2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Review
Sony PlayStation 3Also available on Microsoft Xbox 360
After another four-year cycle we head to Brazil in the Summer of 2014 for the latest FIFA World Cup. At this point in time what happens is always the same. The football season ends, we learn who’s going with England and we start to get excited that maybe they could do it - it’s a cup after all and the fact they’re not up there as one of the best teams doesn’t really matter. This all intensifies until the moment we go out and the pressure cooker of hope, excitement, expectation is opened and everything falls back flat to the ground. Like night follows day. You can also add into the mix the release of a World Cup FIFA game from EA. It’s a pretty similar experience too. A new FIFA game is always exciting and in the case of the World Cup ones can normally keep you going until England are out, your enjoyment of the game very much trending with your enjoyment of the real-life football. This time you might be hard-pressed to get anything out of it if you’re a FIFA 14 player. If you haven’t got any of this year’s versions then this might be the one, however.
The most galling thing initially is that 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil is only being released on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, a damning indictment of how much EA actually care about making this title the best it can be rather than making money from the more casual fans. The argument goes that the older generation is still a significantly bigger install base and many of the target audience for this game - people who don’t play FIFA every year for hours on end - will only have the older consoles, anyway. Equally any development time is reduced as you’re looking at the one engine on two consoles, rather than two on four. It’s economically the best thing to do. This is obviously the focus and even more so when you recall that UEFA Euro 2012 was released as downloadable content for just sixteen pounds, as opposed to a forty-quid standalone release because - as we said at the time - it wasn’t worth forty pounds. Quite. If you are a PS4 or XBox One owner who plays FIFA then you’ll struggle to get into this at first because it is quite a difference visually, a significant drop-down, plus a different engine in some respects meaning the way you play will have to alter. Eventually you can get into the samba groove but unfortunately you might be longing for FIFA 14 before you can get to that point.
The game itself then is very well presented as is to be expected from EA Sports. On starting the game up all menu screens are in a green and yellow hue and look painted on with a flourish making you feel as if it’s summer in the park and you’re eating a Solero. It’s fun, and a nice change from the usual menus which you’ll be overly familiar with if you’re a regular player. Otherwise they are laid out and behave in the same way. If you are new to FIFA games then it’s all pretty self-explanatory, with multiple tabs each containing a variety of panels from which to choose one of a multitude of options. The presentation continues to shine throughout as well, from the opening ceremony, to the flurry of confetti when you win the trophy and the shaking of hands by actual real-life managers. It does help make the tournament something more than just a game of football, especially when played alongside someone else.
There are plenty of things to do here, too, to be fair. You can go straight to the World Cup and play it out as your favourite team starting with the actual group games. Or you can start back at the beginning of qualification. Be a Pro mode has you trying to captain your country in this version or you can rewrite qualification history whereby you tackle scenarios such as trying to get the draw England did against Ukraine in 2012 - or go one step further. You can go online and win the World Cup head-to-head or play some manufactured league pursuit where you move from stadium to stadium along all the host cities in Brazil on your way to Rio. There’s more, too. There’s no way anyone can say the game is anything but loaded with choice and varying game modes to entertain all kinds of players. In that regard the value equation is good, and given local multiplayer is always good fun this could go down very well in families with multiple footie fans.
The football itself is basically what you have in the vanilla FIFA 14 on the same consoles. There are some additions including jelly-legs goalkeeper behaviour during penalties and funky corner setups (crowd a keeper and more) but nothing has changed in the main gameplay, despite EA suggesting otherwise. Anything they say they’ve changed really doesn’t come through here to veterans of the current annual release. It’s not surprising, really. This is a licensed tie-in akin to the movie tie-ins from Ocean et al. in the Eighties and Nineties. It gets released because it will sell but it’s not ever going to be a top tier title. That’s saved in this case for FIFA 15.
We have previously reviewed FIFA 14 on the PlayStation 4 and as is normally the case with a new FIFA title, it immediately became the best FIFA game around. The problem is that that version of the game was improved on the equivalent PlayStation 3 version thanks to the obviously improved visual quality, but also the enhanced animations enabling smoother and tighter gameplay (and truly different capabilities for the top rated players). There’s also improved and altered AI helping to make for a better single-player experience, plus that cardboard cutout crowd is finally gone. As soon as a new FIFA comes along the old one feels stale immediately. WIth FIFA 14 the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions were stale from launch day. If you haven’t played current-gen FIFA 14 then this Worlc Cup version is decent fun and brings the excitement of the World Cup to bear, but it doesn’t have some of the most popular modes from the annual release (Ultimate Team being one of the most popular - understandable why it’s not here, mind) and is therefore limited in terms of what you can get out of it.
To finish up where we came in, what we’ve got here then is something very akin to England in the World Cup. A lot of initial excitement and joy followed by a lot of huffing and puffing and playing of football, continuing with a realisation it just isn’t happening and an abrupt end as you realise it’s not actually fun and you begin to look forward to the new season. Still, it’s decent fun whilst it lasts.