World Cup Soccer…every 4 years with huge worldwide fanfare the perfect game makes its return with the World Cup tournament. The cup is contended for over a few weeks and usually the soccer, or footie for you purists, is never better, with the very best the game can on stage for fans to watch. The stellar gamesmanship always seems to outweigh the silly antics of some players that look as if they’ve been shot on the pitch. Kidding aside though, this is the very pinnacle of the sport bar none. EA’s 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil has hit the Xbox 360 and PS3. I was assigned the Xbox 360 version for review. The release raised my eyebrows a little though since it did not make it on the Xbox One or the PS4, but I hunkered down for some review duties.
Every new edition gets the usual overhaul of new player moves and added features, and while they are all good on paper the question remains: “Do they actually change and improve gameplay?” World Cup Brazil boasts a few improvements to the core FIFA gameplay. My favourite out of the bunch has to be Explosive Movement. Players can quickly or suddenly adjust from a straight line dribbling on or off the ball. You can also speed up or down while making tight turns or light touches. The result is a more natural feel and I found this FIFA to be a ton more playable then those I have played in previous years. After using the mode for a awhile I quickly found it to be a useful tool to beat out of position defenders, and put in position players out. It felt a bit like the speed burst button in EA’s long running NHL games. Of course a slightly off-flick of the ball can be a fatal mistake on your part, exposing you with the opposition pouncing on your mistake, so you’ll learn to be careful.
Combine the new movement mode with some re-tooled Pin Point passing skills and you’ll fell you’re playing an improved game. While World Cup Brazil retains a simplistic control scheme it feels as though the controls have been tightened, and for myself it is way more satisfying. I’ve always felt the passing in the FIFA titles needed a bit of work to make them truly fine; I think the Pin Point passing gives them that extra push to make the game move almost flawlessly. I immediately thought my ball control, and more importantly ball placement, was much better. Gamers will have more control on crosses with precise passing and more a responsive direction of ball flow. This can be very important in key set pieces like corner and penalty kicks. I also thought that the player’s bodies are positioned much better in relation to the ball, so passing becomes a more fluid action.
Another useful addition is the Over-the-Back headers. In past games a jumping header was successful to the highest jumper within a crowd, and while it felt and looked cool it rarely resulted in the desired intention. I remember having tried it over and over only to have the opposing player win the ball with an unbelievable header out of trouble or into my net. This time around attackers or defenders can climb the backs of opposing players to try and gain that extra little bit of air for the winning or defending header. Of course this still takes a ton of practice and can be frustrating, but I did manage to head the ball in my favor more times than not; somewhat gratifying indeed.
The penalty kicks also get a bit of a change. The idea remains the same of course, but now a few things are added to the realism. On the physical side of things kickers can now try to psych the keepers on the line with false starts, starting and stopping on the ball hoping to draw the keeper going one way or the other and having an easy tap in. It is an interesting look, but I found most keepers were fairly steadfast and had no inclination to move. Even though I scored more than I didn’t, I really never got that real easy pop on net. I did however find the keepers also made an attempt at faking me out, which looked rather funny but did not help them in the very least. I suppose it the additions are adding to the almost pompous-passionate attitude of the game; it suits the virtual game very well.
World Cup Brazil has a myriad of other staple inclusions and updates that one would expect, including Road to the FIFA World Cup. In this mode you can choose from 203 authentic teams and assemble a group of 32 players to take on the best from around the world. It is a very intensive and arduous task to complete, but for the diehards this really cannot get any better. Captain Your Country is another mode worth mentioning here. You start from the bottom of the pile and work your way through the ranks, eventually leading your team/club to victory. There are too many other ones to go through, but new additions include EA Sports Football Club, Skill, Games, and Online Friendlies. To say the least EA has packed in some incredible modes we all can play, on or offline; content is not lacking here.
Along with most of the new additions in gameplay EA has added a whole host of new animations to make the game look as good as it plays. The presentation is top notch across the whole game. The World Cup theme is prevalent in all aspects across all countries participating. There are all new crowd scenes from fans in every major World Cup nation too. Case in point, say you play for England, score for England, but you and the club are in Brazil. A cut scene opens showing your English fans cheering you on, the realism is quite impressive. All the teams are FIFA sanctioned and wear actual game jerseys. They are from a pool of over 7400 real-life players, along with 19 official managers and 20 plus new stadiums. Of the stadiums included, 12 are authentic Would Cup venues in Brazil, complete in almost every detail and covered in banners and flags from respective countries. Phew, there’s a lot here.
The game itself looks and moves with fluidity and grace although it is not without some issues. I found a few hiccups with framerates and pop up here and there, along with the occasional texture loss. That being said, the colours are brilliant throughout and the playing fields can be picture perfect. Some players are instantly recognizable by those diehard fans, but most look fairly generic, regardless they are all well rendered.
The games commentary is bolstered by a different addition, EA Sports talk radio. This pairs two soccer personalities bringing the daily news from around the world of soccer (football). The names really mean nothing to me, but for those who know and love to listen to them it is no doubt a treat. What’s better? You can choose which pair suits you, the names include, Andy Goldstien and Ian Darke or Michael Davies and Roger Bennett. I’ve clamouring for alternate sets of announcers for EA’s hockey games for years and by doing it in a FIFA game proves it is doable. In any event the game is presented in full Dolby Digital surround. From the call for a pass on the field, the crowd cherrings, to the commentator’s timely remarks, the sounds of the game are a highlight. Nobody will be disappointed.
In the days and weeks leading up World Cup Brazil I cannot think of a better way to enjoy some of the spirit of the game then to partake in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil from Electronic Arts. For some the game may not be perfect, or more of the same, but I think the game is more than just a courtesy update. I found myself enjoying it more as I went on. Although only available for Xbox 360 and PS3, it does more than an admirable job in faithfully recreating some footie action, and the low price point is also an added bonus. I came into this one thinking I would find a stale soccer game and came out quite surprised and with an “I can play this and have fun doing it” attitude.