This summer, the world will celebrate the Beautiful Game, as its elite footballers take the pitch for Brazil’s 2014 World Cup tournament. To get things rolling and help build added excitement for what will surely be a sporting event for the ages, EA Sports has released a branded video game that acts as both an interactive companion and a challenging simulation of what’s to come. We’ve had our hands on the latest in the long line of FIFA titles — which is appropriately and lengthily dubbed 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil — and have pulled away from the controller as reigning champions, opting to provide our thoughts before worrying about defending our virtual title.
With 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, Electronic Arts strived to bring the authentic World Cup experience to gamers’ living rooms. Since I have (admittedly) never been to a live professional soccer game, let alone an international competition such as this, I cannot comment on the game’s authenticity firsthand. However, after spending some time with it and letting its colourful, South American flair into my soul, I have no problem with saying that the developer achieved its goal. 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil is steeped in football (or soccer, if you’re from my neck of the woods) culture, and celebrates the game’s biggest stage with both dignity and class.
Upon loading the title, fans will immediately find themselves inundated with warm colours, celebratory artwork and fitting music that ties it all together. Although loading screens and pop-up prompts that seem to take forever to get through will keep folks from jumping into things as quickly as they’d like to, the wait is certainly worthwhile.
While the expected local exhibition and online friendly options do exist here, players will find themselves spending most of their time either attempting to get to the World Cup, or trying to win it all as their favourite nation. Even though the two go hand-in-hand, it’s important to separate them while describing the modes that exist within this game. That’s because, while the impatient (like myself) are able to jump right into things after choosing a country from the thirty-two qualifiers, those who prefer to take their time and earn their spot at the spectacle can opt for Road to the World Cup mode or the always-popular Captain Your Country option, which makes a welcome return.
Those who have interest in this game will likely be familiar with how the qualification, group, elimination and final stages of the World Cup work. It’s a lengthy road, which comes to an end once the most skilful and determined nation rises to the occasion. However, those who are unfamiliar with the set-up just need to think of it as a lengthy series of elimination brackets, where only the best of the best move on. Along the way, there are friendly matches and off day practices, the latter of which are represented here by singular training days, which appear on the map in-between every match. During these chances to boost select players’ statistics, users must first choose a skill game (almost all of which are similar to ones found in previous FIFA iterations), and then do their best to exceed its target score plateaus.
Captain Your Country, on the other hand, is a mixture of EA’s popular Be a Pro mode and Road to the World Cup. It exists as an opportunity for fans to create a player in their own image, so that they can use said avatar to audition for the national team of their choosing. The end goal is quite similar to the rest of the game’s modes, though, as it is, of course, victory. However, along the way, one must prove his worth and advance his skills, while trying to become his country’s greatest player: Its captain.
Rounding out the full-priced, sixty dollar package, are scenarios based on memorable World Cup moments from yesteryear, an online-only tournament and a mode in which one tries to move from one host city to another. The latter list item is the most unique of the bunch, but can also be the most challenging. That’s because, in order to move forward you must win a certain amount of games, and losing sets you back. When you consider how stiff the online competition is, and that the matchmaking only takes each player’s team rating into account, it becomes apparent that only the most devoted FIFA fanatics will likely be able to get to the end of this unique scenario.
The pitch-based gameplay, which is what matters most, is very similar to that of FIFA 14. New animations, skill moves and enhancements have been infused into the experience, but they’re not noticeable enough to really differentiate the title from its most recent predecessor. Still, it’s tough to complain about the game’s mechanics, which are, for the most part, very good. The ball moves around in realistic fashion, bouncing off of players’ extremities in impressive ways, the action is smooth and the players themselves are quite intelligent.
Still, what bothers me about this series and, in actuality, soccer games in general, is how touchy the shooting mechanics are. Maybe it was just my lack of skill showing, but I can’t count the amount of times I thought I had a shot lined up at the net, then ended up putting the ball wide by a decent margin. Even on the casual control setting, this was a problem, as it seemed like every millimetre the joystick was moved while aiming would make more of a difference than one would normally expect. Again, that could just be my lack of skill showing through, but it needed to be mentioned.
The other prominent downside that factors in here, is that this sponsored FIFA iteration is only available on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and isn’t planned for future release on any of the current-gen devices. Apparently, the decision was made due to install base worries, which makes sense, but creates a situation that isn’t idyllic for either side. After all, it’s going to be a bit tough for those who’ve been playing FIFA 14 on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 to abandon that game in favour of this more dated-looking experience. That’s not to say that 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil looks bad, but it doesn’t look first rate, as its player models tend to be overly dark. On top of that, there’s a slight stuttering issue that pops up during at least one skill-testing mini-game.
Each of the two returning English commentators do a pretty good job, but there still exists too much white noise during matches. Their in-game calls are complemented by a fitting licensed soundtrack, plus two radio shows, which can be listened to during your time in the menus. I was quite impressed with the one I picked — that being Men in Blazers — because it actually made me feel as if I was listening to a live show based around my progress. The two personalities seemed like they were playing along with me, and it never felt as if their dialogue was patched in.
As a whole, EA Sports’ 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil video game is a worthy purchase for the diehard footie fans among us. It is, however, not something that is recommended for purchase over FIFA 14, which simply offers more content and feels like a tighter experience overall.
This review is based on the PlayStation 3 version of the game, which we were provided with.
2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil is a quality soccer game, which does a very good job of bringing this year's upcoming World Cup to armchair sports fans' living rooms. However, it's ultimately overmatched by FIFA 14, in terms of both content and current-gen functionality.