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Monday, 30 September 2013

Fifa 14 – review

"Come quick!" the PES fan shouts, as if peering from his bedroom window and seeing fresh snow. "It's back!" It happens every year – this hoped for resurgence. Later, brash words are rescinded and shoelaces gazed at. PES2014 earned a deserved four stars in our recent review, but against what a hopeful community tells you, this is not the year PES beats Fifa. That's the curious thing about their great rivalry. PES continually improves and Fifa doesn't – at least to the naked eye. Yet, Fifa is, still, better.
After a decade of juggling between the two, I've settled on this analogy: PES is chess, Fifa is draughts. Both have their virtues, but draughts works better as a video game, more immediate, easier on beginners, and generally more fun. Fifa 14's new Pure Shot mechanic fits all three criteria in one. Essentially, efforts on goal have a greater tendency to dip, bend and rise, giving them ferocious unpredictability. It's difficult not to feel a flutter in your gut as the ball falls to your long distance specialist on the edge of the box.
Thunderous volleys, first-time belters and off-balance lashes — they look natural and feel right, thanks to improved ball physics and a slew of new contextual animations.
Keep in mind, long shots aren't a magic button. They're actually less frequent, and this is thanks to EA's other new back-of-the-box feature – Precision Movement. So-called 'stepbased location' is a technical triumph, players now weightily planting feet when running and pushing off from pivots, but it's an awkward fumble of a feature in practice.

For one, players take ages to get going. The effectiveness of a simple turn, bread and butter of football, has been neutralised in the maelstrom of 22 men on the pitch, all dizzyingly scrambling for ball possession and losing it just as quickly. In Fifa 14, thanks to clumsy new biomechanics, space is a truly rare commodity.
Attacking is revitalised by Pure Shot, but Precision Movement clogs midfield and defence. Matches aren't ruined by any means – rather, they're simply thrown off in a second. Problem is, in a high-tempo game like Fifa, with its tight margins for error and all-important timing, that second counts. However slight, the complexion is altered.
Off the pitch, things could have been equally clogged if not for revitalised Windows 8-style menus that cleanly whizz you through skill games(navigate imposing gauntlets of yellow plastic men and knock down evil towers of cardboard boxes), a creation centre (create and share custom players, teams and tournaments) and market (buy vintage kits, virtual pro boosts and cocky celebrations with coins earned online).
Most substantial is Ultimate Team, which, EA is keen to tell us, hosts 3.5m matches daily. No huge improvements here, but it does streamline the previously arduous organisation of online single matches and seasons, and the ability to change kit numbers and set-piece takers in addition is community wish fulfilment. New chemistry styles are welcome, too. There are a variety of them; you can, for instance, apply a defensive chemistry style to a defender in order to boost their performance. It's contributes fresh complexity towards chasing the rainbow of your dream team.
Likewise, the career sees only minor changes. It's still split between player and manager – both options let you control the entire team, but the former can use their virtual pro and skip all the management gubbins. It still serves up emails from the board and transfer gossip on the wire to keep you involved (Soldado isn't happy at Spurs. Oh). And it's still meshed together by an agonisingly slow calendar system that ticks through each day like the life cycle of a star. Transfers have at least had a facelift, though.

Along with more hurdles to jump for a signature, such as promising players match time and checking they're nice and marginalised at their current squad before prowling, there's a new global scouting network. Here you'll employ up to six scouts of varying knowhow, set parameters, and send them off. You can find and nurture an unknown prodigy in the youth team or get beads on established names, learning cost and wage demands so you can make a bid that won't be laughingly dismissed. As a result, wheeling, dealing, and finally securing that hot prospect is much more rewarding.
Online, aside from two v two co-op seasons, Fifa 14 doesn't have any big new mode to show off. But that's OK because they've just about got the entire sport covered anyway, from user-made pro clubs with customisable kits, to 10-game seasons where players fight each other for promotion, to full on 11 v 11 matches. Any one could easily see you through to next season.
The game's difference-maker is entirely on the pitch – that new movement system. In multiplayer especially, where the absence of an all-knowing AI sees imperfect humans make repeated mistakes, it leads to slightly clumsier, boggier, slower matches. All the same, the change is only incremental, and doesn't ruin the game by any means.
You know this by now – things in EA Sports land either get slightly better or slightly worse, and whatever side of the dial the year's instalment ticks into, what you're getting remains the same: the most fun and feature-rich sports games on the planet. Still.

See also PES 14 REVIEW
 Source: Theguardian
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