EA announced Thursday that it will be releasing a World Cup specific version of its soccer video game FIFA, as it typically does every 4 years the international soccer tournament occurs. The game will be released in North America on April 15th, and will be available for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
The omission of next-gen consoles in the list of platforms on which the game will be released is curious to say the least, so the game’s producer Matt Prior touched upon this subject in an interview with online gaming website IGN:
“We’ve got to focus development on where there will be biggest for the buck,” Prior told IGN. “So obviously 360 and PS3 are still, by far, the most popular games consoles right now.”
Speaking as someone who has yet to make the transition to next-gen, I totally get where Prior is coming from. I know very few people who own an Xbox One or a PS4, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone without an Xbox 360 or PS3 somewhere in their domicile. The truth of the matter is it just makes more sense for a smaller scale game like this to remain strictly on current-gen technology. As is evidenced by Prior’s quote, EA knows it can still make a tremendous profit with its current plan.
As far as the content of the game itself is concerned, those familiar with EA Sports’ quad-annual (a word I just made up meaning once every four years) world cup game know that it typically features slight gameplay tweaks and improvements from the regular FIFA game released the previous autumn, and this iteration is no different. Being both a gamer and an avid soccer fan, I not only want to focus on the gameplay-specific improvements but also the overall aspects and features of the game that make it unique to this world cup.
Gameplay wise, let’s focus on a few of the improvements EA included in its announcement of the game. First is something EA refers to as “World Class Control”, a new control system allowing for additional dribbling, flicks, and new passing animations.
In FIFA 14, attacking options are a bit limited because players are kind of restricted in the choices they can make. You can either: A) play it out to the wings and send in crosses for headed goals, B) play through balls to strikers or attacking midfielders making runs through the defense via either ground passes or lobs, or C) be slightly selfish and dribble around with one player, creating space for a shot outside the box. That’s pretty much it.
Fortunately, this new world class control system appears to be poised to fix that issue, with these new “ground and outside of the foot curling passes” as they are called on EA’s website allowing for more diverse and realistic gameplay. A big problem I’ve had with recent FIFA games is that I’ll be watching a live soccer game on TV and I’ll see someone like Juan Mata or Mesut Ozil makes a pass that simply isn’t possible in the video game.
The mechanics of the game have been too limited in the pass to allow for a more nuanced style of play that more hardcore FIFA players would like employ. I was hoping EA would fix this in FIFA 15, but it appears they have already addressed this and will include it in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. Good news for sure.
The next improvement of importance is a slight tweak to the capabilities of defenders: defenders can now leap over attacking players to clear crosses or long balls from the opposing team, something that once again is a more realistic reflection of real soccer and a definite positive for the FIFA franchise in general. One of the worst parts of FIFA 14 is the ludicrous bicycle kick clearances defenders seem to do on a regular basis, when in reality no one EVER does that in a real soccer match. This new feature will reflect the real-life playing styles of Giorigo Chiellini and some of the other premier defenders in world football, something previous FIFA games have been severely lacking.
One new “feature” that I hesitate to call an improvement is the inclusion of goalie animations in penalty kicks, where goalies can perform “wobbly-knees”, “matador”, and “shoot it there” pantomimes to throw off penalty kick takers. This is making an already terrible aspect of FIFA even worse. I understand that penalties are a crucial part of the world cup knockout-style format, but they just don’t have a place in video games. After an arduous 90 minutes of full time and 30 minutes of extra time, battling to a hard fought tie, no one wants the game to be decided in some arbitrary guessing game that involves absolutely no skill and in no way determines a proper victor. Props to EA for at least trying to spice up an already awful thing I guess.
2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil will feature 203 FIFA sanctioned national teams, an insane number compared to the 47 available in FIFA 14. This will give players the opportunity to take even the lowliest of underdogs all the way to the World Cup Final in Brazil. Wanna take Malta all the way to the final and defeat the mighty Spaniards? Do it. The possibilities are endless.
The game will also feature country specific banners, flags, and a faux-live feed of cheering fans from your country of choice. For instance, if you score a crucial goal with England, the game will cut to a crowded London pub going wild about their beloved Three Lions. This is the world cup after all, the biggest sporting event in the world. It’s only natural that the game features true excitement rather than prerecorded commentary from a studio.
You have to give EA credit for truly striving to make this game fresh and an improvement rather than a cash-grabbing repackaging of FIFA 14 with the WORLD CUP name plastered on the front. The only market for this game is either diehard soccer fans or FIFA fanatics, and actually those 2 groups are pretty much one and the same. But you know what, given the fact that the FIFA games are consistently the most popular, highest selling, best reviewed sports games every year, I think EA is just fine with that.
2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil will be available April 15th for Xbox 360 and PS3.