Before I get into telling you about 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, I might as well acknowledge the elephant in the room. Yes, the game isn’t being released on the PS4 or Xbox One, but EA has its reasons for that. The PS3 and Xbox 360 have a much bigger user base, plus very few people in Brazil actually own one of these next-gen consoles. You see they’re extremely expensive in South America, and EA don’t want to alienate the country or continent where the World Cup is taking place. Now I’m not saying I completely agree with the decision (I was gutted like most of you regarding no next-gen version), but can certainly understand their reasoning. They want to maximise sales in all regions and devote development time to consoles that are out there in big numbers, it makes sense. With that addressed, time to talk about the game itself. Surprise, it’s actually pretty decent.
The core gameplay isn’t wildly different to FIFA 14 on the PS3 and Xbox 360, but the changes that EA has made certainly improve the on-pitch action. If anything it’s moving more towards the next-gen version of FIFA 14 than anything else. Dribbling is notably better, with a tighter more fluid and explosive feel to it. This is especially prevalent with the top players such as Hazard, Ronaldo and Neymar. Passing has also received some attention, although results here are somewhat mixed. EA call it ‘Pinpoint Passing’ and it’s a pretty apt description. With any level of assists on passing feels a little too accurate, almost feeling like skill isn’t taking into consideration. It’s not always the case as you will find yourself misplacing passes on occasion, but only when you move to manual will you have a good level of freedom. It seems like it’s a considered move on EA’s part as throughout our time at Guildford checking out 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil the word ‘accessibility’ was quite a bit. They’re trying to find a nice balance so that the game appeals to both the hardcore and casual audiences (there is a new beginner mode after all), something they’ve managed to do quite well for the most part. I thought I would find it really difficult to play 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil after spending many hours with FIFA 14 on the PS4, but I found myself enjoying the game on many levels. The speed was a bit too fast coming from the PS4 version, but I found myself adjusting to it pretty well after a few hours. Plus, you can always pop the speed down a tad in the settings.
Staying with the gameplay side of things, EA has introduced set-piece tactics that can employed by pressing the d-pad. You can crowd the keeper or send a player on a near post run, both of which are very useful, but you’ll still need to execute the cross well. I didn’t manage to score once during my time with the game, so that says it all I guess. Penalties, an important part of any World Cup, have been tweaked too. Veterans shouldn’t notice much of a difference, but casuals will find them a little more forgiving as now it’s kind of more about hitting that green sweet spot. As a keeper you’ll be able to put off the penalty taker with an antic or two by pressing one of the face buttons. It’s more of a cosmetic addition than anything else, but the same can’t be said about the improved keeper AI. The men between the sticks won’t just float past the ball now; instead they’ll try to claw at or kick the ball in an attempt to save it. I witnessed a few examples of this, and it’s damn awesome. Finally, ball physics have been tweaked ever so slightly thanks to Adidas sending EA data based on their use of the Brazuca. I didn’t notice any major issues or anomalies, so rest assured the shooting remains one of the best parts of the game just like FIFA 14.
On the visual and presentation front, I was left very impressed. FIFA 14 on the PS3 and Xbox 360 looked dull and lifeless, 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil is anything but that. It’s a whole lot more vibrant and there’s an extra level of polish that just wasn’t present before. When I asked about the improved visuals I was told that this was possible due to freeing up memory in other areas and dedicating it to visuals instead. The game certainly didn’t seem broken at any point, so fair play to EA for taking that approach with 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil; it’s certainly paid dividends. As Matt Prior (line producer) said in our video interview (it’s on the front page, check it out), this has allowed EA to somewhat freely capture that Brazilian feel in the game. The colours are vibrant, and the cut backs featuring the crowd reacting to moments of notice really help create that World Cup party atmosphere. In this year’s addition you even get cut backs to fans back home in parks or famous landmarks celebrating, so expect to see Trafalgar Square if you play as England and (it could happen) do well. Even managers have received the special visual treatment, with 19 managers featuring their real faces (Hodgson, Scolari, van Gaal etc.). Hell, believe it or not, even Sepp Blatter has been “accurately” recreated! Just like the next-gen version of FIFA 14, expect exterior shots of the 21 stadiums in the game too. A final point presentation wise, EA Sports Talk Radio is another noteworthy addition, giving you the option of choosing between English and American hosts that comment on stories as you progress through the main mode. It’s great.
Speaking of modes, 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil is jam packed with things to do. There’s something for everyone, whether you like to play offline or online. If you like numbers, there are 10 modes (read our news post on the front page for a full breakdown) to be exact. The popular Captain Your Country returns based on player feedback, bolstered by the likes of Story of Qualifying, Story of the Finals (dynamic scenarios based on the real tournament) and Road to Rio. It’s the latter that is 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil’s main offline mode, kind of like seasons, tasking you with working your way through the tournament’s 12 stadiums until you reach Rio and lift the World Cup. There’s a neat little training feature integrated into the mode too, imitating real life training camps that will be set up by the teams taking part. You’ll come across these between matches, allowing you to choose a drill and four players to take part. If you’re successful, player stats will improve, but don’t worry there is a limit so no overpowered teams or players. It’s more than just a cosmetic or gimmicky feature as it introduces an element of management/coaching that’s been somewhat missing from FIFA. On top of the modes, there are 203 teams (all licensed) in the game so you won’t be getting bored anytime soon. If you do, then you can always go online and try to win the World Cup or play a few friendlies with a mate.
As a huge admirer and regular player of FIFA 14 on the PS4, I went into the playtest of 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil at EA Guildford not expecting much at all. It was a surprise to me then that I actually enjoyed what I played. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t give up the PS4 version of FIFA 14 to play it, but I’m certainly more interested in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil than I was previously and would probably buy it for my PS3 when World Cup fever hits me. On the other hand, if your only experience of FIFA 14 is on the PS3 or Xbox 360 then 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil seems like it could be well worth a purchase. Gameplay is better, visuals are much improved and it’s jam packed with modes. Hopefully the final product is just as good or if not better than what I played at Guildford.