff. When the ball goes out of play, rather than the action cutting and a canned animation kicking in, players run after the ball and pick it up, before taking the throw in. It all happens in one movement and is controlled by the AI, but it can be a bit clunky and unnatural. Far worse are the substitutions, which see players come running onto the pitch without the presence of refs, coaches or dugouts. It looks a bit silly.
There was also noticeable and inconsistent lag when taking penalties, which made the skill game required to slam the ball into the net almost impossible to pull off. No doubt that will be ironed out before the final release of the game, but it was annoying. As was the weird motion blur the ball was subject to during long goal kicks. Based on the code we played, there’s still a little work to be done.
Thanks to all the incremental changes afforded by next-gen tech, however, it’s already clear that FIFA 14 is a big improvement over its current-gen cousin. Slightly slower and more methodical than the current-gen version, encouraging passing and attacking rather than all-out speedy insanity, it’s a free-flowing, smooth, realistic game of football that loses none of its capacity for excitement.
Often EA Sports leaves obvious room for improvement on its titles, clear areas upon which it can build, perfect and refine with later releases. After a couple of hours with the Xbox One version, it’s not immediately apparent what improvements can be made. No doubt extended play will reveal a few more significant shortcomings, but for now you should be very excited.
FIFA 14 is an Xbox One launch title hitting on November 22nd, with free digital copies available with Day One Edition console pre-orders, while stocks last.