There was a time when the idea of watching soccer on television was nauseating. It just made no sense to me why this “game” was considered the most popular in the world. In the US, and especially in the south we play REAL FOOTBALL. The struggle of man versus man, in a contest to see who can hit harder, and also there is a ball for some reason. Around the 2002 World Cup, I got more than a little curious. In what can only be described as moment of utter brilliance wrapped in a moment of absolute chaos — I bought FIFA 2002. And I have yet to look back.
At first the game was simple enough — kick the ball into the goal repeatedly to win. But then as I delved deeper into the game, I became more intrigued with the inner workings of the game. Our cable provider had just picked up Fox Soccer Channel, so I decided to watch actual soccer. As much I enjoy my matches now, at that time it was like watching paint dry one molecule at a time — in other words, cool on the face of it, but also very boring. But as I began to understand how certain players are suited for certain roles in certain formations, and how that affects the playing style of the team, I began to bring that knowledge back to FIFA. It helped me enjoy and be successful at that game and in turn enjoy watching real life games even more.
For a novice, the ability to play and enjoy FIFA has NOTHING to do with how much you like or know about soccer. Outside of understanding how the offside rule works, you would be fine and dandy just passing the ball around all day until you get within range to take a shot. Rinse. Repeat. Someone with a little more intricate knowledge may be able to be a bit more fancy in their offensive build-up, but that can and does come with playing time and not necessarily a working knowledge of how real life soccer operates.
As usual around this time of year, I am excited for FIFA 14. The game came out a couple of days ago, so I figured now would be a good a time as any to give people the skinny on the new ball-kicking simulator. Now, I know what you’re saying — this is just another of EA’s cash-grab annual repackages that add nothing of relevance or significance to the game.
When things like this make it into the game, I lose the will to live.
I wouldn’t be inclined to completely disagree with you, but what FIFA does better than pretty much every other EA Sports game, literally, ever made is that it actually adds value and function to it’s repackaging. It isn’t just DLC-esque updates, but more along the lines of core functionality. As a result, most FIFA games year on year don’t play exactly the same. It’s not completely like playing an absolutely different game every year, but it is enough of a revamp and update that the game plays better every year. Imagine that, a sports game that adds functionality and improvements every year…what is the world coming to? Now, whether it is necessarily worth paying full price every year for is up for debate. To me at least, it’s clear that the developers are actually trying to earn your money through innovation and work, rather than just making the same game every year with new tackle animations.
So, before we get any deeper into this I have to say fuck Sp*rs and their bullshit cheating-ass team. Your only claim to notoriety in the United States, Clint Dempsey, left to play in the MLS, and your chimpanzee wearing a human suit slithered off the Spain. Why are you even in this game? WHY?!?! Have fun living in the glory of what might have been had you managed to hang on to your overrated, Donkey Kong impersonating, diving, one man teaming, douchebag left winger. Mind the gap, you literal sack of cow vaginas. Come On You Gunners! Fuck Off You Spurs!
The resemblance is truly uncanny.
Now with that out of the way…When you boot up the demo you’re greeted by what looks like a Windows 8 Metro screen. The new design is a nice little refresh and it brings the important things front and center, rather than making you dredge through menus. Kick-off is your only option for now, but there will be Challenges, Career Mode, and the Ultimate Team like in previous years. The demo has 8 teams: Barcelona, Boca Juniors, Dortmund, Manchester City, Milan, New York Red Bulls, PSG, and Cuntingtown Cockandballs (Tottenham Hotspur). Each team plays differently and represents the different playing styles in countries around the world. Whether it’s counterattacking, pass happy, attack heavy, or defensive, there is a team for you. Though, you probably won’t know which team to pick if you have no idea who these teams are or what they have to offer.
Barcelona (Spain) – Great passing and attack, kinda crappy defense. They are one of the top 4 teams in the world. Also they have the best player in the world (Messi), who also happens to be on the cover of the game AND one of the best up and coming players in the world (Neymar).
Boca (Argentina) – Crazy South American football. Good possession and attack. Aside from sharing a name with a beef burger replacement, the only player on Boca Juniors that I know is Riquelme, and I love saying Riquelme. Riquelme. Riquelme. Riquelme. It’s like I’m casting a hex. RIQUELME!
Dortmund (Germany) – Decent defense, great counterattack. It’s strange that they didn’t throw Bayern Munich in the demo since they beat Dortmund to every major honor in Germany and in the Champions League, but Dortmund is a success story among European clubs, and they are damn fun to play with and watch. Give the ball to The Big Lewandowski.
Manchester City (England) – Good attack, suspect defense at times. This team is Manchester United’s abused and neglected step-brother. They found a rich sugar daddy to buy them everything they’ve wanted, but they still manage to underperform. Their only redeeming quality is that they beat up on United and it fills me with joy.
Milan (Italy) – Good defense, decent counterattack. Mario Balotelli is literally a beast and El Shaarawy’s hair is ridiculous and emmaculate…ridaculate.
IT DEFIES SO MANY LAWS OF SO MANY THINGS!!!
New York (USA, duh) – MLS team, stay away unless you like the most difficult challenge imaginable or you love Thierry Henry.
PSG (France) – ATTACK! DEFENSE? WHAT THE HELL IS THAT!!! ATTACK!!! If Manchester City is the neglected and abused step-brother of Manchester United, then PSG is the girl you knew from high school that had daddy issues and began stripping because she said she was going to use the money to go to medical school, but really she just likes the attention and has a drug habit. Zlatan Imbrahimovic, when he’s not wearing a bikini, and Edison Cavani are the best options in attack.
The price of scoring goals is apparently your dignity and self respect.
Sp*rs (England) – Fuck this team. Seriously.
When going into a for real-real not for play-play game you are given a loading screen mini game that you can either play or just sit by for a few seconds and skip. You can play them as long as you want, and when you’re ready to stop just hit start and go on to the actual game. I have to say that the loading screen games have been one of the best ideas in the history of sports games, period. The games aren’t some ridiculous challenges that have no bearing on actual gameplay, in fact they are downright helpful. They give you tips for controlling your players movements, passing, crossing, shooting, taking free kicks, defending, shooting penalties…literally all of the stuff that you will have to eventually do in the game, they give you time to practice and figure out how the mechanics work. They even give you advanced tips, like how to call over the second man in a free kick and use him as a decoy to trick the goalkeeper and other tricky tricks that will soon have you playing like the Galacticos that you so eagerly want to be. It also helps that the games are fun, which I can verify having spent many a game playing the loading screen mini-games trying to pass the challenges instead of playing the actual game. They are fun, and useful, and addictive. If this is what the actual gameplay of FIFA 15 became I wouldn’t even be mad. OK, maybe a little mad.
The new in-game feature this year is player control. The better ball control a player has the better their ability to make turns and use skill moves (think juke moves). This has always been a thing, but now players are more precise in their movements. Even the computer controlled players get in on the action. They get open more frequently and allow an outlet to get the ball out of trouble, and they make better decisions in timing and cutting their runs to remain onside for pass through the backline of the defense. What this all means in the simplest of terms is that players move better and you can get into open space. To counter this offensive advantage the defense will aggressively pursue balls and make moves to cut off offensive players. The ball is even more independent this year and doesn’t just become an extension of the players foot when they get possession. This means if you are trying to make a pass or shoot in the opposite direction of the way you are moving, the ball will not come off at the angle that you want it and probably won’t have any power — you know, like if real life. Also players on your team jump out of the way of passes and shots, which is nice, because goals can often be negated because a player won’t move out of the way.
The pause menu has been revamped to mirror the metro look of the start screen. You can still access the ever familiar FIFA menus by clicking on the boxes, but the pause menu has stepped its game up — going from a tool to get to where you are going to something that will save you a bunch of time and help you better manage your team. Changing formations is as simple as highlighting the Team Management box and then using the right stick to cycle through 5 different formations. If you have never played FIFA, I cannot stress to you how absolutely groundbreaking this is. You used to have to delve deep into the menus to change formations in the middle of the game. Now, it’s just a couple of clicks aways. Team shape (the width of the player on the pitch, and where they are supposed to be positioned within the formation) plays an important role, and having the right shape can dictate the flow of the game. If you don’t have enough players forward, you can’t really attack which is a problem, if you want to attack. If you have too many players back the speed of the game slows down when you get into attack as well. I’m not sure if you’ll be able to change the preset formations on the pause menu, and you’ll still have to go into the menu proper to change to something weird like 4-6-0 (because strikers are for pussies), but for a quick change of shape during the course of the match, this is an absolute miracle of science, or a great convenience or something.
So far I have spent far too much time playing the FIFA 14 demo. I will be holding out for the next-gen version because, you know, I roll like that — but I know when I finally obtain a copy of the game that I will continue to spend far too much time playing it and neglecting other duties in my life.
This will probably hit too close to home in a few months.
For soccer fans, this is the best FIFA yet. For sports fan who are looking to break out of the Madden monopoly or see what all the hype is about (now that NBC has the right to the EPL, soccer is on every weekend, baby) FIFA 14 is a great introduction to the beautiful game and the world of futbol.
Also, fuck Sp*rs. Always fuck Sp*rs.