FIFA 14 rewards patience, possession and building from midfield to walk away with all three points. T3 went hands-on with the latest installment...
Another year, another FIFA trying to find a way to improve on FIFA 13, which has raised the bar so high that Pro Evolution doesn't even make the subs bench these days.
More than 10 new features of FIFA 14 were announced at the game's reveal earlier this year and while EA's new Ignite engine has been reserved for next-gen consoles - the Sony PS4 and Xbox One - the pre-Alpha Xbox 360 build we got some hands-on time with still proves that there's plenty to look forward to for the current-gen console crowd.
FIFA 14: Features
FIFA 14 puts the emphasis on trying to create the scenarios that happen within 90 minutes with a raft of new animations that it hopes presents the unpredictabile nature of the game.
Once again, it's all about striving for realism so when you want to pull off the new curling lofted through ball, it can only be effectively executed if a defender is out of position and has the left the space in behind.
Possession is nine tenths of the law for teams like Barcelona and managers like Rafa Benitez so prepare to be more methodical about your football approach as the pace of the game has been dramatically slowed down, rewarding you for intelligently bringing your teammates into play and crafting the kind of sweeping, penetrative passing moves that would make a Camp Nou crowd purr with appreciation.
It's no use picking teams packed with speed merchants like Ronaldo and Messi thinking you can breeze past teams and easily skip past defenders because new features like Variable Dribble Touch really make you think about how you carry the ball even with the most talented of players.
FIFA 14: Gameplay
Whether you're walking, jogging or running, each touch differs from the last. If you're trying a lung-busting run in the 89th minute and your player is struggling for energy, the fatigue will affect your ability to keep control of the ball.
Shooting in recent FIFA games has often had the same outcome, but the new Pure Shot mechanics adds an authenticity and variety of striking the ball that is a refreshing addition.
Immediate events occurring around the player like a set of defenders closing you down or matching you for pace can influence the effectiveness of your shot sometimes forcing you to frustratingly rush your strike.
Players will be able to strike the ball with different areas of the foot like Gareth Bale who uses the outside of his left foot to cross and shoot just as he does in real life. This in tandem with the new ball physics means there are more outcomes when you have an attempt on goal and also means a greater success rate when shooting from long range.
FIFA 14: Controls
FIFA 14 really pushes the idea and value of protecting the ball as another way of slowing down play and thinking about how you can bring other teammates into play. It's an element that has been reserved for Didier Drogba-style forwards in previous games but now it's been moved into other areas of the pitch.
Moved to the shoulder buttons has meant skills moves are now designated to the analogue sticks, but it's still more than manageable to perform a stepover or three without any issues.
FIFA 14: Teammate AI
EA has responded to feedback about last year's FIFA, particularly in the area of teammate AI with the computer often letting you down in defensive areas of the pitch so now you can expect to see full backs tracking back more effectively and much tighter marking which is particularly noticeable at set-pieces where at times in FIFA 13 you can feel powerless to ensure everyone is picking up their men.
FIFA 14: Graphics
From afar there doesn't seem to be a dramatic change in terms of visuals, but up close is where you begin to see some of the more detailed intricacies in the animation and physics engine department that have been added. Players pull more realistically at shirts, jockey and jostle off the ball and now react to situations where they feel they have been fouled or denied a clear opportunity on goal.
FIFA 14: Verdict
FIFA 12 introduced more tactical awareness and FIFA 13 saw the push towards much greater realism, and now FIFA 14 has tried to mould itself much closer into a more modern representation of the game putting the emphasis on simulation more than it has ever before.
The tweaks and improved game engine mechanics feel more substantial and noticeable than they have done in the last few FIFA games and while it should make it a tougher game to master, it should still offer that same satisfying football feeling.
FIFA 14 release date: 27 September 2013
FIFA 14 price: 39.99