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FIFA 14

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Canada
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 4; 2 - 22 (Online)
Genre: Sports (Soccer)/ Simulation/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Here we are. The eighth generation of video game consoles. With the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One, and (to a much lesser extent, presumably) the Wii U jockeying for success, there's really only one thing that's going to push any of them forward. And that's software. And what better application to release alongside your new hardware than the next annual installment in what is perhaps the most successful sports series on the planet? FIFA 14 for Xbox One is the same great game it was for the Xbox 360, but if you have the option between the two, this one is definitely superior.

FIFA 14 looks stupendous. Despite much of the action on the pitch being viewed from a zoomed-out angle, there's much to appreciate. The breadth and depth of animations in the already-stuffed library is really something to see. And this is coming from someone who already thought the Xbox 360 version looked nearly perfect from a physics standpoint. Granted, I'm not the soccer-watching sort, and maybe I'm not always looking for certain movements in my sports sims. I will be from this point on, however.

Having played and reviewed this game on Xbox 360, I'm unable to determine the differences in the commentary track from Martin Tyler and Alan Smith. It's better than I'm used to seeing in sports games, though it's admittedly wasted on a casual fan such as myself. I would also assume that getting sounds for crowds, running, and the impact of shoes on soccer balls can't be too hard these days, so overall, FIFA 14 is difficult to fault when it comes to the audio.


Gameplay:

There's a certain phenomenon related to sports franchises of this caliber. When its gameplay is as fine and as well-tuned as it can be, a sports sim is only as good as the scope of its gameplay modes. Not quite so with FIFA 14. Incredibly, this game's variety of play modes doesn't stack up to that of its last-gen counterparts. But it's still the better one, more so if you're not particularly a fan of what was cut in the first place.

Most of what you'll expect is still here. Play Now, Ultimate Team, Be a Pro, Online play. That's all here, so if your FIFA experience is wrapped around those pillars, you might not notice that Tournament mode is missing. If that's make or break for you, you're probably incredibly picky, because the rest of the game is obviously where those resources went.


Difficulty:

Obviously, you can play FIFA 14 to your specifications. However, your opponents will rarely be pushovers. Crank the difficulty to the easy setting, and they will still try to take possession and make the best drive for the goal that they can. The artificial intelligence of computer players is a huge step up from years past. Each player on the pitch obviously knows which role he is playing; there's no wild deviations from standard formations, so you won't have to worry about your team looking like a bunch of seven-year olds chasing after the ball in one giant clump of confusion.

I can't vouch for the game's difficulty once you take your game online. Most of the individuals you'll encounter have been playing for quite some time, so if you're just getting your feet wet, you would do well to spend some time messing with the difficulty levels in single player before testing your mettle against real people.


Game Mechanics:

As I noted in my Xbox 360 review, FIFA 14 is a slower, more realistic simulation than its predecessors. The ball no longer feels like an extension of the player and establishes itself as a very foreign object in the big picture. And that makes the game more exciting. You can't assume the ball to be completely beholden to its handler at any time, much like in real life. Dribbling is more accident-prone; it's a certainty that one of your dribbles might be a touch too powerful, making the difference between maintaining possession and losing it on a challenge that might be considered pedestrian.

Speaking of defense, tackling has been refined to an art; much like it is in real life, timing is absolutely everything if you want to strip the ball away from an attacker. If you flub the timing of your button press or the angle of attack, you're not going to catch up to him. Throw in all the complex handling options, and this might happen to you more often than you'd wish. So get to learning.

FIFA 14 is a fine game of soccer and a subtle technical marvel. From a distance, it might look like just more of the same, but if you dig deep and pay attention to all the moving parts under the hood, you'll be rewarded with a football experience that is unmatched in the gaming world.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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