FIFA 14 Beta Review

After playing the FIFA 14 career mode closed beta for a week, I’ve had some time to consider its strengths and weaknesses. This has been the first year that I had considered not buying FIFA; however the promise shown from the beta has won me over.

Obviously, this is not the finished game, and more will be added to it by the release date. Little things such as the repetitiveness of the commentary will be fixed with the inclusion of new audio to keep it current. This is much needed, as whilst playing one match I was reminded by Martin Tyler about Jay Rodriguez’s goal scoring record 3 times in the first half. The gameplay feels much different to previous FIFAs, which is refreshing, however this isn’t without it’s flaws.as in previous iterations, players still stand idly waiting to receive a pass, allowing an opposition player to nip in and intercept. Even when they receive the ball, the first touch feels flat, as if the player gets the ball bogged down under his feet. This leads to difficulty unleashing wingers or playing the killer through ball. It’s not much better in the centre of the park either, where players caught flat footed means that you give the opposition a chance to pressurise you. When it comes to playing the killer ball, EA have almost got it right, but almost is not good enough as players are caught constantly offside. And it’s not just me; even the AI can’t avoid it. Despite neither team playing an offside trap, one match finished 12-11 for offsides. And of course there is no way to switch away from a player who is offside, which is made even more frustrating when the ball was meant for the better positioned, onside forward instead. EA seems to have made a special effort to not overpower pace. Last year there was a good balance of pace and strength, but they’ve now tipped the scales in the other direction. Fast wingers find it very hard to pass their marker using only their pace. In some ways this is very good, as it makes you play more creatively, however it is frustrating when Emmanuel Mayuka struggles to outpace Alan Hutton.

But when you are onside and have beaten your man you can look forward to a good cross, right? Wrong. I admit that I am not that gifted when it comes to FIFA, about 90% of my goals come from deep crosses to the back post. But this year’s crossing seems to be a bit off. Despite aiming, they usually are over hit or ballooned out of play, if not finding the one area of the box where there isn’t an attacker.

In terms of gameplay though, it’s mostly little tweaks needed and time for players to get used to it for it to be appreciated. The matches feel more realistic, as one on one battles seem much more interesting. It has really moved on from previous games, where players would run straight past each other and only move in straight lines. Adding to the realism is the little details of player reactions. When you win a 50-50 and send the opponent sprawling, your player will innocently raise his hands or when a player misses a sitter, he will put his head in his hands whilst other teammates berate him. These are only small touches, but they make the game seem even more realistic.

EA have emphasised their desire to have free-flowing games. They have upgraded the ‘players running to get the ball for set pieces and throw ins’ feature, so that most of the time you can keep the opposition under pressure. This is good, except when the ball is cleared out of play with no player within 40 yards of it, and you have to wait for your cumbersome centre back staggers after it.

From playing the pre-match skill games, there seems to be more variation than last season. This was definitely required, as last seasons’ skill games only kept people playing them for about a week. It’s not that they weren’t enjoyable, but there wasn’t enough, with most people completing all of them very quickly. Hopefully the variation will mean there will be more games with EA potentially adding to them throughout the season.

The career mode menus are really user friendly, as they are set up like the FUT 13 menu. This allows for easy navigation to useful screens, such as team management, formation or the Global Transfer Network. The ‘team management’ tab is especially useful, as it allows you to change personnel without having to go through the whole team management menus. It also allows you to switch between your preferred formations by simply moving the right joystick left or right. The only negative of the menu system is that some sections have multiple links, meaning that you have to hover over them and move the right joystick to see them. For instance, to get to the ‘shortlist’ or ‘scouting’ shortcut, you have to select the ‘buy players’ option and move the right joystick to navigate between them.

Scouting has also been revamped, making it more realistic. You now have your scouts compile initial reports on players, where they outline the player’s best attributes, and then they inform you of the player’s attributes after scouting the player again. Basically, the more you scout a player, the more you find out about him. This is needed, as it is unlikely that Barnet’s manager would know the ability of a player in the Dutch Second division without scouting him, as in previous games. The only problem with the new scouting is that players’ overall ratings are not shown until a scout really knows a player. This is annoying, as I had a 5 star scout watching Will Hughes for a whole season, however he still didn’t know his overall.

Verdict

7.5/10

+ The most realistic FIFA yet
+ More skill games
+ More user friendly menus
– Repetitive commentary
– Fails to address a lot of last year’s gameplay problems

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