While I wouldn’t consider myself a big fan of football, I do occasionally enjoy sitting down and playing a match or two on FIFA. I recently found some time to play three matches on FIFA 14 at Eurogamer Expo, first on Xbox 360, before moving onto the next generation Xbox One version, and then finally heading back for a final match on the 360. I lost all of them, because I’m actually quite terrible at the game, but that’s beside the point!
Playing the game across generations offered me some insight into not only how big of a leap EA has made with FIFA games of late, but how wide a gap there is between the current and next generation consoles, both in terms of visuals and gameplay. Coming away from the game, the difference was so big, it means that I’ll now be waiting for the PS4 version rather than picking up a copy on PS3 a bit earlier.
It’s actually quite striking how good FIFA 14 looks on both PS4 and Xbox One, veering into the Uncanny Valley with many of the players, and featuring fully three dimensional crowds that manage to feel much more alive in comparison to the currently poorly animated cut outs that you’ll see with the current generation version, and might even alter the match by providing morale boosts through their chanting. In fact – and as hyperbolic and ridiculous as this might sound – it was easy to mistake the games for an actual game of football at a sharp first glance.
A lot – and in fact nearly all – of the aliasing that plagued FIFA has gone now, with smooth edges surrounding the wonderful animation of the players, making each match less of a jarring experience, flowing sublimely and powered by EA’s new Ignite sports engine. This means that the in-game representations of players have their own unique animations, depending on the position they play in, and there’s no skips for taking corners, making the experience much more fluid and realistic.
While it’s mainly the visuals and upgraded animations that showcase how much of a difference the new generation will make, it’s easy to see just how much of a step up there is in gameplay terms too. The aforementioned flowing animations really immerse you in the game even more so than before, reacting directly through the controls, allowing players to weave in and out of opponents with close control of the ball.
And this is all enhanced further still through better input devices, too – while I’m not a fan of the Xbox 360 pad, I love the feel of Microsoft’s next generation controller; it sits perfectly in the hand, with comfortable triggers and responsive buttons. My only complaint here is that the front shoulder buttons are a bit higher up than the back two, so if you’re used to using two fingers then you might have some trouble quickly switching players, with your hands resting far more comfortably on the back triggers.
Nonetheless, everything from camera angles in the replays to the more subtle player animation feels in-tune with the real sport, and at the end of the day, that’s what FIFA should be striving to achieve. It’s truly the first signs of a big jump, and going back to the current generation version felt akin to playing a PS2 after I first experiencing the might of the PS3 back in 2007.
As I said, I’m not the best one to comment on the sport side of FIFA – I know all the rules, I like to stick with Juventus while playing, I have an idea of a handful of players and their ability levels, and that’s about it – but in terms of games and the jump between console generations, FIFA 14 is one of the best examples I’ve seen, perhaps due to being able to do this almost side-by-side comparison. Whether you’ve already gone for the current-gen release or the are saving your pennies until next-gen consoles hit, rest assured that there is a big difference here.