There’s a saying in sports, “you don’t f— with a winning streak.”
When it comes to FIFA 14, EA Sports has done no such thing. Year after year, EA takes its winning formula — amazing presentation, simple, yet immersive gameplay and attention to detail — to World Cup winning heights.
The undisputed champ of sports simulation has released its greatest version yet — fine-tuning what works from previous versions and red-carding what didn’t.
If you were looking for a way to waste huge amounts of time on your couch, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better way to do it than FIFA 14.
What makes FIFA so addicting is how much it translates the experience of watching a live soccer match into an interactive experience. Passersby may confuse the action on screen with the real thing.
From crunching slide tackles, thunderous volleys and diving saves — the action on the field is virtually identical to what you may see on TV from a rainy Saturday afternoon in London. But, this has been the case for at least the last four versions of the game.
The thing that sets FIFA 14 from the previous iterations of the series is its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it attention to detail.
The Mexican crowd that fills Estadio Azteca boos loudly every time Landon Donovan touches the ball. Anfield echoes to the strains of Reds supporters singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” after a Liverpool victory. Players jostle for position and avoid running directly into one another in very realistic fashion.
But the detail that trumps all others is the inclusion of what EA calls the Ignite Engine. This allows for the most realistic playing experience FIFA has had to date. What it does it makes the computer-controlled players react to the action as it changes on the field.
Instead of sprinting up and down the pitch constantly, your opponent reacts to what you do. If you slow the game down, the rest of the players slow down. If you sprint, so do they. If they’re behind late, they swarm and the game becomes chaotic.
This change makes the game feel much more real, both harder to score on and easier to control the pace of. Previous versions felt as though you were playing a team of 11 Peles. Now, if you need to slow the pace of a game down, you can.
Which leads me to one criticism, it is dreadfully hard to score. Again, this is more realistic, and as a soccer fan, I enjoy that this is the case. But the casual fan may be turned off of the game quickly when their match ends in a 0-0 draw.
Those who find themselves in that situation can switch to the two-button mode, which boils the game down to its essence — one button to pass, one button to shoot.
As always, the soundtrack is an eclectic mix of genres from all over the globe. Reggae, Electro, Rock, Rap and songs in between are included. The inclusion of “We Sink” by CHVRCHES, one of the world’s best up-and-coming new bands, is a particular highlight.
For the hardcore gamer, ones with a lot of time on their hands, there are other, more time-consuming game modes to explore. From the manager mode, which puts you fully in charge of a team — from signing players, talking to the media and running an international time.
Or, you can hone your game with the skill drills — mini-games that allow you practice specific actions in the game whether it be penalty shots, dribbling or passing.
Alright, enough of this writing nonsense, time to play another 90 minutes.