We’ve already covered FIFA 14’s trio of new features – True Player Motion, Human Intelligence and Living Worlds - in detail, but now we’ve had the chance to play a newer version of the game and for longer, it’s only now we can see the differences in play.
Take True Player Motion – essentially it means the players move and react more realistically, and it’s most noticeable when your player is preparing to take a shot. Previously, when shooting on goal players entered a fixed animation, which was the same whether you were toe-poking the ball or curling a shot from the outside of your boot. Now it’s completely contextual – players will take a half-step to make sure they can take the ball on their favoured foot; they’ll open their body and change shape to curl a shot into the top corner. Indeed, players have a greater sense of weight and momentum than before, so the passes they’re able to play will depend on the speed and direction of their run, and of course their ability as a player.
Ball movement feels more realistic too. It’s only a small detail, but ping a cross from one side of the pitch to the other and it’ll swerve in the air, depending on the spin from the kick. It’s a nice touch and real helps bring the game to life.
Importantly, anyone familiar with FIFA and indeed football will feel comfortable with these improvements because they occur dynamically, meaning you don’t need to learn new skills to use them – they happen automatically, depending on the circumstances of the situation, so the position of the ball, the player, and so on. If the ball is coming in high you’ll automatically take it on your chest to control it; if it’s lower your player will trap it using his feet. Admittedly they’re not next-gen-defining leaps forward, but these incremental changes add up and together make FIFA on PS4 and Xbox One more fluid, realistic and ultimately satisfying.
Elsewhere, it definitely feels like the other players in your team are smarter; strikers are much more active on making runs and putting pressure on the back four, while defenders will cluster together to make it harder to break through on goal.
The changes off the pitch really help bring the game to life, too. If a ball goes out for a throw-in a ball-boy will scamper along the sidelines, pick it up and roll in to the awaiting player; if the ball is booted into row Z, the crowd will toss it back. And sometimes, just like in the real game, the ball-boy will grab a spare and throw it back while the other ball is still on the pitch. meaning you have to wait for it to be kicked out of play before continuing. It’s a nice touch and because there are no breaks in the action – the camera stays on the ball at all times and only cuts away for replays of goals, fouls and near-misses – there are times when you’d be forgiven for thinking you were watching a real match on television.
Lastly, there’s the crowd. For the first time in a football game all 80,000 fans are fully realised, chanting, cheering and waving throughout the game. The roar of the crowd gets louder the more you dominate play, plus they’ll pick out individual players if they’re playing well. But the impact of the crowd is purely superficial – the home team won’t get a morale boost from playing at their ground.
FIFA 14 is a confident step forward rather than a bold reinvention, then. Importantly, it will be as fully-featured as the current-gen game, so Matchday and Ultimate Team will again be the backbone of the game. There’s Legends too, so if you’re playing on Xbox One – and, for that matter, Xbox 360 – you get access to 40 footballing legends to boost your ultimate team.
So the question is, will you be buying the current-gen game when it comes out in September or wait a couple of months for next-gen? Based on what I’ve played, waiting that little bit longer will be worth it.