FIFA 14 PS4 hands-on preview: next-gen footy familiar like an England quarter-final exit
And realism is the watchword here, with a level of detail that finally brings the series on a par with MLB: The Show and NBA 2K. Lovely touches abound, and for once I don’t mean of the Messi variety.
I’m talking external shots of stadia such as the Bernabeu and Old Trafford before matches kick off; home and away fans reacting correctly (and fervently) when a goal goes go in (for instance, score on the road at the Emirates and you’ll see the south-east corner of the stadium erupt); and a new default camera view which gets the lower half of the crowd on the far side onscreen at all times, and means you feel like you’re playing in a unique environment, rather than what could just as easily be Wandsworth Common as Wembley.
Want more? Try ball boys throwing extra balls on the pitch before a throw-in is taken, and having them booted off by nearby players. Or working scoreboards in the correct position in every stadium, like the Anfield one at the side of the Kop end. Or camera angles which match those in real stadia, or replays of standout moments (like an outrageous piece of skill, or a goal from earlier in the same game) rather than simply that-thing-what-just-happened
Or, unquestionably the best improvement of all in so far as intricate detail is concerned: a feature entitled Match Flow. The idea behind it is that, should you wish, you can play an entire game without ever jump-cutting from one event to the next – for instance, your keeper being ready to take a goal kick literally two seconds after a shot goes over the bar, as is the case on PS3.
“Winning a corner prompts the taker to fetch the ball before placing it in the quadrant, while your centre backs amble upfield and opponents prepare to defend it.”
Now in that situation you’ll see fans throw the ball back, followed by the keeper retrieving it and downing it on the edge of the six-yard box in readiness to restart play, in real time. Similarly, winning a corner prompts the taker to go over and fetch the ball before placing it in the quadrant, while various camera angles show your centre backs ambling upfield and opponents setting themselves to defend the incoming cross.
As with current-gen FIFA, all of these scenes can be immediately skipped with the X-button if you so please, but there’s a great pleasure in enjoying the game as though it’s a TV broadcast, and using the stoppages to gather yourself for the next bit of action. At least, until you’re 0-1 down with 10 minutes to go and desperate to get on with trying to source an equaliser.
Impressive as the on-field stuff is, the development team should also be credited for porting the entire PS3 game’s feature set over to PS4. From Career Mode to Ultimate Team to Seasons, everything in the current-gen version has made the leap – and you can carry most of your data (Career Mode is, I believe, the only exception) over from old console to new. So if you’ve made Division Four in Seasons on current-gen, that’s where you’ll start your online matches should you make the switch come 29 November.
I mentioned the series’ current-gen debut earlier with good reason: Road To World Cup was an utterly disastrious beginning to the gen-7 era, from which it took FIFA a good three years to recover. (And, ultimately, prosper.) Its start to the age of PS4 looks significantly less inauspicious, with FIFA 14 shaping up as not only one the best sports games coming on day one, but possibly the best launch game in any genre. Just as long as you’re not one of the fickle few who still thinks the PS3 version is borked. In which case, this definitely isn’t for you. Maybe next year, eh?
FIFA 14 is out on PS4 on 29 November.