Review: FIFA 14 (PS4)

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Title: FIFA 14
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PlayStation Network Download (9 GB)
Release Date: November 15, 2013 (US), November 29, 2013 (UK)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: EA Vancouver
Original MSRP: $59.99
ESRB Rating: E
FIFA 14 is also available on PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, PSP, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo 3DS, PC, iOS and Android.
The PlayStation 4 Blu-ray disc version was used for this review.

Editor’s Note:
Portions of this review also appear in our PS3 coverage of FIFA 14.

Gameplay:
Ignite, the brand new engine for next-gen, was touted as a revolutionary step forward. Though it capitalises on the new hardware power superficially, the gameplay is largely unchanged. Indeed, any acclimatisation time will be related to the new controller rather than anything on screen. Like racehorses, the slightest change throws hardcore FIFA players a little off their game, at least for a short while. The new sticks and triggers though prove to be the perfect match for this game, eliminating annoyances that the DualShock 3 provided after any extended playtime.

On PS4, the ball now seems to move more independently, not magnetised to a player’s boot. Tactics are affected by the adjustments to AI awareness – you’d be much better off sitting deep and retaining a defensive shape, instead of pressing in the opposing half. When a Cazorla or Iniesta is hunted and harried by their midfield challenger, they’ll roll their foot over the ball, shimmy a shoulder and jink away with ease, creating a few yards of space. It resembles real-life encounters quite well. These aforementioned movements are only a miniscule sample of the new animation range, which has to be seen to be believed. Astoundingly realistic, this is the biggest next-gen improvement to FIFA.

Akin to NBA 2K14, this is not quite as polished as its PS3 counterpart. It’s already the best way to play, but there are so many refinements to be made once the Canadian studio has got to grips with the new development environment; whereas the old hardware was having every last drop squeezed out of it. A few niggles are present that could potentially be patched, such as the multi-ball system for throw-ins not being too smart when it comes to timing. Also when pressing X to skip replays, it often ends up registering as a pass, thus wasting a corner or goal kick.

A small number of modes, such as offline tournaments have not made the transition to PS4, which is strange. You’d expect the full plethora of game styles to return in next year’s iteration. Also, it seems there’s been a lack of innovation. FIFA’s laboured team management system has been lagging behind PES for a few years. If reluctant to implement the same drag-and-drop affair of its rival, how about stealing a march by using the second screen feature of Sony’s new console? I’d love to use my Galaxy S4 to seamlessly modify tactics and formations or make subs on-the-fly.

FIFA 14 PS4 A

For those coming to the PS4 version straight from FIFA 13, there are some key alterations to note:

Whilst EA Vancouver (understandably so) decided not to reinvent the wheel, the seemingly subtle changes have a significant impact on how this game rolls. Immediately apparent is the new “Precision Movement System”; a heightened sense of both realism and challenge make this a neat alteration to FIFA. Players feel weightier, making the play feel more grounded. Credit to the devs for listening and reacting to this complaint from fans; how matches often boiled down to pace, with players almost gliding along the turf.

Relatively, FIFA 14 is like wading through treacle. Thankfully, the gameplay is finally a little slower, with a greater emphasis on technical ability – the overall style leaning slightly away from Premier League and towards La Liga. Perhaps this change in footballing philosophies is not entirely by design; rather a by-product of making FIFA more realistic. The way legs are planted in the ground, and how weight is distributed when pushing off into a different direction, is awesome. Speedsters can no longer instantly halt when at full pace; they actually act like humans, with a stopping distance.

Even as a hardcore FIFA player, this entry in the series felt more difficult to break down defences due to the revitalised movement mechanics. Using trickery in a congested midfield, then biding your time and spotting the run, to which you execute an inch-perfect through ball. It felt so much more satisfying than simply holding down R2 to sprint down the wing in a battle with the full-back.

Balancing needs to be adjusted though as some sides become too overpowered. For example, as attributes such as acceleration and raw speed are now obviously exaggerated, Robben and Ribery run rampant for Bayern. Two flying wingers like that tear most defences to shreds. In all, though the new system is by no means a huge paradigm shift, it’s a step in the right direction. Returning gamers will enjoy the added challenge, whilst naysayers will appreciate the efforts to apply the brakes on proceedings.

FIFA 14 PS4 B

Shooting has undergone surgery, again becoming more realistic. Power and accuracy, as well as the ability to even reach the ball, no longer defy the laws of physics. Previously feeling somewhat ‘scripted’ with finesse shots almost being an automatic goal from certain positions, goal scoring is now more unpredictable. Elsewhere, the changes in mechanics are more minute. A raft of enhancements have been flaunted by the publisher, but new Shielding and First Touch controls are unnecessary. The re-learning of the triggers and sticks isn’t worth the minimal reward. Furthermore, keepers have a tendency to parry shots directly into the path of oncoming strikers.

Game modes are largely similar, Career receiving the most notable work. Buried underneath the lovely new menus (which I’ll discuss later) is pretty much the same old Manager Mode/Be A Pro from a few years back. Granted, auto-coach for simmed matches thankfully no longer permanently messes up your squad, and the Global Scouting Network works well, but these aren’t game-changers. People thought Career needed a facelift; it’s now clear it requires a whole new body. Lastly, a quick mention for the Skill Games – an ingenious time waster added in FIFA 13 – which are now even more annoyingly satisfying, and have essentially phased out ‘the arena’.

Visuals:
If we’ve learned anything from PS4 so far, it’s that the future is apparently all about realistic fabrics. Just like NBA 2K, the ripple of player clothing is one of the most overt aesthetic tweaks to FIFA. Prior to launch, I was sceptical over the visual enhancement after experiencing the next-gen port at Eurogamer Expo; thinking it to be a lazy port was a little harsh. The higher fidelity can only really be fully appreciated after going back to the PS3 version, which in a matter of weeks has gone from cutting-edge to a blurry mess.

Attention to detail is an important factor that EA have nailed. For instance, when you see cameramen, their little screens will accurately show the live video they’re recording. The broadcast presentation has also been taken up a notch. I was playing against Man City and Aguero missed a penalty, before being subbed off. Later in the game, I conceded another spot kick, so the camera cut to the Argentinean striker on the bench, anxiously watching whether his replacement succeeded. Also camera angles are now positioned in the same place as TV, whilst goal replays are expertly pieced together; the zoomed-in slow-mo cut of the scorer’s face being a staple of real-life broadcasts.

FIFA 14 PS4 C

None of these touches are earth-shattering, but cumulatively, they create something special. Stadium atmosphere was EA’s primary promise for PS4, which they’ve certainly delivered on – impressive when some grounds accommodate over 90,000 people. Fans now react suitably and have been rendered wonderfully in 3D, so no more cardboard supporters (insert cheap dig about Emirates or Old Trafford here). Off the field, FIFA 14 introduced a new tiled menu system, which is essentially a far more intuitive version of the Windows 8 UI. This carries over to next-gen and works wonderfully.

Audio:
It’s still difficult to fathom just how advanced FIFA’s commentary is. I’m often left scratching my head, baffled and bemused, in awe of what I just heard. When playing with the top teams, it’s sometimes genuinely a struggle to discern the difference between a live broadcast and FIFA. Completing the Sky Sports ambiance is Jeff Stelling presenting matches, Martin Tyler and Alan Smith calling the play, Geoff Shreeves for touchline reports and Alan McInally for ‘live’ scores of other matches.

At one point during a West Brom match, Tyler and Smith remarked about how “there’s been much speculation recently about Anelka possibly ending his career”. Currently, when playing with The Arsenal, they comment on how even the most optimistic fans didn’t expect the team to be top at this stage of the season. These little details – which occur unbelievably naturally during matches, very rarely shoehorned in – are what makes the audio in FIFA so special.

Furthermore, if the duo are interrupted during one of their conversations due to some important action, they’ll seamlessly return to the subject later in proceedings to finish off the point they were making. Away from the amazing commentary, crowd noise has been improved with real-life chants and songs being instantly recognisable. Menu music meanwhile, is predictably catchy.

FIFA 14 PS4 D

Online/Multiplayer:
Over the past couple of years, two words have made FIFA a must-buy: Ultimate Team. Trialled way back on Champions League 2006-07, the mode has become an absolute behemoth since its first ‘mainstream’ appearance on FIFA 09. Consequently making its way to EA’s other big hitters, NHL and Madden NFL, Ultimate Team remains best at its home. Addictive doesn’t even begin to describe FUT, whose mobile app means you can rarely go a day without tinkering with your team. Chemistry has been refined to exclude formations, with other logical changes also in tow.

EA Sports Football Club, like from FIFA 12 to FIFA 13, carries over your profile and is constantly growing into a fantastic service. Attempting to blur the lines between FIFA and reality are the consistent updates to players and teams, making everyone’s ratings up-to-date depending on real-life form. Challenges and Games of the Week are present again too. These updates each week add such a great new dimension to the experience.

Standard multiplayer (well, if you can call the plethora of modes ‘standard’) is nigh-on identical to previous entries, bar the supplement of co-op seasons. General gameplay is as frustrating and addictive as ever, emotionally closely resembling watching your own team play. Although, those morons online (you know, who do keepy-uppies and rainbow flicks on the halfway line, and watch all the replays of their 2-yard tap-ins) could now get slightly more annoying, with Gangnam Style being one of the new unlockable celebrations. Seriously. Finally, I’d still like to a see a fair system to end laggy games early, by mutually agreeing to a draw. Hopefully next season this can be made a reality.

Conclusion:
If you held off on the last-gen version of FIFA 14, then this is simply a must-buy for anyone remotely interested in soccer. For those that already own it on PS3, it’s difficult to recommend the upgrade – certainly at the current price. Buyers should be aware that whilst the PS4 version is superior on the pitch, the amount of content has been ever so slightly stripped back, although core gameplay hasn’t undergone any significant surgery. Essentially a high-res port of September’s release, FIFA 14 is still a phenomenally good recreation of the beautiful game, but provides more of a platform for future success rather than an instant need to double-dip.

* All screenshots used in this review were provided by the publisher.

Score:
9.0

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Written by Raj Mahil

Game collector. Journalism graduate. Batman addict. Movie goer. WWE nut. Sports obsessive. Arsenal fan. Squawka.com Sub-Editor.

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  • Scubafinch

    Fantastic review Raj. Beautifully constructed and some great attention to the details that make the PS4 version a step up from anything seen before. One of the best reviews I’ve read in quite some time.

    Particularly liked the “so no more cardboard supporters (insert cheap dig about Emirates or Old Trafford here).” line.

    I picked this up on the PS4 release and everything about it is outstanding. Great that you can use the Vita as an additional controller as well.

    • Thank you!! Really appreciate that feedback.

  • ChazzH69

    Yet another great review from Raj. Trying to find a reason not to click that Amazon link?

    • Cheers mate! If you don’t own the PS3 version, there’s absolutely no reason not to click that link.

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