Every year EA Sports holds a "Season Opener" event to show off what they've been working on since we forked over $60 on the our sports title of choice. "Season Opener 2013" went down at EA's California headquarters earlier this week and featured most of their new titles, sans NBA and UFC (which EA says will be shown at E3) but the game we were really amped to check out was FIFA 14.
Although they admittedly left out a few details on the forthcoming title, they did reveal a lot about features and gameplay tweaks, which you most likely read about yesterday. However, reading a list is one thing, getting true to the game insight on these additions is another.
FIFA 14 producer Sebastian Enrique started the presentation on a very real note. He touched on the lack of excitement and variations with goal scoring, an aspect they felt was an issue with FIFA 13 and how the developers went about improving it.
As any FIFA player knows, the shot animations were pretty basic, no matter what striker you played with in 13. That will be changed thanks to added Real Ball Physics and a brand new Pure Shot system.
Pure Shot features a bunch of new shot types and character animations making the game a lot more realistic. Players won't just do the same mundane thing all of the time, they now adjust their stride and angle on the approach. No more unrealistic shots when a player’s feet are too close together. No more awkward foot slides before a shot. In 14, players have the ability to shoot off-balanced and rushed shots just like their real life counterparts.
Ball Physics plays into this as well because EA has introduced new flight paths including low rising shots, turbulent shots (a la Ronaldo) and dipping shots. Players can kick harder and make shots that were not possible before. The new finishers make scoring more fun and eventful, something that was definitely lacking in last year's version.
It's not just about the shot; curling passes are also being introduced in FIFA 14.
Soccer is all about drama, and you can't have a fantastic finish without some sort of build up. EA has improved in that area as well. Dribbling on FIFA 13 was cool but it wasn't where it needed to be. This year, players can dribble in any direction while also preserving momentum courtesy of new in-game technology. The days of every player--regardless of rating--having perfect touch are also gone. The variable dribble touches will truly affect gameplay due to First Touch Control. If a player is nasty with the handle, he (or she, if EA listens to this petition) will control a dribble with finesse while sprinting or cutting. On the flipside, if a player has a lower rating, he will no longer be able to stop the ball on a dime like he would have been able to in the last FIFA. This innovation evens the playing field in our eyes and takes the game that much closer to a full simulation.
Another glaring omission from past FIFA titles was the ability to Protect The Ball. This new feature allows players to take shielding to a more authentic level by using their body to fend off, push back and block defenders while dribbling. This will be done by holding or tapping the left trigger and can be initiated at any speed. For gamers who complained about the pace of FIFA 13 being too fast, this will definitely slow the pace down as it creates more midfield battles.
The AI (artificial intelligence) has also been turned up a notch on offense. Attacking players are prone to move more realistically to outsmart their opponents and breakdown the defense by creating space for themselves, running along the backline and checking their pace. Something that they didn't do in 13.
Defense has also been revamped in response to the complaints and suggestions from the FIFA community. The Teammate Intelligence or AI was sorely lacking in some areas last year, which led to some easy goals for opponents. EA says that decision-making has been stepped up and there will be smarter marking this time around.
For those of us whom fell behind in games and had to sit while the opposing team played keep-away with the ball, you will be happy to know that EA has included a feature called Dynamic Defensive Pressure. With DDP, the defensive team will now recognize when a team is playing passive offense and react accordingly. Sebastian says that they have not yet decided if this feature will be automatically activated or user initiated.
Second Chance Tackles will also be a defensive factor in 14. Users can now launch a second tackle before fully recovering from an initial missed attempt.
A huge part of FIFA is online play and with millions taking part in online matches there are bound to be complaints and praise. The hub was an online component that many found frustrating. Thankfully, it is being updated to be more streamlined. We were told that the screenshots we were shown were not final but from the looks of what we saw, they are head and shoulders above what we have now. Particularly in the areas of navigation, email prioritizing and live scouting reports.
The new Global Scouting Network will be far more realistic than the current one. Instead of being relegated to the transfer window, it will allow players to scout year-round to uncover attributes, traits and tendencies for every player in the game. There will also be better layered scouting, which is ideal for users that would rather explore players from leagues they may not be familiar with rather than wasting time scouting proven players.
EA Sports could have easily rested on their laurels after making a great game like FIFA 13 but they didn't. They are clearly attempting to produce an even more true-to-life soccer game. We didn't get any hands on time with 14 but judging from the detailed presentation of the new features and the honest attack on last year's titles flaws, we're thinking FIFA 14 just might trump its predecessor.
Either way, we're looking forward to the next big FIFA announcement that is scheduled for E3.