Four long hours I toiled with this year’s entry into the FIFA series. Four hours of frustration, angst, blame and self-loathing. It’s the same every year, I get used to the ‘old’ FIFA, and along comes the new one. With one punt of Ricky Lambert’s right boot, it all comes crashing down. I suck at FIFA all over again.
This year, however, FIFA is promising a raft of changes, some 100+ in fact. Most of them will be so small that the average player won’t be able to tell the difference. The biggest difference in this year’s FIFA though, comes in the way it deals with precision and the way that players interact with the ball; the likes of variable dribble making a major difference to how things play out. This won’t come as a surprise to long time FIFA players – those of you that rush out and buy each new edition with all the vigour of Carlos Tevez on the outside lane of the M62. Of course what I’m talking about is realism. EA wants to make FIFA as close to a real game of football as possible, which is a noble ambition, but what if they end up ruining what makes FIFA fun in the process? Bare with me on this one…
My time with FIFA 14 involved a lot of puffing of cheeks and making excuses. Hell, that’s what playing a new FIFA game is all about. However, usually within a few games I am able to combat the new features, take advantage of them and get a foothold in the match. With FIFA 14, this wasn’t the case. Following in the footsteps of every FIFA since 10, 14 seeks to make things more realistic. What it means for the player is that every single movement, pass and shot you make, needs to be more considered. Gone are the Hollywood days of Netherlands style total football, with a press of the A button and a flick of the analogue stick being all you needed to become a visionary football mastermind. Modern FIFA is far more laboured, and much more hard work. When you get things right, however, FIFA 14 is as rewarding as ever. Nothing beats a good gloat.
Again, Precision Movement (as well as the likes of sprint dribble turns, variable touches and pure shot – which are all seperate, major changes) is the big game-changer for me, and while the ball physics seem to be have been made more realistic as a by-product (this actually makes for a subtle improvement), the problem is the players, they just can’t keep up. This, I assume, is a gameplay change that intends to slow the pace of the game down, and make things more considered.
Try to ping the ball around at any sort of speed, with any sort of haste, and your team will throw a hissy fit and return the ball to the opposition. It takes huge amounts of self control to slow the game down and pick the perfect pass, while your player is facing in the optimum direction to complete the pass successfully. I came away feeling that the changes made in this yeas FIFA could be a step too far for my personal tastes.
Pure Shot does have one big advantage, EA Sports say that you will never see the same shot struck twice, which will be music to the ears of those sick of seeing a shot dribbled to the keeper for no good reason. The pure shot system looks at how the player is stood, how balanced they are, where their foot strikes the ball and then plots the course of the ball, instead of deciding where the shot it headed before it is even struck. Kudos has to go to EA Sports for that one.
Away from the core match day experience, I did catch a glimpse at a number of changes to FIFA’s layout and menu systems. The pause menu has been radically altered, displaying on the fly stats of the match so far. It looks a lot like Microsoft’s Metro ’tile’ style layout used on the Xbox 360, Windows Phone and Windows 8 platforms. The most used options get their own tile, with the lesser used ones being selectable from a list at the bottom of the screen. When picking a team, there was a greater choice of kits to choose from, with home and away kits being unlocked as standard, and third kits an unlockable extra, presumably via some in game currency earned through playtime and achievements.
FIFA 14 left me feeling troubled. The king of football games should be the king because it is fun, first and foremost. While I welcome a dose of realism, the ‘fun factor’ should be at the centre of it all. I don’t want to pick up a game that is frustrating and taxing to play, it needs to be inviting and engaging. FIFA 14’s biggest problem at the moment is that by shooting for the most realistic football game ever, they may have killed off what made it great in the first place, and only time will tell on that one.