No Talk No Life: What we think about FIFA 14

FIFA 14 - replay goal

No Talk No Life is a new section where two gamers (usually Edward and Amos) take turns… talking about a videogame that they have both played. Think of it as a review of sorts, but in a more conversational and casual tone. The first game to withstand their scrutiny is none other than FIFA 14, which was released on 24 September. After spending a few weeks with the game, does EA Sports’s flagship football series still have what it takes? Read on.

Amos: FIFA 14 has exposed how hopeless I am at sports games online. It is an absolutely soul crushing experience.

Edward: I have all but retired myself from FIFA 14 online matches, because it is a horrible way to play football games. A baptism of fire — except that the fire comes from undefendable, unstoppable crosses no matter how hard you try to defend properly.

Amos: I think it boils down to individual skills a lot more, you cannot just blindly run down the wing and cross. Now your build-up play has to be a lot more thoughtful.

Edward: Okay, I have not played FIFA since FIFA 2005 and FIFA 2006. When I first started playing FIFA 14, I could immediately feel a huge diference. The pace of the game has slowed down a lot. Previously, counter attacks and fast breaks were very dangerous, and one-on-one situations with the keeper were almost 95% guaranteed to be goals.

Amos: Yeah, but not so much now.

Edward: Dribbling is a lot harder now, and you can no longer spam tricks on the right analog stick to reliably go past a defender. FIFA has become more of a passing game, or “thoughtful” game as you put it. You have to carefully pick out your receiver and decide what type of pass to deliver.

Usually, this will be a lobbed through pass, because they are super effective in FIFA 14. And almost always, the lobbed through ball will be sent to a winger, because headed crosses are very difficult to defend against.

Amos: Now that you mention it, I do see that quite often online.

Edward: Beware of any teams with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. I know that he is 1.95m tall in real life, but the way he wins headers for free in FIFA 14 is almost criminal.

Amos: Apparently he is in-line for a possible Ballon D’Or this year.

Edward: Balloon?

Amos: …. the FIFA Ballon D’Or is an award given annually to the player who is considered to have performed the best in the previous year.

Edward: I know, I know, I just couldn’t resist.

Amos: It’s a French thing.

Edward: And Ibrahimovic plays for a French club. I smell something fishy.

Amos: Lol.

Edward: Anyway, back to the topic of crosses, I was playing an online match against a Real Madrid player, and within the first 25 minutes, he had three direct shots on goal. All of them were from headed crosses, and all of them went into the net. I was absolutely livid, because to go 0-3 down before half time, all from the same pattern, felt really unfair to me. I went to a local Facebook group for Singapore FIFA 14 players, seeking advice on what I was doing wrong. This was the best, credible answer I got from one person:

“That’s the flaw in FIFA 14. Any sort of cross, your opponent is still able to score from crosses.”

But why? Why? The videogamer in me wanted to know why this was possible, and to figure out some way to prevent it, or at least adapt around it. After digging through some forums, I came across a thread where the topic creator discovered why it was so difficult to defend: whenever you play against the AI or humans, no matter the difficulty, your AI teammates are always set to Amateur difficulty (Editor’s note: There are six difficulties in the game. Amateur being the lowest, followed by Semi-Pro, Professional, World Class, Legendary, and Ultimate).

Amos: Is this true?

Edward: I cannot accurately test it, but it certainly feels like it, and it would also explain why the AI for your teammates is so atrocious.

Amos: I agree. They tend to find themselves out of position, they are very slow at marking and tracking opponents, and they are very bad at chasing loose balls. A lot of times a loose ball will be closest to another teammate… but he just stands there like a doll doing nothing.

Edward: Goalkeeper rebounds are the worst. The entire defence refuses to help out the goalie, they will refuse to chase down the loose ball, allowing the opposing attacker to get a free rebound shot and most likely a goal.

Unfortunately, the AI stupidity also extends to when you are on the offensive. The strategy of “holding on to the ball and not losing possession so you won’t have to defend” is just as frustrating.

Amos:  Holding the ball usually leads to losing the ball quickly…

Edward: It depends. Against the AI you can afford to hold the ball. Against humans you almost certainly have to pass it quicker because every player I met online will always rush your player down, but it’s still possible to play a possession game against a human.

The problem with this style of play, and my point about the offensive AI of your team, is that your teammates are absolutely worthless at running into space. Many times, I find myself on the wings or close to the penalty box surrounded by defenders…. with no one else providing support. Absolutely none of my teammates will make a move to attempt to receive the ball.

Amos: Can you press anything to get a runner?

Edward: Yes you can, you have to press L1. But the problem is, you cannot control where you want them to run.

Amos: When I press L1, they ALWAYS run into spaces that I don’t need them. I thought there was a more specific button combination you needed to press. Guess I was wrong.

Edward: And L1 will only trigger runs from players closest to your own. What if I want that winger on the opposite side of the pitch to make a run? I can’t trigger it. Or what if I want a player to run towards me to receive the ball instead of away from me? I can’t trigger this as well.

To be fair, there probably isn’t a control scheme possible on the PS3’s DualShock 3 to allow you to control your off-the-ball teammates to this sort of degree in a football game. But this lack of control becomes more glaring because of how bad your AI teammates are in FIFA 14.

Amos: Ok, we’ve established that online matches in FIFA 14 are not noob friendly, especially for the FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) mode. So that leaves us with the option of playing against the CPU in singleplayer. Semi-Pro for me is playable, but Professional and above is nearly impossible lah, because I don’t have the discipline to learn the game properly.

All the things you just described, learning how to call off-the-ball defenders and attackers, figuring out how to defend properly… well, it’s very daunting. Because personally, I have no patience to learn a videogame. I just want to pick it up and play, and to have fun. That probably explains why I suck at FIFA 14 and Street Fighter IV.

Edward: Okay, let me put it this way. The videogamer in me hates FIFA 14, because I always want the ability to be in control, or at least retain a certain competent level of control. I find it unfair and cheap to have artificial handicaps imposed on me by the developers, especially for something fundamentally important like “defending” in a football game.

In the same forum thread I mentioned above, another poster said that if the game’s defensive AI wasn’t gimped, we would not see a lot of goals in versus matches, because it would become very hard for both players to score. And the game would probably not be very fun for a lot of players.

Amos: That is quite true.

Edward: But fun is always subjective. Despite my videogamer-side showing an intense dislike towards the gameplay, the football fan in me still loves FIFA 14. I love the presentation, the menus, the commentary, the soundtrack, and the player animations. Wayne Rooney’s player model for example, likes to acrobatically control high balls with his instep for his first touch. This is exactly his habit in real life. My Arsenal-playing friend tells me that Mathieu Flamini “falls down realistically like he does in real life”.

Amos: Lol what??

Edward: I am not sure why that would be worth emulating.

Amos: It’s the little touches, the attention to detail that matter.

Edward: Yeah, these little touches are a great tribute to the sport. The commentary especially, will reflect what is happening in the real world. Pick Manchester United, and Martin Tyler and Alan Smith will talk about the pressure David Moyes is facing and how United are languishing in mid-table now. Play United against Arsenal and they will make references to their heated rivalries in the past.

Amos: I get that too, I play against my Liverpool friend often. The game keeps talking about Rooney and how he is “not welcome in these parts”.

Edward: I also liked the many game modes available. It’s entirely possible to ignore online play and just focus on singleplayer. If you hate controlling your entire team, the Be a Pro mode allows you to control one player on the pitch only. This is usually a striker or central-attacking midfielder, because everybody wants to score goals. I can’t fathom anyone playing Be a Pro mode as a goalkeeper or defender, but the option is still there and that’s fine.

The Career mode allows you to manage a team and guide them to glory. You can perform scouting and player transfers, although to be very honest, I’d rather just play FIFA Ultimate Team instead. I have played Magic: The Gathering and trading card games before, and the appeal of building and managing your own deck of squads and players is just too good to resist. The companion mobile app for FUT is absolutely amazing to use, allowing you to make bids and sales when you’re away from your console, and you can even modify your squad’s lineup and formation on your smartphone and have the updated lineup ready when you fire up your console.

Amos: Well I didn’t go into Be a Pro or Career modes. I just played FUT and online friendlies versus my friend. FUT is definitely not noob friendly, online or singleplayer.

Edward: FUT is very time consuming because you need to search and bid for players, purchase consumables to maintain their contracts, and worry about team chemistry. I personally enjoy these types of ponderous game modes, but I also know a couple of friends who have not touched FUT at all. They just want to play their favourite real-life teams. And that’s fine too. There is even a 2vs2 co-op mode, which is absolutely hilarious to play.

Amos: My friend has been asking me to try that. How does co-op work exactly?

Edward: Player control is alternated for whoever is holding the ball. If I’m controlling the ball holder now and pass it, the next receiver will be controlled by my partner, and so on.

Amos: It sounds a bit confusing.

Edward: Yes, the co-op is a bit messy and calls for telepathic-levels of teamwork, but co-op modes are always fun. If we lose, let’s lose together. If we win, then give yourselves a high-five, because the feeling from successfully scoring a co-op goal is absolutely divine.

I would have preferred some sort of pre-match selection screen, where you can assign specific players to be controlled by a specific co-op player. For example, one player takes the left-sided players on the team, while the other player controls the right side. Or if my partner is lazy at defending, I take control of the entire defence and defensive midfielders, while he focuses on attacking.

Amos: But I can see why they used this alternating control system for co-op. If you are always on the attack, your friend on defence will just be bored.

Edward: It’s funny that you mentioned that, because at the end of the day, FIFA 14 favours a fast-tempo style of play by rushing your opponents down quickly. Even though breakaways are not as effective as before, it is still strongly encouraged. Slow, methodical, and defensive play is not rewarded, because of all the AI problems I described earlier.

Amos: It definitely favours the Tiki-taka style, that I agree.

Edward: What is a Tiki-taka?

Amos: Quick passing while maintaining possession.

Edward: Where did that phrase originate from? It sounds like a Tibetan dessert.

Amos: Barca. Or more specifically, Spain. Both Barcelona and the Spanish national side are famous for this style of play.

Edward: I see. But yes, to sum it up, FIFA 14 is meant to be a “pick up and play” type of game. It will appeal to football fans who are casual gamers. These players will find something each of them can enjoy because of the numerous game modes and beautiful presentation.

But for the rest of us, the hardcore bunch of videogamers who demand gameplay depth and long-term rewards from learning how to play properly, FIFA 14 is not that kind of game. I cannot offer a comparison to Winning Eleven 2014, the longtime rival of the FIFA series, because I have not played it yet.

To mark this first edition of No Talk No Life, I will just embed FIFA 14’s opening menu intro right at the end. It is the most hilariously epic opening I have ever seen for a sports game.

Amos: In the name of football!

FIFA 14 is out for almost every platform imaginable: PC, PS3, Xbox 360, PSP, PS Vita, 3DS, iOS, Android, and Wii. The authors both played the PS3 version, which is selling for a recommended retail price of S$69.  A copy of the game was submitted to NGNT for review purposes.

Have your say. Add your comments:

  • Dave

    Fifa 14 is a downgrade from fifa 13 . It has came to the point where I don’t play it anymore bc of people running down the wing and crossing. I would rather play fifa 12. This game is just horrible. EA continues to screw up.

  • Edward Pang

    It is the same even when you play singleplayer against the AI on Professional difficulty or above. It’s frustrating, unrewarding, and simply un-fun.