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December 2, 2013
FIFA 14 - PS3 Review
Release Distributer Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
27/9/2013EA GamesEA SportsEA Canada1-62-22
Media HDD Install Resolution Move Controls Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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Taking a shot at goal in FIFA 14.
We were a bit late getting our hands on EAís 2014 games, but hot on the heels of our Madden NFL 25 and NHL 14 reviews weíre ready to complete the trifecta with FIFA 14. FIFA 13 broke all sorts of sales records and became EA Sportsí top-selling sports title within a mere five days of its release. While that kind of success is great, it does put a heap of pressure on the developers to come up with something even better next time around. How has the team at EA Canada fared under the weight of such great expectations?

From the moment FIFA boots up youíll appreciate the new and improved presentation. Itís the same overhaul Madden received, putting pictures of various modes up on screen that you click on to get started. In the Madden review I referred to it as the ďPSN approachĒ, and it works as well in EA games as it does on the Playstation Store.

Career mode, where you take the role of manager or a single player, returns, and is more or less identical to last yearís career mode. If youíre playing as a manager thereís a new Global Transfer Network (GTN) to come to grips with. The GTN lets you hire scouts and send them all over the world scouting prospective players. You issue them with instructions on the kind of players youíre looking for, and they get back to you with recommendations.

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Got a PS4? Opt for that superior version.
Unfortunately the GTN isnít very exciting and feels ultimately pointless when, even after a month of scouting, your scout canít tell you a playersí overall rating Ė a rating you can check for yourself any time by heading to the main menu and scrolling through the various team rosters.

Of more interest is the ability to scout youths as young as fifteen, in the hopes of securing the next budding superstar. Scouted youths show their overall rating as a range (e.g. 39-53), and have a potential range as well; the higher their potential the higher their overall skills can go.

FIFA Ultimate Team returns, and is just as fun as ever. If youíre unfamiliar with EAís Ultimate Team mode, it involves buying packs of cards that contain everything you need to make up a team Ė players, uniforms, managers and consumables to do things like buff your fitness or extend a playersí contract. The cards are your team, and you take to the field with them in online and offline matches, earning FIFA coins that are used to buy more cards in the process.

Itís all great fun, and unlike Maddenís version of Ultimate Team, the barrier to entry in FIFA is extremely low. Youíre given a starting team and if you work through a 13-step managerís challenge that covers the basics of the mode, youíll earn yourself a gold pack of cards. The various competitions available to compete in all have unique requirements, such as having a team of the same nationality, or only bronze-level cards, that have you tinkering with your side constantly.

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Setting the celebreation, 360 screen.
The transfer market usually has over a million cards for sale during any given hour, making it a great alternative to buying packs of cards. It can be cheaper too, unless youíre searching for the best or most popular players (good luck affording Robin van Persie for example). You can use real money to purchase FIFA coins if thatís your cup of tea, but thankfully EA never shoves that option in your face. Itís there, but you donít have to do it.

Co-op Seasons, where you and a mate head online to take on opponents in 2-vs-2 matches, debuts in FIFA 14. Given the popularity of FIFA itís somewhat surprising this hasnít existed before, but itís better late than never and I can imagine plenty of people will love it.

If youíre new to FIFA make sure to check out the Skills Games, which cover just about every facet of the game in a series of increasingly difficult challenges. Dribbling, passing, shooting, defending, penalties, free kicks and more are all here. Many of the games are fun, though at the hardest difficulty they can become extremely tough.

Player physics is something EA has worked on improving in both Madden and NHL, and FIFA 14 is no different. Players move more realistically this year, and strength plays a bigger role than ever before. Stronger players will outmuscle smaller players regularly, taking the ball away from them almost at will. To combat this youíll need to make liberal use of L2, which protects the ball, putting your playersí back to the defender.

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The pitch is looking pretty crowded here...
Momentum also takes centre stage this year, which is evident when dribbling the ball. If youíre sprinting with the ball your player can now move independently of the ball in between touches, which is a small but noticeable change. There are fewer perfect first touches when the ball comes to your player at speed, or when dribbling at pace, making you vulnerable to turnovers.

The ball also moves more realistically if EA are to be believed. Certainly there are slightly more shot types available to you, and lobbed passes look a little different (flatter maybe?), but the changes seem small enough that unless youíre really looking for them you wonít notice. Generally speaking the changes to physics and momentum make the game look and flow more realistically, though occasionally it does feel overdone.

And that last part leads me to the first of two issues I have with FIFA 14, that is, somehow I found the simple act of dribbling the ball less satisfying than last year. Your players seem content to let the ball get too far away from them, even when not sprinting, giving defenders ample time to take the ball away. In cramped confines itís almost impossible to keep the ball away from defenders as your players simply donít have the necessary ball control.

The second issue is more fun than the first, and a lot has been made of it online already. That is, finesse shooting and headers are both overpowered. These are more of an issue online than offline, where a single moment can ruin hours of progress in a tournament. In offline play it can be fun to muck around with these techniques to try and run up a score against the CPU.

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EA's FIFA titles are superbly crafted games.
Visually FIFA 14 looks a lot like last year, though the aforementioned changes to physics do make the game look more realistic. There are more animations than ever - players shift their weight from foot to foot as they change direction for example. Player likenesses are good, not great, but in a game with so many licensed teams and players this is totally understandable. One difference gamers will notice from the current-gen to next-gen version, besides the obvious improvements in animation and resolution, is that the next-gen camera angle is much lower giving a more TV-like presentation and also showing off more of the crowds.

Aurally I didnít notice the music as much this year as last, though there are still some decent tracks in the game. There are only a few bands I recognize Ė Nine Inch Nails and Bloc Party for example Ė but the soundtrack is padded by decent tunes from bands I havenít heard of. The excellent commentary of the inimitable Martin Tyler and Alan Smith returns, without major changes. Thatís fine Ė their work remains among the best in a sports game, and is leaps and bounds ahead of that found in Madden, both in overall quality and accuracy.

EA Canada has done a credible job backing up last yearís exceptionally successful title with FIFA 14. It is by no means a major step forward from last year, but the changes to physics and momentum, along with improved presentation make it just enough different to be worth your attention. That said if youíre not a huge soccer (ok, football) fan and you have FIFA 13 you can probably wait until FIFA 15 (or maybe FIFA 14 on PS4).

Review By: Mike Allison

GRAPHICSThanks to improved physics the game looks more realistic than ever.
SOUNDThe commentary is still excellent, and the music, from largely unknown bands, is pretty good.
GAMEPLAYDribbling is less satisfying than in the past, and finesse shots and headers are overpowered, but outside of that there have been a number of minor improvements that ensure it is up to the high FIFA standard.
VALUEThere is plenty to do, especially if you plan to go online and/or get stuck into Ultimate Team.
OVERALLFIFA 14 is a solid game that makes only slight changes to last yearís game. Itís still great fun and well worth picking up, especially if you missed FIFA 13.

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