CONSOLE CORNER: FIFA 14 bows to the Spanish

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FIFA still rules as world’s best footie game but has clearly bowed to the ‘age of Spain’ which has taken over the beautiful game.

EA Sports has done it again. Don’t worry the latest FIFA is still the best football game money can buy.

FIFA 14 XBOX 360 gameplay

FIFA 14 XBOX 360 gameplay

But rather than jump in two-footed like Lee Clattermole and hail the game an unreserved success two days after its release I have bided my time, analysed different aspects of the offering and given what I hope is a more considered overall view.

The graphics, presentation, layout and polish is all there as are the ever popular Seasons and Ultimate Team game modes. They are both better than ever. I am a Seasons man myself and it offers all the addiction of previous titles but with the added bonus of the excellent co-op Seasons mode, which has been a long-time coming.

EA have crucially got this as spot on as a Ronaldo set piece. In more than three weeks I am yet to experience any lag or disconnections playing co-op (where you team up with a friend online to play another two players online) in our bid to rise up the divisions.

It is a triumph and worth the money for the game alone in my opinion.

Ultimate Team offers the fan boys the chance to build a side full of annoyingly skilful and fast players to play against other teams who will at some stage be full of the same players. Maybe its a generational thing but I don’t see the appeal. There is no denying it is a slick offering, though, and there is plenty to keep those interested coming back for more.

Now on to my main point, this bowing to Spain thing. To my mind, FIFA 14, as undeniably brilliant as it is – we are nitpicking here because the series sets the bar so high – requires more patience than most of its predecessors.

That’s fine, there’s nothing wrong with having to learn the ropes again and teaching yourself something new. But for me the problem is that sometimes even when your patience is rewarded, it often feels like it’s flattering to deceive.

The play is often slow and compacted in midfield but dynamic and physical at either end of the pitch. It is a slower, more methodical game akin to the Barcelona pre-2013/14 with lost of tippy tappy play that can frustrate as much as it delights.

I wanted more of a Bayern Munich FIFA. Bayern have shown they can play the tippy tappy stuff as good as anyone, but they have such a variety to their game. They can mix it, hit long diagonal balls to pacy wingers, play through the middle or laucnh it into the box where they have the likes of Mario Mandžukić to hold it up, or power home a header.

The single most frustrating thing is playing any kid of long pass. It is as if it has been completely overlooked or tweaked to the point people can’t and therefore won’t use it anymore. But I like knocking it over the top, playing direct and causing mayhem from time to time.

Any long pass seems to pick up pace as it bounces and rolls out of play unless you have a Ronaldo or Bale to fly onto it. Even then it is very hit and miss.

In fact I know two or three people that were so frustrated with this and other gameplay tweaks they actually traded the game in.

But as I said I am being ultra picky here. There is always a workaround and who is to say EA won’t just make a patch to tweak it?

In the meantime, if you do persist – which most will – there is plenty on offer for the FIFA hardcore and new gamers alike.

Plush new looks and some extra animation is also on the way in two weeks when the game ports onto the new Xbox One and a month for those getting a PS4.

With each machine boasting new control pads, it will be interesting to see if that will improve the FIFA experience further still.

In conclusion it’s yet another win for FIFA but perhaps not as convincing as it has been in the past.

Like cover star Lionel Messi, when you’re that good even the smallest blip (like his three-game “drought”!) becomes a big deal.

Version reviewed: XBOX 360

RATING: 8/10