EA have done it again. You’d have thought that with a monopoly on the market for football games, they could easily rehash last year’s successful model and stick a ‘14’ on it. But that isn’t how the guys at EA roll. So when they sent us an invite to have a look at FIFA 14, of course we took it upon ourselves to see what they’ve done to the beautiful game and needless to say the team have made considerable changes from last years effort and while our preview code was roughly 60% finished these changes were clear to both see and experience.
New Engine: The locomotion engine is now what runs FIFA 14. Allowing every step count in the chase for a ball. Players now feel grounded, with realistic momentum allowing for fluid runs and for the occasional defender to be caught wrong footed. This precision movement is now fundamental to your build up play, meaning the slightest weight shift from a player could make the difference in beating your man to a ball. Simply put, this means that there now genuinely feels like there is 360 degree of movement for your player.
Pure Shot: The shooting technique has again changed. The improved AI now means players will adjust their stride and chose what part of the foot to connect with. When combined with the new physics engine for the ball, this makes for explosive finishes. The ball now reacts to the point of impact, not only from your player but also from deflections and hitting a post or bar. Add to this other factors such as bounce and you find goalkeepers can now be caught off guard or wrong footed with swerve and as such shooting from range is now much more fun and successful. To put it in simple terms, you can now do what Ronaldo or Bale can do with the ball and not have to worry about animation delays.
Protect The Ball: Now using just the LT button you can dictate the game in a more realistic manner. Fending off and blocking attackers whilst defending feels almost as satisfactory as scoring and allows you to build up play from deep and control the midfield. From a defending point of view this is brilliant but it can also be used in the final third when you want to hold the ball up and allow players to run on. Believe me when I say how great it feels in multiplayer, when you make it to a ball and out muscle a centre back to then play a through ball into the space you have just opened up. All done in one simple movement.
Teammate Intelligence: If like me you’ve ever played a long ball to find that either your player has ran completely offside or has made the decision to allow the ball run through his legs and straight to the keeper, I have good news. The new AI now means players will react based on the situation not on a pre determined animation. On counter attacks, players now check their pace before sprinting into space. This means that they’ll connect with the ball at a controllable speed and not allow their momentum carry the ball out of play. Those through balls now need more pinpoint timing but in return can be devastating. This makes for more games played in the midfield and not just a constant amount of long balls and offsides.
Apart from those listed above, the game has some smaller in game changes that I noticed. You can now curl your through balls with added pace. This now means you can whip the ball in and bend it to your player or to available space. Second chance tackling is now a feature that’s easier to control. If you miss a tackle, the game will allow you to have a second stab at it or to combine a follow up challenge to attempt to win or clear the ball. Both of these changes may seem small but they help create a fluid game of football and an experience that mirrors the real game.
Upon booting up the preview code we are reminded that the code we are playing on is only 60% complete and the gameplay producer Kantcho Doskov admitted that the demo was a little rough around the edges. But upon pressing start at the home screen we are introduced to the new menu system. Think of the Xbox dashboard or Windows 8 and you’re in the right direction.This menu system is carried through to the in game options. Likewise there is a new set of skill games to play during loading. Allowing you to master the skills needed to succeed but also allowing you to compete against friends in the new set of mini games.
Again, the preview code only allowed us a glimpse at the bigger picture. EA have confirmed that they will go into details of Ultimate Team at a date closer to launch. It is now a driving force in the purchase of the FIFA series and it can be described as a social network for football fans. The career mode is to be given an update with features like the new global scouting network to be introduced for this season. This mode basically allows the player to get your scouting team to search for players not only based on the generic points system but on normal terms such as “pacey” or “prolific”. This can now be done season round and not just during transfer windows and also allows you the chance to buy players with the potential to become world beaters.
So there we have it. From our point of view this game basically takes everything from the award winning series and somehow raises the bar yet again. Shooting from range is now fun again and the midfield is now a viable option again too. As with all preview code there where obviously issues at times and these ranged from player collisions to bizarre decisions from referees. The new mechanics and frame rate also failed us on occasion but to be honest with it only being a 60% build they have time to iron these out before the big kick off on the 27TH of September. – GC