Soccer or Futbol?
My brother grew up playing soccer in its heyday as an “everyone wins” support sport, an exercise in teaching equality over competition, teamwork over individuality. The idea was practice, practice, practice, and everyone gets an orange slice at half time, but I think without playing the game myself I missed out on something fundamental in its rules and mechanics. So thank God for video games, as I got a chance to climb down from that American high horse and dig deep in the biggest celebration of football on Earth, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil takes the strong bones of EA’s yearly soccer sim and layers as much of Rio’s party atmosphere and spirited competition as it can on top. That means modes, teams, and tons of options to ensure a level playing field between the 50% of football fanatics that buy FIFA every year and the 50% that only get into the virtual spirit when the World Cup rolls around. Walking that line ends up proving a delicate balance that Electronic Arts and the team at EA Canada bend a shot around for a goooooooaaalll—
Okay, I can’t keep that up. Soccer’s worldwide appeal makes way too much sense for me to trample on it with cleats. FIFA World Cup’s biggest selling point is that no other video game can claim to take the sport of football as seriously as it does, not even the yearly FIFA title that made a lackluster debut on next-generation consoles last year.
I think if you waited for the PS4 or Xbox One version of FIFA 14, you were disappointed to find that little beyond graphics had changed. All of the energy it takes to develop new modes and mechanics of play went to this title instead, bringing with it a yellow brick road of entertaining and engaging narratives to play through.
There are some clubs that’ll never win the big one. Unlike March Madness where the underdog always wins, the World Cup proves to be a slow grind of tense battling from qualifying to the final half and EA’s game gives you the opportunity to do that with any team and any player. Road to the FIFA World Cup allows you to choose from 203 teams with up to 31 other players, meaning you will literally have a World Cup tournament in your living room.
That mode stands parallel to Captain Your Country, which challenges you to bring a newcomer from the bottom rung of any particular region in the world all the way through to the coveted Golden Ball at the end of Brazil’s tournament. While that story alone could take hundreds of hours to realize, there are millions to enjoy throughout the title’s online and offline modes especially when you consider that your definition of winning might very well mean taking home an absurd level of soccer perfection.
Inevitably, it’ll be that split between FIFA experts and fever-stricken World Cup watchers which will be compelling, as the global community struggles to keep up with their team’s action, whether it’s in the dead of night or on during primetime. Changing the story between rivals will quickly prove an afternoon pastime that enables connections to flourish between family and friends. I’m completely oblivious when it comes to the broadcast, with the FIFA Women’s World Cup attracting plenty of attention in the States, yet still missing a simulation of its own. That’s not a fault of 2014 FIFA World Cup, especially as Electronic Arts have made football’s massive audience its ultimate goal.
2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil will only ship on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 this year while EA Sports continues to develop its Ignite engine for next-gen consoles. Line producer Matt Prior specifically cited Brazil’s video game tax laws and the prohibitive cost of gaming technology in the World Cup’s backyard, but more importantly this simulation’s love of the game overcomes nagging graphical issues you might have. As much as I’d love to put everyone complaining about frame-rates and resolution into a losers bracket, the virtual crowds look like they’ve all been hit with Brazil’s ugliest and sweatiest g-string right after the snap (wrong football pun, yes, but you get the idea).
I had a chance to play and test multiplayer via our developer build of the PS3 version last week and the game’s net code worked fantastically ahead of launch. I don’t expect millions to hop online and break the connected experience at launch either, especially as the World Cup tournament doesn’t start for weeks. Only the diehard will be waiting to start the path to a Champions Badge as soon as possible, and I suspect more players will enjoy settling post-match arguments on the virtual pitch thanks to EA’s new two-button beginner controls.
For my online matches, I decided to switch from the more complex control schemes to the novice two-button setup. I am the kind of player two-button pass and shoot options were intended for, so facing off against more experienced FIFA players was the perfect opportunity to try it out. In my first match, I took Brazil against England and lost three, nil. Two-button didn’t seem to stack up against a player with measured perfection of complicated moves, like over-the-back headers (a new feature in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil) or perfected passing.
Simplifying the controls doesn’t change the fact that another player is going to be better than you, but it does help to step beginners up from one football experience level to the next. It could be that having played with deeper controls gave me awareness of my opponent’s range and ability, but even with two buttons I was able to string together a few plays and feel better about my skills in the following matches. Half the audience with FIFA experience will never worry or care about two-button controls and the other half they’re up against can’t wait to replay that incredible late-tournament match they just witnessed.
It’s up to players at home and online to bring about fairness in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil between these two camps. If you and your little cousin or your dad hit the virtual pitch after your favorite team finish their group in Brazil, do each other a favor and meet on an even playing field. If you and your FIFA buddies already share a weekly competition that ends in red cards, settle it with expert controls in an online road to the cup. If there’s anything I learned from attending my brother’s games, it’s that no one has fun if all you do is keep score.
Review based on PS3 review code. Also available on Xbox 360.