September 24, 2013
As far as years go in the football world, 2013 has seen some of the craziest events unfold, whether you’re talking about Suarez biting Ivanovic, Gareth Bale beating the world record transfer or even Liverpool spending more than one game at the top of the league (I’m a Liverpool fan, I’m allowed to poke fun at that!), it’s been a while since we’ve last seen a year like this. That craziness however doesn’t seem to have transferred into EA Canada’s latest – and current-gen – version of FIFA. In fact, on the vanguard of the next-generation, the current-gen of FIFA 14 looks to be a stop-gap for the franchise, more so than ever before.
It’s easy for fans and gamers to say that year in, year out, nothing changes in FIFA, as for the most part, things don’t actually change all that much – if it ain't broke, don’t fix it, and all that. However, the current-gen version of FIFA 14 is the best example of that yet. The improvements in the gameplay come down to subtle changes and it’s only when you play this version and the next-gen version, that you really see which one is the priority.
Don’t get me wrong, the current-gen version’s minute-to-minute gameplay definitely seems to have improved over FIFA 13, but it’s subtle changes that make up the improvements. Players can now protect the ball, the skill moves no longer require holding down the left trigger modifier, first touch seems to be more important and thus, an emphasis has been placed on improving that, and also, it definitely seems easier to defend with it increasingly easier to dispossess someone.
On a more granular level, players make smarter runs, meaning you can play like Arsenal if you so wish; Soccer Saturday’s Jeff Stelling comes in as the pre-match commentator, introducing the match and what not; and probably thanks to the next-gen version’s emphasis on ‘living worlds,’ the atmosphere in stadiums is definitely more intense, with crowds chanting less generic chants and reacting more appropriately to the play on the pitch. Heck, Liverpool’s crowd even sings You’ll Never Walk Alone! They’re really impressive touches, they really are.
So that’s the minute-to-minute gameplay, elsewhere it’s business as usual. As you’d expect, it’s a FIFA game with all the usual guff, from a fully fleshed out career mode, Be A Pro and Ultimate Team, to Seasons, Online Friendlies and Pro Clubs.
From an achievement perspective, things actually seem to have improved on this front somewhat. Granted, it’s tricky to create an achievement list every year for a game where the rules don’t change, so the scope of things remain the same and the modes largely remain untouched. But FIFA 14’s list seems to be fresher than years gone by. You’ve got your usual goal scoring ones, most of which are straightforward, some of which are bizarre (like scoring with a “first time Sliding Shot”… I don’t think I’ve ever scored one of those in my whole FIFA ‘career’), and a lot tied to Ultimate Team. In all, nothing too tricky, but nothing too incredibly creative either. A solid effort though.
Everything that made FIFA 14 such an exciting prospect from when it was announced to when we previewed it at various trade shows, all those improvements seems to have been held back for the next-gen version alone, partly because the new EA Sports Ignite engine was designed with next-gen in mind, we suspect. That ultimately means that FIFA 14 on current-gen consoles feels like more of a stopgap for the series, until you go out – if you go out – and pick up the version for the next generation consoles when they launch.
The current gen version of FIFA 14 then, is more of the same. A few tweaks, absolutely. A great football game, definitely, but FIFA 14 is nothing too ambitious and doesn’t really have that many noticeable changes over its predecessor.
Great selection of menu tunes as usual with solid commentary – until it repeats itself, which doesn’t take too long – and some brilliant atmospheric crowds.
It still looks the part, but at the end of a generation, it definitely seems like they’re struggling on where to go next with the current platform.
The best FIFA game to play, yes, but you’ll be hard pushed to point out what’s new and what isn’t, unless you’ve spent the last year playing it to death.
Same modes as usual. The skill challenges have definitely seen an improvement though.
Better than years gone by, but it’s clear that it’s becoming increasingly tricky to come up with innovative achievement ideas in the football genre.
There’s no doubting that FIFA 14 is an improvement over last year’s version, but that improvement is very slight and those who aren’t ardent FIFA fans would probably never notice the differences. Having already played the next-gen version – with the new Ignite engine – I’d have to say you’re probably best off waiting. That one at least feels and looks like a different game, this one does not. Still, FIFA 14 is as great as ever.