Just a couple of weeks after its release, here’s a review of EA’s latest offering to the football fan…
It’s the time of year again where EA Sports brings out FIFA. Football fans and gamers rush excitedly to their nearest store, pay the £40+ for the game, slot it in and then spend the next year cursing random people’s mothers, using terminology like “Jew/sweaty goal” and generally losing hours of their lives. So… time to review it then.
The first thing to really notice about this years edition is the whole new menu design. Gone is the side scrolling menu of 13 and in comes a modern panel design. It is all very nice and has clearly been put together by a graphic designer which is a bit of a problem. When said graphic designer put it together, they did not think of ease of use. It would be totally understandable to have general categories for the panels which when chosen go into a sub menu of panels. That would be easy to use. However, many of the menus have a prompt telling you to use the right analog stick to find other selections which is both stupid, unnecessary and confusing. Often you’ll find yourself in a menu for the complete opposite of what you wanted which only begins the frustration.
That’s only minor when you consider other menus in the game. The team management part of FIFA recently has been slow, laggy and slightly frustrating for a little while now but incredibly EA have made it infinitely worse. There have been times when it has looked like the game has frozen! You’ll spend most of your time selecting and deselecting the player you because it takes so long that you push the button twice before it registers the first push. And just remember this is before you get onto actually playing the game.
Gameplay wise FIFA 13 was standard fare – pace dependant and hugely frustrating. Often slower players like Andrea Pirlo or Francesco Totti were almost unusable because they just could not free of defenders. EA recognised this and, subsequently, FIFA 14 is no longer the pace dependent game its predecessor was. Players like Pirlo are able to dictate the midfield while a defender like Per Mertesacker can be used. It is a positive to shout about as you can now truly use players meaning that ratings and statistics matter. However, in their haste to cut down the pace abusing, EA has managed to make the game feel a bit off. Sprinting while dribbling is definitely not advised if you want to keep the ball, change direction or do anything useful. It feels like last years Pro Evolution Soccer – and that isn’t a compliment. Even go near the pace button and your player knocks five yards ahead of him and gets the ball stolen. Want to change direction while sprinting with the ball. Don’t be silly. It hearkens back to the old days of the eight directions. And this problem doesn’t affect just player movement.
Passing has now become very, very sloppy. Every pass seems like it’s about to be intercepted and a few of them are wayward. Worst of all, build up play is samey and predictable. Never once is there a moment where you sit and marvel at the wonderful passing move you put together. This is one area where FIFA is seriously lacking behind PES. PES 2013 had the best build up play in any football game ever. It obviously wasn’t perfect by any means (and was hampered by the fact they forgot to add shooting) but the potential for something truly revolutionary and great was there. FIFA has been stuck with the same ping pong passing and lobbed through balls for at least four editions now. EA really need to change that.
It’s not all about on the pitch. Manager Mode – a long time staple of the series – is back again but with a whole new look. Out goes the useless youth academy feature and in comes the “Global Transfer Network”. The idea is that you know nothing about any player and you have to scout them for more information (value, ratings etc.) or you can set a series of parameters and your scouts will go to whatever country you want and bring you back a number of players they think suitable. The scout reports are very vague so it obviously is completely down to your judgement at the end of the day and that is a good thing. It adds that little bit of realism where you can’t really be sure about a random player like you were before. Transfers are drawn out now which might deter the casual player but if you put in the effort then eventually you and your scouts will find a diamond in Saudi Arabia nobody knew about. That’s the real beauty of this new system and it makes it all the more satisfying when you find that gem. Add in the ability to disable the first summer transfer window for added authenticity and EA may just have something here. There are the usual career mode problems – players are very demanding and will moan about anything, the star player usually wants to leave just before the transfer window shuts etc. – but they seem very minute now.
There are some changes online too. Ultimate Team has had a little revamp of its own with gold players in starter packs, friend matches, no more specific formations for players and loyalty chemistry boosts. Most important is the introduction of chemistry styles that provide small stat boosts to specific ratings to help you out a little. There seems to be a greater flexibility and customisation about the mode this year unlike previous editions. Online seasons is back but there is now the option for 2v2 seasons as well which opens up a world of possibilities (and anger!). Despite all these additions, the EA servers are still sketchy at times which causes many issues.
There are a few other positive features. The new skill games (for the most part) are very good and challenging with defending and goalkeeping in there now. The contain button has been removed which forces players to be a bit more tactical with their defending which makes for better games. Defences actually play as a flat line rather than the jaggedy rubbish they had on previous FIFAs (they now catch players offside way more) and your goalkeeper seems a little bit less error prone. However, there are still the usual FIFA problems – the computer seems to telegraph every tackle you attempt, aerial battles can never be won by the player, “World Class” is the worst for your sanity and temper, computer goalkeepers pull of impossible saves regularly and whoever thought of the silver Advanced Dribbling skill game should be sacked immediately (hint: it involves sprinting and dribbling).
Trying to think of the best way to sum up FIFA 14 was tough. The best thing to compare it to is the annoying friend that everyone has. They annoy you and everyone else questions why you’re friends with them. Yet, you still put in the time and effort to hang out with them despite their constant annoyance of you. Don’t buy FIFA 14 if you’re expecting a revolution. It’s not that. Rather a small evolution of FIFA 13. A very small one.
Rating – 7/10
Good enough for the next year or so but EA need to pull something new out soon or the series is going to be sliding further into this rut it’s going into.