Publisher: EA | Developer: EA Canada | Out Now
Board up the windows and lock all the doors like you do every four years – the World Cup is here and with it comes EA’s painfully predictable release to complement all the footballing festivities/horror, depending on your outlook. What should be immediately clear is that this is a game for true football fans, as by its nature it offers a lot less in the way of variety and depth than FIFA 14. Unless you happen to collect World Cup-themed football games, in which case this game is bloody perfect for you.
2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil – which is the most ludicrous title EA could have gotten away with – follows much the same template that the last World Cup game did back in 2010, essentially acting as a re-skin of the preceding year’s ‘proper’ FIFA release. This is just FIFA 14 except with all-new menus (they’re a different colour) and a much larger roster of international sides. Club teams are absent, understandably, but an enormous variety of nations have been represented.
Due to this being 360-only, World Cup Brazil runs on the older FIFA engine. After months of enjoying EA’s Ignite engine present in the Xbox One version of FIFA 14, going back to the old engine genuinely felt like we were regressing – journeying back to a time when frame-rates leapt all over the place and player animations were famously wooden. In all fairness, even on the old 360 FIFA 14 was the best iteration for a while, and so World Cup Brazil certainly can’t be faulted in terms of gameplay or graphics bar the usual complaints about irritating AI and the occasional input latency.
The AI really is no better than before, with players still refusing to come towards the ball when passed to and opponents cutting out passes and blocking shots that would just not be possible in real life. This was part and parcel with FIFA towards the end of last-gen, and it comes as no great surprise that the same problems are present here. We also noticed the usual idiosyncrasies that FIFA purveyed before making its way to Xbox One, with throw-ins and substitutions occasionally causing texture pop-in and slight pauses.
The only real difference, then, appears to be the inclusion of several new modes. Being that this is a game that will most likely be played against others in either local or online multiplayer, some of these new game modes may seem a little surplus to requirements. However, the Road to Rio De Janeiro campaign is deep and satisfying, with the ability to play a full World Cup including myriad international friendlies and qualifying matches adds a lot in the way of realism to the otherwise familiar proceedings.
It stands to reason, though, that an extensive World Cup campaign is essentially nothing but a shorter but more objective-based Manager mode, the likes of which is already available in every mainline FIFA release. It’s a lot of fun for sure, but after you’ve seen your team lift that beautiful lump of melted-down gold what else is there to really do? There is a player career option, but again it will only last for a finite amount of time. Upon completion, these modes offer you nothing bar a pat on the back if you succeed or commiserations if you don’t. There just isn’t as much replay value here as there is with the Manager mode in FIFA 14, as that runs for a number of seasons and allows you to cultivate and develop a team, which is the most interesting part.
Praise is due in terms of the overall presentation of the game however, with stunning models of every World Cup stadium in Brazil and occasional cuts to footage of each nation’s fans watching and celebrating in their home country. It was extremely authentic, hitting the top corner from 25 yards with Adam Lallana to be greeted with a shot of revellers leaping about in Trafalgar Square in front of the giant screens that are bound to be erected there for real.
In fact, this is perhaps the most realistic experience a FIFA game has ever offered, and not just because – despite a few aforementioned complaints – the gameplay is so accomplished, but because it offers the most complete match day experience to date. It even goes so far as to offer different ‘radio stations’ that can be selected to play while you’re browsing the menus, with known radio and TV personalities offering their take on the tournament so far. It’s a great addition, and further cements EA’s ability to make you feel like you’re watching real coverage.