2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Hands-On Preview - “The Most Accessible Game We’ve Ever Made”
Written Tuesday, March 04, 2014 By Lee BradleyView author's profile
It’s a World Cup year! To many of us that means stocking up on booze and crisps, negotiating remote control rights with the family and trying to get excited about Ecuador v Honduras. For EA Sports, however, it means one thing. It’s new FIFA World Cup time. We headed down to EA’s UK headquarters in Guildford to get some hands-on time and chat with Line Producer Matthew Prior.
2014 FIFA World Cup is loaded with more content than one of Harry Redknapp’s brown envelopes. There’s loads of modes, 203 licensed nations, 7,469 players and 21 stadiums, including all 12 World Cup venues. Remember how EUFA Euro 2012 had load of unlicensed teams? There’s none of that in 2014 FIFA World Cup. It’s proper players and teams all the way.
Unlike EUFA Euro 2012, it’s also a full, standalone release and not an add-on. The reason for this? New players. According to Prior, around 50 per cent of the people that buy the tournament editions of FIFA have never touched the series before. EA Sports wants to open the doors to as many players as possible, so you’ll be able to get this one on a disc, in a shop.
It’s also the reason that 2014 FIFA World Cup is coming to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 only, and not Xbox One and PS4. Prior says the team working on the game just didn’t have the resources to develop for all four platforms at once. So, given the desire to reach as many players as possible, Xbox 360 and PS3 were the obvious choice.
This desire to reach new audiences has lead to other changes too. For the first time, 2014 FIFA World Cup has a Beginner difficulty.
“One of the things that we wanna make sure we do, is make this the most accessible game we’ve ever made, because the World Cup is the most accessible football tournament,” explains Prior. “So Beginner, it’s very entry-level. It’s literally for those people that have never played FIFA before. We wanted to be able to give it to a six year-old kid and they should be able to pick it up and have a positive experience.”
That’s great for your little brother then, but what about us lot, the hardcore fans? Well, Prior says that 2014 FIFA World Cup is the most feature-rich tournament game the company has ever produced.
“We’ve got a lot of modes,” he says, “both online and offline as they’re both equally important. So from an offline perspective we’ve obviously got the World Cup finals, the ability to jump straight into the bit that takes place in Brazil. Further to that we’ve got Road to the FIFA World Cup, which is the qualification to get to Brazil. This is like six different modes in itself because of the different qualification processes of each of the confederations.
“We’ve then got Captain Your Country, which is the mode that’s unique to the World Cup game. It allows you to take control of a player, build him up through training, get noticed in the eyes of the manager and the ultimate goal, to lift the World Cup as captain. That mode really comes into its own if you play with three friends locally, because you’re on the same team but competing for the captaincy.”
“In addition to that we’ve got Story of Qualifying. That’s the mode that replicates the scenarios that happened in the qualification process. So for example, France v Ukraine and that amazing comeback in Paris. There’s scenarios for all the teams around the world, so it’s a big mode."
“We’ve also got Skill Games in there and for online modes we’ve got Online Friendlies, which was brought back in response to community feedback. That’s the ability to hook up with a friend, play five games and whoever wins, wins the trophy. A lot of people were asking for that.
“We’ve got the Online World Cup too, which lets you play groups through finals with any team in the world against online users. What we’ve done this time, because it’s hard to win seven games in a row online, is to set interim goals. You’ll see the current average of the community, your own personal best finish and your friend’s best finishes too. There’s all these interim goals.”
“And then there’s Road to Rio, the Seasons-based mode, which takes place through all the official stadiums, the idea being that you work your way along to Rio. Each stadium represents a different division. You have to get out of that division by earning an amount of points. That’s a much more forgiving space than Online World Cup, because you can lose a bunch but still progress. And that again is against online users.
“Then, finally, there’s Story of Finals, which is similar to Story of Qualifying. It will go live when the tournament kicks off. So once you watch England v Italy, about an hour after the match you’ll be able to go into the game and relive that through a scenario, like if Rooney scores a hat-trick in the last ten minutes. We can but dream.”
FIFA Ultimate Team doesn’t feature, for a couple of reasons. In addition to being a poor fit for the nature of the World Cup, Pryor also says that it’s so big that including it would have lead to two or three other modes being cut. EA Sports decided to go without it.
2014 FIFA World Cup has had some changes on the pitch too. You can issue set-piece orders now, calling for team-mates to attack the near post, crowd the goalkeeper on corners and the like. Defenders can now jump over attacking players to head the ball away too and a set of new dribbles, flicks and outside of the boot curling passes have been introduced. It’s an adjustment rather than an overhaul however, aided by the addition of around one hundred new animations.
“It should hopefully feel quite different,” says Prior. “We also monitor the feedback on the FIFA forums, so some people felt that FIFA 14 was a little bit laggy, not super responsive. So we’ve tightened up the response with a feature called Explosive Player movement. Players will accelerate faster, decelerate faster, turn quicker.
“We’ve also got pin-point passing, which allows users to get the ball to their team mates quicker and reduced the trapping error in FIFA 14, which kind of occasionally created a bounce back-and-forth of possession in the centre. It does feel like a different experience to FIFA 14. That was key for us.”
Off the pitch and EA Sports has tried to communicate some of the flavour of the World Cup too, showing the exteriors of the stadiums and regularly cutting away to celebrating fans in the stadium and in Fan Zones. Even the managers get a look-in. They’re properly modelled and licensed, which adds a nice level of detail. FIFA president and hot pant enthusiast Sepp Blatter also features though, so you win some you lose some.
Talk radio is included too, to surprisingly good effect. So instead of the soundtrack you can listen to Michael Davies and Roger Bennett of the Men in Blazers podcast, or tune into the more laddish banter of BT Sport’s Ian Darke and TalkSport’s Andy Goldstein. I listened to about 20 minutes of the Men in Blazers and they’re great! EA Sports promises around 50 hours of chat in total.
Overall then, there’s plenty of stuff going on in 2014 FIFA World Cup. It may not offer a revolution in gameplay, but it’s stuffed with features and flavour. If you’re a long-time FIFA player who isn’t that fussed about reliving the World Cup, then it’s a hard game to recommend. But if you’re after a way into the series or just love the globe’s biggest celebration of football, then 2014 FIFA World Cup should have you covered.
EA Sports 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil will be launching for Xbox 360 and PS3 on April 15th in North America and on April 17th in Europe.