FIFA 14 PS4 hands-on preview: next-gen footy familiar like an England quarter-final exit
With no PES coming to PS4 as yet, EA’s mega-bucks football franchise is currently the only horse running in the next-gen title race. Even so – and thankfully – it’s not taking anything for granted, as our extended playtest with next-gen FIFA 14 demonstrates…
FIFA 14 PS4 hands-on
No long-established gaming series splits its audience quite like FIFA. We scored this year’s PS3 outing 9/10 (a verdict I stand by) and praised the groundbreaking tweaks made to its physics system and footballing fundamentals; yet on release, fans moaned so fervently about those changes that EA immediately announced a patch to correct aspects of the game that were apparently overpowered.
From developer EA Canada’s point of view, it’s evidently impossible to please every longstanding FIFA fan. And its next-gen debut is unlikely to change that.
Much of the talk in the extended build up to this first PlayStation 4 season has been about the game’s new Ignite engine (also being put to use in new Madden and the returning NBA Live), so you’d be right to expect a completely fresh footballing experience when playing this version for the first time. And it’s fair to say that there’s plenty of new stuff in there. But the game as a whole will feel very familiar to those who’ve spent any amount of time with the PS3 incarnation. So if you were crossing fingers and toes for a total change of ethos – along the same lines as Mauricio Pochettino taking the reins at St Mary’s and somehow transforming Jose Fonte into a competent defender – this isn’t it.
What it is, is very good – if you’re a fan of this year’s PS3 version. The gameplay improvements that have been made mostly pertain to that already controversial physics system, and AI decisions related to it. For instance, players running with the ball have a better awareness of challenging defenders, so look to shrug off opponents who come in from the side, or automatically step over a mistimed sliding tackle. (A constant frustration in the current-gen version is your player mindlessly running into an opponent who has already gone to ground.)
“I’m able to gain space in central midfield with deft
touches away from opponents, and beat full backs
with perfectly-timed changes of pace or angle.”
It’s not only when sprinting that you notice this enhancement – movement is also much more precise when everything slows down. In multiple games against PlayStation Access’ Rob Pearson, I was able to gain space in central midfield with deft touches away from encroaching opponents, as well as beat his full backs with perfectly-timed changes of pace and angle from my wingers – rather than needing to do something showy with the right stick.
It’s encouraging that the move to better firmware has seen the development team bring additional subtlety to the game in this manner – delicacy, even – rather than fill it with preposterous tricks and turns and transforming it into a glorified FIFA Street. (Which was basically what happened with the shift from PS2 to the current generation. Remember the God-awful Road To World Cup on Xbox 360?)
There’s also noticeably more jostling in the box on free kicks and corners, with bunches of players going up for headers. On PS3, any aerial challenge essentially becomes a one-on-one battle between defender and attacker, even in a crowded penalty box. On PS4 – like in real life – you see strength and heading stats (as well as player timing) come to the fore as everyone tries to attack the ball. It’ll still leave most crying “scripted” whenever they concede from a set piece, but certainly adds to the realism.