2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil PS3 review – familiarity dims the magic of the cup

I seem to be starting most of my conversations with these five words lately, but here goes anyway: in a recent Reddit thread, Americans were asked what they like best about Europe. Some said the abundance of historical architecture. Some said the chips. And one said “The electric feeling in the streets of a country whose team is currently playing in the Euro or World Cup.”

 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil PS3 review

If you’re reading this review you probably know that feeling. Noise spilling from the open doors and windows of packed bars. Football playing on city centre big screens. A eerie lack of traffic in half-deserted summer streets. It’s that elusive, collective buzz that means far more than the actual football and, unless the World Cup name is to be just a shiny badge worn by an interim FIFA game, it’s also the real test of 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.

There’s a lot of FIFA in circulation already. Throwing out an extra full-price release like this one makes it quite conceivable that many of us will be spend £120 on the franchise within the space of 12 months. So it’s important that 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil should do more than simply play a decent game of football, but also conjure that electricity and replicate the unique festival feel of the tournament.

Well, it does at least play a decent game of football. Let us for a moment embrace the root absurdity of releasing what is substantially the same game year after year – and the related absurdity of reviewers and fans poring over relatively minor shifts in function and emphasis – and say that FIFA 14 on PS3 was a solid update that heightened the physical aspect of play in a mostly positive way.

It wasn’t very different from FIFA 13, but it was good, with two major caveats: headers were overpowered, and chipped through balls had an unrealistically high rate of accuracy which combined with defenders apparently moving through random patches of quantumly thickened time-space to make a lobbed pass over the back four controller-endangeringly deadly.

2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil fixes both of these problems with a lack of subtlety that almost suggests they’re being made an example of. Headers themselves have been no more than sensibly weakened, but crosses into the box are now far less accurate, often underpowered and looping short of the penalty spot. And chipped through balls suffer a similar fate, regularly failing to clear the out-stretched head of a covering defender, and putting attackers through against the keeper on a far less regular basis.

Some niggles remain – attacking players ahead of the ball too frequently make runs away from passes into feet intended for hold up play, as if to force a breathless all-out attack. But in general the game plays a satisfying, dogged football with lots of niggling physical challenges punctuated by breakthrough moments of passing and skill that rip open defences.

“It’s important that 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil should do more than simply play a decent game of football, but also conjure that electricity and replicate the unique festival feel of the tournament”

But is it World Cup football? Yes and no. Well, actually, just yes – but no thanks to the game’s somewhat painful attempts to create a branded tournament atmosphere. Mid-tournament training feels like a chore, and cutaways of crowds with thumbs down booing when their side concedes a goal are incomprehensible (come now, good people of EA – you know football. You know this doesn’t happen).

What does capture that feeling of an unfolding campaign is the game’s basic system of team management and the cup format. A World Cup is defined by stories: the injury to a key playmaker, a last-minute formation change, the emergence of a untested youngster. 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil has all this, and while its presentation is bogged down with messy menus and woeful atmospherics, packing in all 203 eligible teams and simply letting the tournament happen provides a platform for the magic to be recreated over and over again.

Our Score

Score: 7