The latest installment of EA Sports’ globally popular soccer simulator, FIFA 14, hit the streets Tuesday. While it won’t shatter sales records in the way that Grand Theft Auto V has, FIFA 14 should maintain its place among the best-selling games worldwide for the simple reasons that soccer is the world’s most popular sport, and Electronic Arts is among the most massive game developers around. The new installment’s predecessor, FIFA 13, managed to be the highest-selling game of 2013 at the time of its launch. So FIFA 14 should be big. Does it deserve to be?
I had the chance to kick FIFA 14 for a couple hours on its debut day. The graphics are gorgeous, but not groundbreaking. The fact is, the FIFA franchise has looked great for years, and as the hardware that drives it — in my case, a PS3 — hasn’t changed in years, neither will the look of the game. The players’ faces do look a bit closer to their real-life counterparts than in previous versions. The crowds in the stands do come alive a bit more realistically than before. The grass looks like grass and the stadium color palettes appear to have been pushed toward more realism — they seem a bit more muted, as if the paints even in the spectacular Emirates Stadium in London have faded a bit. Playing during rain produces nice splashes off the grass. Overall the game looks fantastic, while not looking massively different from the previous version.
EA says it has upgraded the game’s engine to make matches play more realistically, with better ball physics and more intelligent player movement.
I haven’t noticed much in the physics area during gameplay, which were already good on previous versions. The improved physics have been apparent in the game’s many shooting, passing and ball control tutorials though. I did notice improved player ball control during action — a good dribbler in real life is also a good dribbler in the game, but if you insist on sprinting while dribbling, chances are the ball will get a bit too far ahead of your player and you’ll end up losing possession.