Every year EA Sports releases an updated version of their FIFA franchise. This year's iteration is FIFA 14, and it was released a little over a month ago for current generation platforms (Xbox 360 and Playstation 3). I had preordered it a couple of months or more in advance, knowing I would end up playing the heck out of the game even though I still had my copy of FIFA 13.
When the day came to pick up my reserved copy from GameStop, I went and picked it up after a rather grueling day at work. When I got home, I unwrapped it, popped it in and let it do the typical initial update. By the time the update was done I had also grabbed a tasty beverage in preparation for a couple of hours of FIFA Ultimate Team.
As the game loaded, everything felt the same. At least it did until I made it to the menu screen. Unlike previous iterations of the game, this version utilizes a similar navigation concept to the newest Madden and NCAA releases (both of which came out only 1 or 2 months prior). The menu system takes a little bit to get used to, but it is fairly intuitive and everything feels in the correct place.
I loaded into FIFA Ultimate Team and set out to open my first three included packs. Players receive one pack weekly for an EA Sports Season Ticket subscription, pre-ordering the game from GameStop and also pre-ordering the game in general. After a few minutes of setting my first FUT lineup, I set about prepping tactics and formations, and then worked my way into my first FIFA 14 FUT match.
I had a good smattering of gold and silver players in my lineup, all from various leagues and of an array of nationalities. My chemistry rating was an unhealthy 29, but I really had very little choice at this point. I started a single player tournament, and settled into the match.
It didn't take long for me to notice the change from using trigger based skill to moves to right-stick based skill moves. The change is far more fluid for the gamer, but it is also far more comfortable for long gaming sessions as I have learned over the last month. Changing tactics on the fly is identical to previous versions allowing the player to press the d-pad in any direction to change different tactics.
Much of the gameplay didn't change, actually. Calling for balls from the non-player controlled players is the same, moving about the pitch is the same, and various passes and shots are the same. The big change is really in the presentation, and boy does it make a difference.
The fluidity of movement and animation is stellar, and while the rest of my family couldn't see the difference on our projector screen I certainly did. Switching from a skill move to ball control to sprinting is a fluid wave of motion which never feels choppy or disconnected. The computer AI for players on the same team as the gamer is far and away the best I have ever experienced.
In other words, when you play FIFA 14 matches, regardless of the particular mode you are in, everything feels polished, refined and incredibly comfortable. If there is one thing I could sell you on as a lover of soccer/futbol, it would be the gameplay.
I have also played Career Mode as a Manger and a Player, and the changes there are also positives. As a Manager, you no longer can search by stats for players from other clubs or leagues, you have to scout for them. Believe me when I say you can spend days upon days setting up instructions for your scouts, and when you do it right you can find absolute gems.
As a player, you still have to work your way through the club with your limited playing time until you eventually become a star on the club (or go out on loan and become a star there). It takes hard work and patience to make it as a player, and I really haven't seen a whole lot different about being a player in career mode from last season.
The best mode, in my opinion, is Pro Clubs. You have to pick a Pro Club to play for, and then you coordinate with the other members of the Pro Club to play matches together against other Pro Clubs. I am currently in the MLS Fantasy Insider (MLSFI) Pro Club, and play with Dynamo Theory reader, Travis (@travi_the_rabbi) and MLS FI reader, Eric (@ericwalcott).
Pro Club is very similar to career mode as a player, except you aren't out to be the star this time. You are out to be an asset to your club and to help your club become one of the best in the world. It is challenging when you start out, as a lot of teams tend to press high forcing you to beat them or be beaten terribly on the counter. As you progress through matches, though, you actually do become a better player both in Pro Clubs and in playing the game itself.
As a soccer fan, I love FIFA 14 and can only hope EA Sports continues to pump out this caliber and quality of FIFA games. If I were to rate this game on a scale of 1 to 10 soccer balls, it would certainly garner 10 of them.