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FIFA 14 Review: A different game, for the better

on 23 September 2013

There is something very different about FIFA 14 compared to the previous few installments. The game finally feels different--really different. The graphics, presentation, and career modes haven't changed much, but the gameplay is, in fact, different. Notice I paid careful attention not to designate if those differences are positive or negative. That is because the changes are extremely subtle on the surface, and after a few hours on the pitch you may not notice things like improved ball physics or better player movement. Those subtle tweaks are improvements, without a doubt, but FIFA 14 doesn't have enough to draw in a new crowd of gamers.

That isn't a big deal for EA Sports since FIFA is its cash cow. FIFA is so incredibly popular and historically solid that EA doesn't need to make too many changes to draw its allegiance of fans in for another year. For those more casual fans that may have skipped a few years, FIFA 14 is a great place to play catch up, experience what you missed, and be immersed in more refined gameplay.

If you are a longtime FIFA fan, the idea that something is finally different in gameplay is notable. For years, EA Sports has made tweaks to gameplay, integrated a new engine, even spiffed up player likeness. But we haven't had a game that felt fundamentally different, or better, since at least FIFA 10. That all changes this year as FIFA 14 slides much closer to pure sports simulation than its typical fast-paced, almost arcade-like gameplay in years past.

Your first time on the pitch in FIFA 14 may feel slow, really slow. That is due, in part, to Precision Movement. That's a fitting term as every step your player takes really matters. It takes fast players longer to take off in a sprint; likewise, defenders are less like linemen from American football and more like agile defenders in real life. There is an authentic weight to players, noticeable as you plant each foot to maneuver around defenders. When you get the hang of the new pace, you can pull off some great runs. But the first few playthroughs are slow and longtime fans will need to readjust their strategy to focus more on methodical ball movement around the penalty block, smart passes into open spaces, and grabbing a shot on goal when you have just a few steps on your defender.