Fluidity is the key to FIFA 14 on PS4 and Xbox One. You are never taken out of the game for a forced replay that will mask the player going to get the ball for a corner, free-kick, or throw-in. The new Ignite Engine may be intended to bolster the actual gameplay, but aside a few elements, most of the changes for next-gen FIFA are cosmetic.
But given how excellent FIFA 14 was already, perhaps that is understandable. There are several nice touches, like the ability to carry over your FIFA Ultimate Team from PS3 to PS4 (or Xbox 360 to Xbox One) enabling you to carry on with that legendary team you were building. Almost as if part of a give-one-take-one penny drop, modes have also not made the generational jump. Whether or not it’s worth getting upset about some of these dropped modes is purely down to personal preference, but the Creation Centre will probably be missed by some.
I can’t get enough of Career Mode and FUT, and I bet I’m not alone. In fact, it’s telling how huge a package the yearly FIFA release has come that upon first glance, I barely noticed the missing modes. There’s still something for most players, and it’s all wrapped up in a next-gen sheen.
Everything feels smoother, snappier – and the “Sky Sports” feel to the beautiful game I mentioned back in my original FIFA 14 review feels more evident than ever. If the ball goes out for a corner, the players will work together to get it over to the corner flag to keep play rolling quicker. The same happens with throw-ins, you get the picture: everything is designed to never stop the feeling of this being the real sport. You can hit the X button (PS4) to skip these animations and rush to the actual action, however, and this works very quickly. You’ll almost certainly enjoy this feature at first, but eventually will just want to get on with the game.
And there are some slight changes to how the game actually plays which, let’s face it, is the most important thing overall. I found a particularly strange addition I didn’t notice in numerous dozens of hours with the previous iteration of FIFA 14: sometimes my players would just give up on the ball. Ivanovic (Chelsea) was dribbling forward, then suddenly the ball would just run away from him, and he’d give up. Bizarre, I changed controller configurations, assuming I’d accidentally left something on assisted, or that something was just wrong somewhere. Alas, I couldn’t (and still can’t) work out why this was happening. It’s something you can get used to, but it created a looser-feeling game, which (again) is going to be something you love, or something you’ll get used to.
Headers still feel very powerful in the box, and I was baffled how my Rio Ferdinand (6 foot 2) was out-jumped by David Silva (5 foot 7), until a replay showed Rio didn’t even attempt to jump, which was probably due to poor positioning on my part. Thankfully the “cross for a headed goal” or “corner to headed goal” win-buttons seem to have been toned down a bit, but I’m not convinced as substantially as they should have been.
Difficulty seems to have been ramped up, too. I was previously playing at World Class difficulty, and matches were tough but winnable. With the PS4/Xbox One version, I was struggling at Professional difficulty, and a lot of this seems down to the way in which you have to really work to retain possession now. We all love thrashing a team now and then on a lower difficulty, with tippy-tappy passing and a through-ball splitting a defence, but that midfield battle is harder than ever now. Aggressive, skillful opposition midfielders will stop you from marauding through them, forcing variations in how you play. A dedicated passer of the ball, there are matches that forced me to change my style and play with wingers that could take on a full-back, and try and play a more direct route of attacking.
Tackling feels adjusted, with the more sensible option being to hang back and wait for your moment. This was the case in the previous-gen FIFA 14, but it feels more important than ever. If you mistime a tackle, that defender is pretty much out of the game for a moment. The dreaded ping-pong defending rears its ugly head at times too, with three successful tackles still resulting in the opposition having possession. It doesn’t happen too often, thankfully, but it’s definitely still there and is rage-educing when it does.
The thing is that, in the moment, a lot of these things can cause frustration. It’s only on reflection you feel spellbound by that hard fought 2-1 away win at Manchester City (I’m lying, they beat me 2-0, but go with me here). The replays will show you how exciting it was when you slipped that through-ball in only for Del Pierro (God knows why I persist with him, he’s like a mascot at this stage) to completely mess up his chance, again.
Visually, FIFA 14 on next-gen consoles is very impressive, but perhaps not the generational leap that you might be expecting. A strange amount of time seems to have been spent on making shirts flap in the wind, to the degree that it looks rather odd, but also (I’m sorry, I know this makes me a bad person), thankfully, time has been spent on the crowd. A new default camera angle allows for EA to show off the visuals, and I must admit, player likenesses are top notch.
Elsewhere, this is the FIFA you know and (probably) already love. The Legends aren’t enough of a reason to pick the Xbox One version over the PlayStation 4 edition, because although you’ll probably get one in a pack now and again, they are rare – I got one in my first pack, but haven’t seen one since. Obviously you’ll need to accumulate a heavy, Scrooge McDuck-like vault of coins to afford them, but I guess you could just use micro-transactions if you are so inclined.
VERDICT: It’s a shame that some modes haven’t made the cut for the next-gen version, but you’ll only miss them if you played them a lot. Career Mode and FUT still offer incredibly high value for money, and this is probably the best version of FIFA to date. There’s room for improvement, though, especially with defensive AI, but for now, FIFA is still the best football game out there.
SUPERB. This is the mark of greatness, only awarded to games that engage us from start to finish. Titles that score 9/10 will have very few problems or negative issues, and will deliver high quality and value for money across all aspects of their design.
Review code provided by publisher.