FIFA 14 Reviewed: It’s What’s Under The Hood That Counts
If you live in North America, FIFA 14 is available in stores and online today (and later this week in Europe). Not surprisingly, many soccer fans are excited about what may be the final iteration in this current generation’s version before the Next Gen consoles monopolize the industry.
I won’t re-hash everything that I said about the demo. Everything holds up in the final release of FIFA 14. To be fair, your miles will vary greatly depending on if you liked the last two iterations or if you are looking for a completely new take on the game. If you want something new, either try PES 2014 or wait for the next-gen consoles and take your chances. Otherwise FIFA 14 is still a solid game.
What makes FIFA 14 a solid and better game this year is what’s under the hood — particularly in Career Mode where I spend a lot of my time playing. Most of my friends who I talked to this weekend about the game either play online or in Career mode and they were excited about the small changes:
Stat tweaking is more realistic
One of the best aspects of playing FIFA 14 is watching your players’ form improve or worsen as the season progresses. We saw this last year with the Career Mode for your created player but now this transfers over to the entire gaming world. If your left back’s stats at the beginning of the season equaled a 79 and he gets a few good games under his belt, it’s possible to look and see that he has a 79+2 as his overall stat. In other words, when you pick your Starting XI, you aren’t just picking players because their permanent overall stats are good; you now have to look into how they play from game to game.
Infinity Engine definitely creates a challenge
I went into great detail about the Infinity Engine in my review of the FIFA 14 Demo, but — just like how the stats change game-by-game — the gameplay adjusts too. I have had games that should have been cakewalks that turned into slugfests and games that should have been easy turn to my favor.
You really have to plan your runs down the field well. The AI can and will adjust to your playing tendencies, and you must do so as well. In one game I played against Southampton, I got so lazy that in the dying moments they turned a 1-0 into a 1-1 draw because my defense kept letting them play deep inside the penalty box. And while I had no problems with making good saves, an errant header in the dying moments sunk me. You have to be on your toes at all times and learn to re-adjust when the opposition gets hungry for goals late in the game.
Pay attention to the players you pick. And likewise, scout your opposition. Speaking of scouting…
Scouting Network is hit or miss
I am starting to lean a little more into the ‘miss’ side with this feature. EA wanted to implement some of the FIFA Manager aspects into the manager mode with this tool. In essence, instead of you doing the scouting and finding the players you want, you send scouts to find players. That means you can’t just dip into the pool of players and pick the precise player you want. You have to review them because all of their stats won’t be readily available.
While that part is great, it’s the fine-tuning that you have to do with your scouts that sometimes gets tedious. And also the message box tends to get full pretty quickly. It’s a good feature for those to want a feel for what it means to have some drama of getting a player, but this could have been a bit more thought out.
Transfer market is more realistic
The transfer market in FIFA 14 is more active than in previous versions, with teams trying to pry away your top talents. But at least they offer realistic bids in FIFA 14. And some you almost can’t refuse. Better still, there are a lot of transfers that fall through. I saw one player get transferred only to have it fall through because he and the team could not agree on a contract. I saw another player who was in negotiations with one team nearly finalize until I swooped in and outbid them for their services. Just like in real life, FIFA 14 is getting a little more cutthroat in that department.
The news blurbs that pop up during the course of a season tend to have actions that you must attend to. While playing the game, there was a rumor that one of my players was unhappy and unsettled, which led him to come to me tell me that the rumors were not true. I only wish that like the Football Manager series, you could have more interaction with that player. As a matter of fact there is a lot more player interaction this time around. Players all now have something to say – especially those who don’t get enough playing time, or are played out of position.
Commentary is more dynamic and fluid
The last time I heard sports commentary as good as this in a video game was when I played NBA2K. The commentary in FIFA 14 still needs work. But for once, they are on the path to getting it right.
Martin Tyler and Alan Smith are much more chatty in this edition of FIFA, with a lot more historical facts and player anecdotes thrown in, but what has really changed is what happens during the course of a season. They will talk about a team’s or a player’s form over a series of games as well as discussing significant wins or losses. This makes the game more meaningful.
While I’m still getting into FIFA 14, I’ll be curious to see how Tyler and Smith commentate about a team when you’re facing them for the second time, and whether it’ll reference events or the scoreline from the first match.
Another plus about the improved commentary is that the commentary doesn’t seem to be on autopilot. For example, if Tyler breaks away to give you the result of another game and as you hear it, in your game a significant play happens, Tyler will cut into that break away to come back to your game and then once things settle down, will also apologize for the breakaway and give you the update himself! It’s a very nice touch and adds realism to the game.
I still haven’t gotten into FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) but from my experience with it thus far, EA has transferred my points from last year’s FUT over to this year’s game so you won’t have to start completely from the beginning.
FIFA 14 may not be going out of the current console cycle with a huge bang that some had hoped for, but it’s still a bang nonetheless as the cumulative small features makes this experience a more impactful one and the game does ‘grow’ with your style of play over time. If you can’t wait for the Next Gen console version of FIFA 14 that will be coming out in November, this is worth buying.
PS — Watch for a World Soccer Talk league on FIFA 14 coming soon. In the meantime, you can reach me on Twitter at @dreddeddeuce
Order your copy of FIFA 14 today via:
FIFA 14 is now available in the United States, and will be available on September 27 in the United Kingdom.
Editor’s note: Be sure to listen to our brand-new podcast show entitled Press ‘A’ To Shoot, which is a new soccer show dedicated to FIFA, PES, FPL and Football Manager.