Preview: Hands on with 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

The world’s biggest soccer tournament is on its way, and with it, a new version of FIFA dedicated to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

We were lucky enough to try the game at EA in Madrid, Spain, to get a hands-on look at the changes to gameplay, as outlined by Matt Prior, Lead Producer for 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.

The game is due for release on April 15th in the U.S. and the 17th in Europe for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Let’s take a look and see whether the innovations make this new game worthwhile.

Atmosphere and samba rhythms

2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil is a game whose main purpose is to reconstruct the atmosphere of the world cup, and at first glance, you immediately notice the strong Brazilian influence in the game. Neymar emerges as the star instead of Messi, and you’re immediately launched into the heart of the international competition. Creating this atmosphere, the games succeeds very well.

We wanted to create a game where the main purpose was to recreate the atmosphere, so that it tasted Brazilian.

Get the stadium atmosphere in Brazil

From the menu, to the scenes on the sidelines, the atmosphere of the world cup is always palpable. Before you start the game, it’s worth taking a moment to watch the videos, complete with aerial shots over the 12 Brazilian stadiums of the tournament (these are in addition to the 21 you find in FIFA 14), as well as scenes of fans gathered at home and in front of giant screens to support their team.

The coaches of some of the most important teams appear (19 in all), and for the first time, as FIFA President Sepp Blatter. You can play as any of the 203 officially recognized national teams in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil.

The decision to develop the game strictly for third generation consoles, excluding PS4 and Xbox One, isn’t just a question of resources, but a tactical move to reach as many gamers as possible, especially those in Brazil, where next-gen consoles still aren’t very widespread.

Game Modes: Rewrite the history of the world

As with the latest versions of FIFA 14, 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil also favors an online local gaming mode, although offline players haven’t been forgotten. The most interesting game play mode is probably Road to Rio de Janeiro, where you play as any of the 203 national teams, and also have the chance to play against other online players. The matches take place throughout the 12 World Cup stadiums until you reach the final match at the legendary Maracanà stadium in Rio.

Play as one of 203 international teams

Its offline counterpart, Road to the FIFA Wold Cup, begins in the qualifying stages of the World Cup, until you reach the final group stage in Brazil. This mode can be played by a maximum of 32 people.

Among other options available, one of the best is the local mode, Captain your Country, where you control a single player, train him, and take him on to become the captain of the national team. Another interesting mode is the Story of Qualifying, in which you find yourself playing fragments of matches which have actually taken place over the course of the World Cup qualifiers, meaning you have the chance to change or reconstruct the history of football.

Gameplay

FIFA 14, however, is not limited to Brazil and the World Cup atmosphere; it also includes changes to gameplay when compared to FIFA 14, particularly in terms of the much-criticized speed, or lack thereof, of the EA title, the set pieces, and the accessibility of the title to newcomers.

As explained by Matt Prior, players of 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil will be about 50% veterans, and 50% newcomers. To make the gaming experience easier for the latter, the beginner level of the game is a bit oversimplified, the two buttons mode is activated by default. After trying it out, we can confirm its simplicity– after the first 45mins, we were up 7-0, and we were playing as Bahrain.

If you’ve never played FIFA, this is the title you can use to enter the world of EA football

Another improvement includes the shots. With a corner kick, you can use the menu (accessible using the arrows on the gamepad) to choose which set piece tactics to use with the team. You can choose whether you want to make a move outside the box, whether you pressure the goalie, or whether you want to aim for the first or second post.

Unfortunately, the corners aren’t any easier; during our tests, we noticed that you still need to steer the shot well, select the level of power and movement to coincide with your chosen tactics and, as always, you need a bit of luck.

Brazil is the star of this version of FIFA

What has changed more radically (and for the better) are the penalty shootouts. In recent years, it ‘s been notoriously difficult to shoot penalties in FIFA, and in this latest edition, developers have taken this criticism and chosen to simplify them. The mechanism reamins the same, but it’s now a lot harder to overkick a penalty.

The goalkeepers, for their part, have new animations. There are commands that let you distract players who are about to kick the ball, including actions like acting like a bullfighter, or wobbling your legs, while others let you parade up and down the field. When a goalkeeper is caught off guard, for example, he’ll still try to block the shot with a dramatic last ditch effort.

In our tests, we had just this kind of situation with Italian goalkeepr Buffon. During a penalty, we jumped in late, with the goalkeeper on the right. With momentum, however, he was able to extend his arm, and saved the penalty. He didn’t have time to celbrate, however, because the ball bounced on the ground with a strong spin and went into the goal, much to his despair.

​As for the actual gameplay, Matt Pior’s presentation pointed to a new control system called World Class, which includes a number of changes that include more responsive dribbling (Response Dribbling), more precise movement (Pinpoint Passing), and really sharp movements full of attack (Explosive Movement), as well as new animations during dribbling, stopping and passing back with the heel. In addition, there is a faithful reproduction of the physics of the Adidas Brazuka ball, thanks to the technicians at Adidas, who have worked closely with the EA team in Vancouver.

Gameplay is much faster than FIFA 14

As for the game itself, we noticed a much faster game than FIFA 14, a sort of partial return to the more exciting FIFA 13. Even though speed is increased, you don’t see the sudden reversals that we saw in last year’s title.

In addition, we noticed that the in-depth passing is easier and more efficient, although everything else, aside from new dribbling, made the gameplay seemed very similar to the title released in September. The only flaw that could possibly be resolved is the power of the shots – it’s sometimes exaggerated, especially if the shots weren’t taken by particularly skillful players.

A gift to fans of the World Cup

Electronic Arts have gotten in the habit of releasing a FIFA title at the end of various competitions, including the FIFA World Cup and the European Championship: two years ago, with DLC for FIFA 12 after Euro Cup in Poland and the Ukraine, and of course this year, where they already have a title lined up.

Even for the World Cup in Brazil, the title focuses on the reconstruction of the competition and on faithfully reproducing the Brazilian national team and atmosphere, rather than on actual changes to the game.

Even without being very innovative, compared to previous editions of FIFA for international competitions, 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil is a title that sees more changes to gameplay, even though most of them are superficial.

If you’re a diehard fan of the World Cup, 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil is a game worth buying to entertain yourself until the big day on June 12. If you’re actually only interested in significant changes being made to the heart of the game, you’re better off waiting for FIFA 15.

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