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FIFA 14

A Fine Strike

It's always interesting when a developer talks about their old product proudly, but are still quick to condemn it on certain points. EA Sports and developer EA Canada's early sneak peek at FIFA 14 reveals some of the elements lacking in FIFA 13, but also points to a way forward.

At the EA Sports Season Opener, the first look at FIFA 14 showed that the team has been hard at work correcting a number of weaknesses of the franchise and an overall betterment of its representation of The Beautiful Game.

FINISHING

  • FIFA 13 sometimes fudged the last few steps of shooters' approach to the ball, creating awkward animations as it was struck. FIFA 14 not only creates more faithful animations of shots, but you'll see new types of shots such as those that are off-balanced and rushed, as well as those hit when the ball gets too close to the feet. Furthermore, players will try and take the best angle in their run up to addressing the ball. FIFA 14 producer Sebastian Enrique says that your button timing or the filling of the power gauge won't change, but you should get used to the new animations and be able to get comfortable with which situations give your players the best shots.
  • Thanks to new ball physics the ball will sail through the air with different spin, creating dipping, knuckle-ball, rising, and unpredictable shots. This should create different kinds of goals and enable skilled goal scorers to create more chances. The ball spin will not be initiated by any button press, but will be influenced by factors like the power of the shot, skill of the player, etc., so it will be interesting to see if these kinds of shots happen too much or not enough.

MOVEMENT

  • The principle of a good first touch now applies to dribbling. Players like Messi will be able to sprint and dribble with no penalty, while lesser players will have to be careful to control the ball while dribbling.
  • Despite the above, sprinting while dribbling will be possible in different directions with players' momentum preserved instead of just knocking the ball ahead.

AI

  • Offensive players off the ball will work harder to create more chances. They'll run laterally to avoid going offsides, try to fake out defenders to generate more space for their runs, and also play physically with their backs to the net as a target forward; dishing the ball to oncoming teammates or receiving the ball and then quickly turning defenders.
  • For their part, defenders will man-mark tighter (one of FIFA 14's features designed to slow down the "pacyness" of the game) and exhibit less confusion about which players to defend in open space. Furthermore, forwards will push up to pressure defenders if they are content to just pass it amongst themselves along the back line. This can be initiated automatically or manually, and we'll have to see if this creates any glaring gaps behind your forwards for easy exploitation.

OTHER IMPORTANT GAMEPLAY STUFF!

  • In what can be seen as a counter to the push-and-pull defensive mechanic introduced a few years ago, FIFA 14 now has an active shield ball button (left trigger on the Xbox 360 controller). This can be fully depressed or simply tapped (like when you're dribbling) so your player uses his body to shield the ball from oncoming opposition. We hope the game gets its player contact physics correct, or this useful-sounding technique could produce some weird body flopping.
  • Through balls can now be curled for greater accuracy.
  • Defenders can attempted a second tackle if they're still on their feet after the first attempt. This is initiated with an additional button press.

CAREER MODE

  • While EA Canada didn't go into all the mode's details, it will benefit from a streamlined, panel-based hub similar to the one used in FIFA 13's Ultimate Team mode. This includes a dedicated, persistant menu for your email.
  • Scouting is greatly expanded in the game. You'll monitor potential players by working with scouts of varying abilities and therefore information throughout the year, instead of it being restricted to the transfer windows. Instead of the attribute-specific player search of previous FIFAs, you'll find the right player for your club by telling scouts what you're looking for. They'll then draw up a list of candidates that fits your bill (see below) and they will be scouted further from there.

Stay tuned for more on FIFA 14, as EA Canada has teased that additional information about the game is forthcoming, including what it is calling a "major" gameplay feature.

FIFA 14 is currently slated for release on the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 this fall.

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