The release of a FIFA football game has been a regular part of the videogaming calendar for more than a decade now. After a brief tussle with Pro Evolution Soccer (PES), Electronic Arts’ (EA) digital version of the Beautiful Game is considered to be the best football game around for serious gamers on PCs and consoles, because of its graphics and availabilty of official teams, leagues, tournaments and players. The latest edition of the FIFA series is, however, significant, as the world is all set to move to a new era of consoles with the successors of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 set to hit the markets in the coming months.
Well, if this is the swansong of the FIFA series on the current generation of consoles, it is a very good one indeed. There is no stand-out new feature in FIFA 14. The regular goodies are all there -- you can take a team through a season by controlling players or choose to be on the tactical side of things by playing manager, you can play either against the console or real world opponents and there are several leagues and teams to choose from, with all the prominent ones being there, updated to the date of release.
So, you might ask: what on earth is new? In two words: presentation and gameplay. EA has opted to give the series a good polish rather than a radical makeover. The jumble of menus is gone. Match commentary has improved and there’s even a pre-match preview session. Stadiums and pitches have been recreated and players actually look a lot more like their physical counterparts than they did in the past with body movements and mannerisms, although goal celebrations still look out of Zombie-land.
For us, however, the killer feature of FIFA 14 is gameplay. There are no new moves to show off, but EA has taken a brave decision by deciding to take its foot off the accelerator pedal as far as action goes. The result: FIFA 14 is perhaps the most skill-oriented title of the series. You can no longer hoof the ball ahead and send your players scurrying after it.
This game is all about gradual build-ups, you can actually thread the ball through defences as your colleagues are supporting you by running even when they do not have the ball. We would not recommend too many long passes, as defences have improved too, and team are now more prone to counterattack than just sit back. Shooting is more realistic, with the ball spinning, and player skills have shot up too -- a Lionel Messi can do more on the run and can even hold off a defender with his arm.
You can also play around with teams, transfers and formations. The result is perhaps the most-rounded game that an iconic series has seen. The action seems realistic. Yes, there are some false steps -- we think the goal celebrations and endless replays can be irritating (they can be skipped) and newcomers will still feel overwhelmed by the number of options at their disposal. But at the end of the day, all we can say is that the Beautiful Game never looked this good or played on a console screen.
>> Good gameplay
>> Has an organised menu
>> Pre-match preview session is available
>> Goal celebrations and replays are irritating