Now, we’ve reviewed FIFA 14 for the Xbox 360, but also went hands-on with the Xbox One version last week at a preview event hosted by EA at the Ivy Penthouse (not to brag or anything…) – where new exclusive FUT Legends were officially announced – and can honestly say that the next-gen iteration of our favourite football title is an entirely different beast.
Obviously, the first noticeable difference comes in the graphical department. FIFA 14 on the Xbox One looks amazing, and the developers at EA Canada want to show off the full capabilities of the hardware – hence why some particular presentation choices were made. One of those relates to the stadiums; on next-gen, each arena and the surrounding streets have been modelled from the ground up after their real-life counterpart. Camera fly-ins before each match spotlight the immense level of detail put into these arenas, which are also packed with thousands upon thousands of fans, all represented as fully-3D character models. Based on polygon count alone, this would never have been possible on older consoles.
As seen above, Etihad Stadium is a great example of an arena recreated with expert accuracy. But the arenas and crowds therein are only parts of the sum that lends to the feeling of Living Worlds. The default camera angle has been lowered to include more of the crowd in the background, showing off the surroundings, but also keeping an effective, unobstructed perspective on play. Individual blades of grass on the pitch get kicked up when players strike a ball, and should they go in for the goal, you’ll notice more dynamic angles being utilised during celebrations. Everything is tighter and closer to the action, pulling you deeper into a state of immersion.
Producer Peter Trenouth actually explained to us that a team of guys from the studio visited the Director’s Box during a televised game in order to observe how he controlled the teleplay, noting when and why he switched between certain cameras, and where they were located throughout the grounds so that they could gain a better understanding of the presentation side of things. And it paid off. There is also unique commentary during replays now, which is something that people have requested for a long time… no longer will the silence urge you to skip through, as you now receive feedback on the play in question. Other small touches such as the inclusion of ball boys – which results in a higher frequency of second balls appearing on the pitch, mind you – and footballers flicking the ball to another who is preparing to take a corner really add to the overall authenticity.
Available to us were some of the best teams in the world: PSG, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bor. Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur, but only for kick-off matches strictly with 3-minute halves. Gameplay-wise, the experience was smooth as silk, with the Ignite Engine providing more nuanced motion, blending between a substantially increased animation set. In-Air Play is no longer limited, enabling more than one player from each side to leap for a header, making the tussle much more competitive. Pure Shot is also taken to further extremes on next-gen platforms when considering the integration of Elite Technique and Pro Instincts, resulting in even more varied strikes.
Elite Technique makes this possible by incorporating skilful techniques such as shooting while off-balance, trapping the ball in a swift 180° turn and automatically dummying or running over an incoming ball if calculated that accepting the pass would break momentum. It essentially allows the means to execute some of the more expert manoeuvres in the game. Pro Instincts deals with the instinctual reactions a player would give in real life situations. For instance, if the opposition is coming in with a slide tackle, you will – provided conditions relating to stride and spacing are met – jump over their feet, avoiding impact. Players also brace for impact when going to ground, and put an arm between themselves and a defender when the threat of losing possession is present. This isn’t exactly the same as Protect The Ball, but follows the same principles of instinctively doing what’s requiring to keep the ball.
When you combine all of these elements, both in aesthetics and mechanics, FIFA 14 on Xbox One plays like a dream and feels as real as ever. And for those of you who have already purchased the title on either current-generation console – much like with how EA is handling retainment of Battlefield 4 stats – your badges, kits, cards, FUT career, Seasons progress and more will carry over – from PS3 to PS4, and Xbox 360 to Xbox One. So, taking a gander at the varying upgrade offers out there may very well be worth it, as the enhancements found here are not just superficial, but affect the gameplay experience itself for the better. FIFA 14 will be available in November, at launch, for both next-gen systems.