FIFA 14 Xbox One Preview
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4
Developer: EA Sports
EA love their buzzwords. Want some examples? Ok, you asked for it…
Did you know NBA Live 14 features the bounciest balls in basketball’s long-running ball-bouncing history thanks to EA’s new “BounceTek” technology. Yep, so so bouncy.
When a building falls down in Battlefield 4 and no one hears it, will it still evolve a level? Of course it does, silly! That’s plain old “Levolution”!
Oh, EA. For every blockbuster game you create you don’t half try and spoil it with some bloody silly words. Worse still, most of the time your Frankenstein terms of marketing spiel and corporate nonsense prove to be nothing more than hot air – a shallow attempt to convince players that you’ve pioneered yet another groundbreaking gameplay revolution. But we’re onto you now.
I still remember trying to control two players at once on FIFA 2004 using the much heralded, thumb-tangling off-the-ball player movement. I think they dubbed it “NoChanceControl”. The mechanic turned out to be utter bollocks, unsurprisingly, and was dropped from future FIFA instalments. Even now, I’m convinced only a football-loving, video-game-playing octopus could master this mechanic. (Probably the one who made those World Cup predictions; I think his name was Paul.)
Ignite My Fire
But for once, and no, I can’t quite believe I’m writing this either, the buzz behind EA’s unique and bastardised vocabulary is actually warranted, because FIFA 14’s Ignite engine has the potential to change everything.
Running on the Xbox One, FIFA 14 looked gorgeous. The resolution was crystal clear, the atmosphere felt electric thanks to the new 3D crowd models, and the ball appeared… well, more rounded and leathery than ever. Player animations and likenesses appeared more convincing – I could almost smell Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s on-field arrogance.
However, the game’s graphical fidelity certainly didn’t fit the definition of a next-generation game. It was basically a cleaner, prettier version than what we’re used to (and by that I mean console gamers), a disappointing trend that continued with the majority of so-called next-gen titles I played during the Tokyo Game Show.
Foot To Ball
But FIFA 14’s gameplay (yes, gameplay, the holy grail integral to any video game worth its pixelated salt) felt – dare I say it – revolutionary on Xbox One.
I usually hate losing football games – after all, winning is what it’s all about. But after succumbing to a 1-0 defeat against Manchester City while playing as Paris Saint Germain, I couldn’t help but reflect fondly upon what was, all things considered, a typical game of football. And that, in itself, is a remarkable achievement.
I couldn’t breeze down the wings with weaker players while batting off burly defenders like annoying flies. I was unable to ping-pong my way towards goal like a team of fleshy table bumpers. I even tried spamming my usual one-two tactic only to see the computer defender intercept the ball, my pass go astray or my player take a bad touch. Everything felt alive, unpredictable, organic and realistic in sense that is fundamentally appealing to those who enjoy the game most: genuine football fans. The pacing of the game was spot on, too. Not too quick, not too slow.
Dribbling was thoroughly exciting; each touch, turn and pivot flowed gracefully in parts and felt erratic in others. And that’s because my players’ touch wasn’t coated in a sticky glaze of virtual puppetry: the ball is a separate entity, and players aren’t blessed with infallible control; something which every football fan can appreciate. (The majority of professional footballers can’t even cross a ball for heaven’s sake.)
Each pass carried with it a veritable sense of uncertainty as to whether it would reach the intended target; every long ball, short pass or through ball was delivered with an exceptional amount of realism and a tangible sense of weight; it really was a joy to spray the ball about. Arsene Wenger would be proud.
FIFA 14 not only looked like the beautiful game on Xbox One, it near enough replicated it perfectly. I’m still stunned as to exactly how EA has accomplished this magical feat with the Ignite Engine, but, just to be sure I hadn’t hit my head on the way to the Xbox One booth, I tested FIFA 14 on a nearby Xbox 360 after the game. Needless to say, FIFA 14 on the 360 felt like an arcadey, hyperactive mess in comparison to the next-gen version – and that’s quite some achievement.
FIFA 14 was – remarkably – the title most worthy of the “next-gen” moniker at this year’s Tokyo Game Show. A genuine leap in gameplay resulted in a brand new, fresh experience and one that I can’t wait to get my hands on when the next-gen consoles arrive.
Back of the net, EA.