- Developer - EA Canada
- Publisher - EA
- Formats - Xbox 360 [tested], PlayStation 3, Microsoft Windows
- Release date - 27 September
- Price - £39.99
This is more like it. I don't want to fuel the franchise war, but unlike Pro Evo 2014 which feels insubstantial and arcade-y, Fifa 14 is difficult. You have to strategise each play. The controls and physics have been tuned to make the game feel like real football and if you don't pay attention, the AI will run away with it like Barcelona vs Burton Albion. I appreciate that kind of complexity. Even as a football non-fan, I like Fifa 14 a lot.
But before I get into those intricacies, a few words on presentation. Fifa 14 looks great. I know it's not Konami's fault. I know it's always been that way. I know EA snapped up the official rights to everything years ago. But the fake player names and mock locales in PES detract just that eensy bit from my enjoyment. I want to pretend I'm Lionel Messi. I don't want to be Lionel Mossi.
So kudos to EA Sports for once again getting the details spot on. There are more than 15,000 players in Fifa 14 and they all look spot-on.
Right, on to the mechanics. Pro Evolution 2014 felt fast and bouncy. The ball ping-ponged off of player's feet and rather than having to fight for possession, it seemed like you could just tap tackle and win the ball every time. Fifa is harder. Words like these are game review cliches, so I apologise for using them, but it feels physical. Or, I dunno, rugged.
The real ball physics and protect-the-ball system have been reworked again, so you have to be a lot more careful with your first touch and your sprinting. Long gone are the days of holding down run and charging through defenders. In Fifa 14, you need to use every tool at your disposal.
The physics engine is punishing. Whilst dribbling, you need to continually tweak the left stick to keep the ball at your feet. If you're on the defensive, tackles need to be well-timed and performed at just the right angle, otherwise larger and faster players will just shrug them off. It's not stylised or streamlined. Like a real football player, you have to work your ass off for every goal.
Actually, that brings me to shooting, which has also been retooled. Shots on goal are now dictated by the Pure Shot system which weighs up factors like a striker's physical position, his strongest foot and so on to determine the accuracy of a shot on goal. If for example a right-footed player gets the ball passed directly to his right foot, and he's facing the goal directly, he'll be able to welly it straight in with full force and accuracy.
However, if the ball's played to his left side, and he's turned at an angle away from goal, he'll need a few seconds to adjust his stride and the accuracy and power of his kick will be negatively affected.
Pure Shot means you have to play with your whole team. You can't just wham the ball over to your striker and expect him to nail a perfect shot. You have to play intelligent and precise through balls to get him on his best foot, and position your forwards based on their attributes. If you co-ordinate an attack properly, you can almost guarantee a speedy and accurate shot on goal. But rush forward without much planning, and that short moment Rooney needs to adjust his stride will leave him open to being tackled and more likely to fluff it over the bar.
Fortunately, team intelligence has been worked on as well. So while they're off the ball, team-mates endeavour to get into the best position they can. Another qualm I have with Pro Evo is that it feels like the kind of football games I played at primary school, where everyone just chased the ball and crowded around the goal.
If you are not constantly switching between them, your team-mates just dawdle. Your passes, no matter how well you think you're placing them, end up going to no-one.
The players in Fifa are much smarter. Defenders fan out to cover the 18-yard box, midfielders move around to collect the ball and push it forwards and your strikers line themselves up with goal. It hits a good balance. You're not necessarily having to micro-manage everything on the pitch but at the same time your team feels like a well co-ordinated unit.
There's always room for improvement and spending time on the team manager screen choosing your formation, laying out your squad and so on will no doubt improve your game, but you can also play Fifa 14 on auto-mode. It's a nice all-rounder.
Other than that, there isn't a lot more to say. To use another cliché, save for a few optimisations, this is a similar game to the other Fifas. Chances are you've decided already whether you're buying it or not and are only going through reviews to see if anyone thinks this year's Pro is better than this year's Fifa. It's not. Franchise wars bore me to death, but I know what you want to know. And yes, Fifa is still better than PES.
- Gameplay: 9/10 - Complex, difficult and layered. There's a lot you need to learn before you can be excellent at Fifa, but if you want to just jump right in, you can.
- Graphics: 9/10 - Polished and colourful. I know it's been this way forever, but I appreciate the licensed shirts, the player faces, the details, all that stuff.
- Sound: 8/10 - Great attention to crowd noises. The commentary is naturalistic.
- Replay value: 8/10 - Again, like Pro, Fifa has a pre-determined lifespan of about a year. You won't get bored of it before then.
- Overall: 9/10 - A great football game. Even for a total soccer dunce like myself, Fifa 14 is a lot of fun. Complex, challenging and very pretty to look at - I like this a lot.
Want to know what our review scores mean? Have a look at how we review games.