Hands on with FIFA 14

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We’ve previewed FIFA 14 already, but EA Sports has recently granted us hands-on time with a demo build of the upcoming soccer game. We played with the Xbox 360 and PS3 preview builds, but FIFA 14 will also release on future consoles Xbox One, PS4, and for Microsoft Windows.

We’re impressed so far: FIFA 14 continues to improve steadily, although there aren’t many radical changes from last year. There’s no harm in playing it safe though, as FIFA is already a strong sports simulation series and more than enough to rival competitor Pro Evolution Soccer from Konami. That’s not to say that it’s completely the same, though, so sit back as we reveal the main changes to gameplay and other aspects.

More real locations

We were surprised to see the amount of stadiums included in FIFA 14, the main one being Camp Nou, the soccer stadium in Softonic’s home base of Barcelona. EA had previously lost the license and had to exclude Camp Nou from FIFA 13, making it a nice return. Camp Nou of course means that FC Barcelona is a playable club. Other playable clubs in the demo included Atlético Madrid, Dortmund, Liverpool, and more. The roster was made up from the 2012-2013 season, so it unfortunately lacks some newly-drafted players.

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The demo’s graphics are nearly identical to FIFA 13, although we suspect that this is only for the current generation of systems. EA will certainly need to improve the visuals for the Xbox One and PS4. While we didn’t see a graphical improvement, FIFA is evolving in other ways, one example being significantly improved animation.

Realistic movements

EA has greatly improved the flow of the game with the implementation of a realistic animation system dubbed “Precision Movements”. This system revamps FIFA animation, creating a more fluid and natural replication of the real sport. Precision Movements controls the step-by-step flow of each player on the field, creating more natural turns and collisions. It also gives the ball improved physics, requiring greater finesse to swerve shots, strike with power, or drill the ball accurately.

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In practice, it might be hard for novice players to tell the difference with Precision Movements. However, like a fighting game, the changes in animation and, more importantly, frame count have an effect on gameplay. For example, your opponent turns sharply, causing them to brake slightly. In these few tenths of a second, it becomes easier for you to steal the ball and turn the match in your favor. Dedicated FIFA fans will be able to create new fast pace strategies not seen in previous installments.

On the defensive

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EA is fully aware that there are handicaps created by Precision Movements, so it’s added a defensive mechanic called “Protect the Ball”. Using the controller’s left trigger button, the player with the ball will be able to use their own special movements to help block the other team’s attacks and quickly get the ball back into their possession. This will allow you more time to plan your actions, while also encouraging less reckless gameplay.

Contact and collision

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Previous versions of FIFA have been criticized for the amount of collisions, creating absurd situations like forwards and defenders smacking into each other and collapsing to the ground. While this system still exists, the animations and presentation is more realistic-looking. Impacts are more natural, to the point where you can sometimes feel the physical crunch of bodies crashing into each other. There are still a few moments when collisions are downright hilarious, but they are few and far between.

Take your aim

FIFA 14 has an updated system, “Pure Shot”, that changes the stride and angle of a shot. Players will now have to think about how they approach the goal, although they can also shoot while rushed or off balance. This typically makes it much harder to score, and even with little pressure from defense, an imperfect shot could completely miss the target.

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Not only is it harder for the offensive to make easy shots, but player-controlled goalies are now more powerful. We were able to block many shots with ease and could move quicker than in FIFA 13. Some of our dives felt like they were almost magnetic, allowing us to stop shots that should have been out of our reach.

An intense challenge

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The high degree of realism might appear slow to some people, with a bigger focus on defense and midfield action, but fewer total goals. However, FIFA 14 is very exciting to play, with a real intensity as you battle for control of the field. During our time with the game, we saw risky shots and spectacular plays, with fierce battles for control of the ball.

Don’t worry, the spirit of soccer is still there, only now you need to work for it. While we only played exhibition matches in the demo, hopefully EA will give us time with the Career mode and online features soon. Until then, we’re looking forward to future FIFA 14 details.

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