Are you old/geeky enough to remember playing FIFA International Soccer in 1993? As the first FIFA-licensed game to hit the shelves, it was ground breaking, but the series really hit its stride a few years later, with June 1997's “Road To World Cup 98”, with music by Blur, realistic offside rules and accurate squads.
Fast forward to 2014 and PlayStation fans around the world are immersed in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, the sixth World Cup release in EA Canada's never-ending series. So how much of a step up is it? Here we'll look at the innovations for 2014, and how much further the genre has been pushed.
The main selling points of the new game include the fact that all the qualification stages and nations are featured, meaning that very few countries in the world aren't in the game. Fans from Mauritania, for example, will be disappointed, but they'll just have to lobby their national football association to take part next time around. Naturally, every qualified nation is playable in-game. Players can compare their progress with the real-life tournament online at the Sports Interaction site, where updated tournament odds are also available.
Improved gameplay and physics are claimed, along with new playing modes like Road To Rio de Janeiro, an online multiplayer game set in the real-life stadiums of Brazil. Nearly 7500 real players are represented – remember that all these player names need to be recorded at various levels of excitement by the commentators, a huge undertaking in itself, even ignoring the rest of the commentary.
It's the visuals that, as usual, steal the show. Amazingly rendered stadiums, with changing light conditions depending on time of day, are coupled with detailed crowd shots, a far cry from the vaguely flickering banks of terraces of a few years ago.
Fans who have been playing its predecessor, FIFA 14, will notice only a slight jump in gameplay, but it's noticeable nonetheless. It feels slightly faster, and while there's no steep learning curve between the two, the overall experience is somewhat more polished. EA Sports are aware of course that their World Cup themed games attract buyers who don't purchase the annual titles, and some of the gameplay reflects that slightly different market. Penalties, for example (such a vital part of the tournament itself) feel a little easier than usual.
Overall, 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil is an excellent, highly-polished experience. If you've paid good money for FIFA 14 you'll have to decide whether slight enhancements are enough to make you want to upgrade again. The major issue for PlayStation fans is that it's not going to get a PS4 version; EA cite the lack of PS4 buyers in some countries (including Brazil) as a reason.