Article by Ben Griffin
Stash your dreams of a revitalised FIFA. EA are holding their new Ignite engine back a year, so my lengthy hands-on took place on current-generation technology.
But there are still changes aplenty, and Precision Movement is the most drastic. Whereas in previous FIFA games players seemed to glide across the pitch, here they plant their feet and push off. It results in a noticeably weightier game, where faster players positively burst from the blocks.
Producer Kantcho Doskov says: “It's the most fundamental part of FIFA gameplay. It affects everything. It affects first touch, it affects dribbling, it affects shooting, positioning, AI. In the last game, if you wanted to change direction, it was 'we don't care where your feet are planted, we just know you want to go there'. It was floaty animation. We were giving what the user wanted, but it didn't look like football.”
This 'step-based locomotion' has a harsher effect on stopping distance, with cut-ins resulting in longer recovery times as players dig in their heels and fight momentum. It takes time to learn, and messy midfield battles will clog matches in the process, but most should relish sinking their teeth into it.
While the first change concerns the player, the second concerns the ball. Pure Shot enables grandstand efforts from distance, which swerve, dip and rise with newfound lethality. But FIFA 14 isn't just some breezy goal-a-thon. Goalkeepers are capable, and physics laws are never broken – you'll simply test them more.
Protect The Ball sits at the other end of the spectrum, bearing little impact for anyone not playing religiously. Holding the left trigger when stationary shields you from tackles, and holding it while running lets you jostle opponents with greater force. EA have taken steps to prevent its misuse online, however, so it's really no more than an incremental upgrade on previous ball-shielding techniques.
Admittedly, not all changes have to be drastic. “Contextual Pressure is a new feature we haven't talked about,” says Doskov. “If your team sees your striker hustling and putting pressure on the defender, your whole team moves up. You don't have to press any buttons – it's all about how aggressive you are. They'll push up and mark opposition, and they're not going to allow for that easy pass along the back. So you won't be able to waste time [using Protect the Ball].”
Most of FIFA 14's changes are aimed squarely at the sort of gamer who can sense a pea under their mattress, and while the Ignite Engine no-show is a major disappointment, the two biggest improvements here also happen to be the two most fundamental to football: moving and shooting. For that reason, I'm in.