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Written by Sean Cahill on 9/24/2013 for 360  
More On: FIFA 14
The beautiful game has truly picked up steam in growth here in the United States over the last several years.  Whether it be expanded coverage of the top leagues such as the Barclay’s Premier League, La Liga, the Bundesliga, or the Champions League, the sport is far more accessible to those who want to enjoy the world’s sport.  The gaming world always seems to take notice of what people want, and the growth of the sport has led to EA Sports gaining a foothold in the world’s sport with the FIFA series.  As we approach a change in generations, EA Sports gives the soccer world one final version before taking the jump with FIFA 14.
Normally I would jump right into the gameplay elements and mechanics right away since every title hinges on that aspect, but the presentation has to be addressed first in this year’s version.  Last year, I had to prevent myself from going on a rant about how clunky some of game modes could be with the navigation of menus and options, especially in the Ultimate Team and Career modes.  Last year, the career mode main screen looked like something out of a mid-90s display.  The worst offenders were having options all over the place, somewhat rough graphics displayed from time to time, and glitches that could cause crashes.  EA Sports must have agreed, because the interface this year is vastly improved.  Career mode is now tabbed with different sections and has a very slick, clean look to it, making it far easier to find what a player is looking for, whether it be needing to make a transfer, working on contracts, or changing up settings.  Ultimate team’s interface has received a wonderful cleanup as well.  Searching for your favorite players has never been easier as well as checking on coin prices for players that you want to put up on the transfer market.  The issues I had with the interface in these modes were answered, and EA Sports deserves nothing but praise for that.
The commentary team remains unchanged, and that is still a good thing.  The commentary never really gets overbearing, but it will get a tad repetitive like most sports titles, barring NHL 14 or MLB: The Show.  There is just enough of it to add to the overall experience of the game and not detract from it in any way.  The in-game experience is meant to be realistic, and with minimal-sized scoreboards like we’ve seen in the past, live updates from around the league a player is playing in, the experience is top notch, as it has been in the past few years.
 The gameplay of FIFA has been criticized in the last couple of versions for catering to the more arcade-style player, basically stating that anyone who has fast players and who understand passing can get by on that alone.  That is no longer the case as skill is taking center stage.  FIFA 14 displays a new dynamic called Precision Movement that is the most realistic in the series.  First touches are far more challenging to pull off without losing the ball longer than a fraction of a second, especially if controlling a player who is running.  In last year’s version, there were many complaints that sprinting players were able to stop lob passes on a dime with minimal loss of speed.  In fact, the game itself this year has been slowed down just a bit.  Movements are more realistic and shot power/speed has definitely taken a noticeable step down, though this is stat-oriented, of course.

Skill moves are at a premium to learn this year, as they are still going to be difficult to pull off real-time, but the reward is definitely worth it.  Running past players is not as easy as last year as the defending has received a little boost.  Of course, it isn’t easy to stop an attack and getting called for fouls is solely dependent on how lenient the official is for the match as nothing has changed with the ratings of the officials and how loose or tight they call a match.  Added to the gameplay to go along with the skills and realism are real ball physics, which is more accurate compared to last year.  The ball takes more realistic hops and movements depending on the action of a player.  The best example for this is curved passes seemed to happen with little effort last year and in the hardest of positions, such as being double-teamed by defenders.  This year, it doesn’t just happen randomly and will only be available if a player is more freely open in the field.
There isn’t much to complain about with player movements, mannerisms, or gestures in this year’s version.  The graphics do feel a little outdated, but considering the industry is under two months away from making a jump to a new generation, the upgrade there will probably be significant.  Facial models for the most popular players have received the necessary upgrades, however, as players that were a bit rough in the past are more accurate and true to how they look in person.  If there is a complaint to have in game with the actual gameplay, however, is that the game continues to move away from it truly being pick up and play, even though the controls can be simplified.  The issue between FIFA 14 and NHL 14 having a simplified mode is that so much is missed with skills that it truly cripples the experience.  If you’re just starting out in the series, time is definitely necessary to present a challenge to more seasons players.
The heart and soul of the online experience with FIFA 14 is certainly in the Ultimate Team.  I talked earlier about how the interface has received a much needed upgrade to make it easier, and that’s fantastic, but the true test comes with how well the rest of it works.  Seasons mode has been expanded from five divisions to ten to make coin rewards more difficult to earn, especially since getting into those top divisions will result in facing stiff competition.  Customization of a player’s ultimate team has been simplified a bit more when it comes to chemistry.  Players will no longer have to adhere to just one formation style as that part of the chemistry has been thrown out the window, thankfully.  Depending on what player cards have been acquired, a team is now truly customizable down to the last position instead of having to spend a ridiculous amount of coins to alter it.  This has been replaced by chemistry additions, which are designed for certain boosters to the six primary skills.  These will cost you coin, but that’s to be expected.  These changes are sure to make Ultimate Team more enjoyable.

Outside of Ultimate Team, the online fix is certain to come from the seasons mode, whether it be single, co-op, or the 11v11 club mode.  These have all received a bit of an upgrade, especially with the 11v11 Club and upgrading your personal player along the way.  Competitions are as difficult as ever, especially when filling in all 22 spots, which I have not had a problem with at all.  It’s a very active community, though it would be wise to be on headset when trying to communicate with your teammates.  I found that those without headsets tend to lose far more than they win due to lack of communication and organization.
For those who do not want to hop online right away, the career mode has received some nice changes to make the experience more enjoyable.  Once again, the choice is there between a player or a manager and, with the player mode, you can choose to be either a current pro or make your own from scratch, complete with Game Face if you opt to.  A minor difference this year is that the birth year is set in stone at 1994 no matter what you do.  This ensures that the career mode can go on for many seasons.  A player will have free reign as to what team to choose to play on, but based on the rating, if you decide to start out at a powerhouse such as FC Barcelona, you will quickly find yourself being loaned out because the opportunity to start is not going to be there until your player gets much stronger.  The choice is yours, of course, but expect to be playing in a league such as the third division in England to start off.

The manager mode will retain the same options as last year, giving the options to have a higher difficulty with a strict budget or to be a little more loose and earn more money through transfers.  The owners have to make their money, of course!  The interface, again, is much better in both of these options, as I mentioned earlier.  The tabbed sections are easy to navigate and progressing through menus to find proper options is a world of difference from last year to this year.  Also, in previous years, while going through each season, what used to be called the “World Championship” is now properly called the “FIFA World Cup” and comes complete with the accurate trophy.  While this is a very simple inclusion, it’s definitely welcome as it always felt strange winning the World Championship and not having the correct trophy to hoist up.  Beyond this, the career mode can go on for many seasons or until one decides to retire and start fresh.
There is plenty to love about FIFA 14.  Many of my concerns and issues from last year’s title have been addressed and cleaned up.  Gameplay is definitely more realistic than last year and will cater to those who are more skillful with their controls.  This will be a detriment to those who are the more casual player, but the difficulty modes offline will certainly help the learning curve.  Online modes are incredibly fun and deep, offering an option for practically everyone from Ultimate Team to 11v11 Club mode.  Fans of the beautiful game are going to be locked into this title for a very long time with little issue of repetitiveness or boredom.  It’s deep, it’s a heck of a lot of fun, and there are only marginal issues to worry about. 
With a cleaned up presentation, deep gameplay modes, and new mechanics that bring a more realistic experience on the pitch, FIFA 14 definitely captures the beautiful game in all of its glory.

Rating: 9 Excellent

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.


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Sean is a 15 year veteran of gaming and technology writing with an unhealthy obsession for Final Fantasy, soccer, and chocolate.

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