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Sean Pettibone


FIFA 14 screenshotFIFA 14 (Playstation 3)

FIFA 14’s seemingly incremental improvements, such as improved team A I, more realistic ball physics and shooting mechanics don’t seem that impressive in isolation. Taken together, these changes make it smoother than more fluid than previous installments. This makes the matches unfold at a much more authentic clip and makes play that much more challenging. You’ll have to work to set up plays and each goal is difficult and hard won. This makes FIFA 14 a much more challenging title this time around. You’ll also find the usual extensive single and online modes, which give the game an incredible amount of depth and challenge. While its still the polished soccer title players have come to love, its improvements make it another must-play installment.

The fist thing you’ll notice about FIFA 14’s substantially upgraded visuals, that emphasizes a substantially polished presentation. FIFA 14’s cinematics and cut scenes are more elaborate and dramatic than previous titles. Things begin with the player feeling the roar of the crowd, growing in anticipation of an epic match. This gives the game a dramatic feel that helps to capture the excitement of professional soccer, and helps to immerse you into the game almost immediately. Players will find substantial changes in a number of areas in terms of gameplay. The biggest change this year is the addition of a new ‘pure shot’ mode. Functioning as it sounds, this is a probably FIFA 14’s most-significant improvement. Giving players increased control over the direction and angle of each shot, you can now control each kick with more precision which gives your aim a much higher degree of accuracy. However, it also adds a layer of unpredictability to each shot, making it harder to simply run up to the net, aim and shoot. You have to consider height and angle much more than in previous games which can be a little bit complicated, but becomes easier as you play longer. You’ll need a lot of practice and some luck to score this time around. It can be a little bit frustrating at first, but once you get the hang of the new system, it definitely gives each match an enhanced layer of strategy that adds to its overall depth. This changes the pacing of each match effectively, allowing you to build up to the crescendo of a shot, then focus on that critical moment at the end of each attack. The ball physics have also been changed with more realistic physics and actions lending each contact a more realistic feel, making dribbling and passing more challenging.

Another impressive change this year comes in the new tackling system, which has been revised significantly. Instead of giving players only a single chance to intercept each player, you can now try again much quicker, and take a second attempt, though you need to be quick since the other player will quickly move out of danger. This can make for some surprising turn-arounds if you’re not careful on the other end, so you have to be aware on the other end of the ball as well. FIFA 14 also changes the dribbling system. Instead of expecting a perfect touch each time you’re given the ball, things are less predictable, especially with lesser players. Players can use this to their advantage when they want to take the ball from them, so you need to be more careful. On the other hand, when the ball is at the feet of an experienced player can use advanced techniques when they’re running or sprinting. They can execute faster turns and cut less predictable lines when sprinting with the ball, allowing them to surprise opponents and keep them off balance. This added flexibility definitely makes the gameplay more complex, which some players might find a bit daunting at first, but the added realism is worth the additional effort. 

FIFA 14 also includes other significant improvements. Its already solid team AI has been improved dramatically this time around. Your team-mates now anticipate where you’re headed and can move in advance to the right position which helps you as you move the ball towards the net, allowing you to set up and pass with added fluidity, making your runs more effective. Playing through each match, you’ll also be able to switch from defensive to attacking mode on the fly, changing your aggression and protection using the d-pad, which allows you to adjust your tactics instantly. This affects how aggressive your team-mates are and how often they’ll be able to assist you. When you find yourself blocked by other players, you might find a narrow path through but sometimes it’s easier to just pass the ball. This occurs frequently and knowing when to pass is an important skill. There are several types of passes you can choose with short and through passes used most frequently. You can change things up to keep opponents off guard as well. In addition, the defense mode has also undergone some significant changes. Attacking other players with tackles isn’t as simple as it was in previous games and you’ll need to use these moves quite carefully, too aggressive and you’ll earn a yellow or red card. Players are much more aggressive than in previous games and they’ll fight to keep the ball more than they used to. This makes it much harder to stop them than in previous games, though the unpredictability of the ball makes it much less likely that they’ll score a goal. Replaying matches is a good idea when you want to master an opponent’s quirks and exploit their flaws. The AI is for each team is fairly consistent between matches. Using this allows you to see how an opposing side reacts to certain situations and allows you to adjust your strategy to beat them,

In addition to FIFA 14’s multitude of new gameplay mechanics, there’s an enhanced graphics engine that offers noticeable improvements in terms of its animation and smoothness. Called the “Ignite” engine, it offers a better presentation in terms of style and camera angles. The production values seem slicker this year and the camera angles seem to be more effective. You can’t really tell from the long views, but get closer down to the field and you’ll immediately see that the players move with more natural motions than they have previously with an enhanced range of movement that gives the game a more realistic look almost immediately. The players look more fluid and natural than they have in previous installments, and the increased focus on their appearance means that the game feels more authentic. FIFA 14 goes beyond the pitch in other ways, with more realistic crowds as well, which react to the action on the field and emotions that accurately change with the match. Obviously, FIFA 14 also benefits immensely from its extensive licensing agreements which include virtually every major league and club from the English Premier League to MLS with all the major teams such as Manchester United,
, Real Madrid and many more represented with a full roster of players. This all combines to give the game an authentic and exciting approach throughout that’s consistently polished and entertaining.

Once you get off the field, you’ll find an impressive array of options and modes to choose from. Many of these can be played on solo or online. Some of these include the usual career and season modes that allow you to play through the game as a player or a manager through multiple years on the pitch, burnishing your reputation as you build your skills. You can create your own avatar-player to use in the game and use it for multiple seasons, play with it online and more. FIFA 14 also includes numerous online modes such as Ultimate Team where you construct a fantasy team of the world’s best players and compete with others in online matches. Online games can also reflect multiple players at once, so virtually your entire team can consist of other real players, which can make things quite interesting. All of these modes can be used to earn points, which you can then redeem to purchase unlockable content such as classic uniforms and licensed gear throughout the game. FIFA 14 also updates itself automatically, which allows your team and player rankings to change to reflect actual events which occur during the season. Players can also challenge others in tournament play, take a turn as the manager and much more. Another key mode in FIFA 14 comes in its practice mode which consists of a number of mini-games. Spaced out between different brackets, these timed games allow you to have fun and build up your skills at the same time. You can play these on their own, but they’re best used as warm-up exercises before matches. This allows you to warm-up and get ready beforehand. FIFA’s excellent online mode worked seamlessly in out experience. Signing on and playing is a relatively simple task, which is especially true if you’ve already built up data from previous seasons. In this case, its nearly automatic upgrades only takes a few seconds and you’re ready to go. FIFA 14 plays solidly online and with so much on offer, the biggest challenge for most players is which mode to focus on first.

These changes might not seem that significant taken in isolation, but when you combine them, they mark a noticeable upgrade from previous installments in the series. The new pure shot, ball physics and dribbling moves allow for more precision and accuracy, making them well-worth the effort to learn and master. The pacing of each match remains excellent and the game delivers an experience that should please those looking for a quick match or an extended challenge. The large number of modes is impressive and gives FIFA 14 a great deal of depth and variety throughout. Its online multiplayer element remains robust with a deep selection of modes that should please players of all abilities with a variety of challenges. While the game hasn’t completely reinvented itself with this year’s installment, there are enough substantial upgrades to make FIFA 14 an impressive upgrade to the soccer franchise.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B+

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