THE raw power of a new generation of consoles always takes time to be fully harnessed by developers. In some cases, it can take two years into a machine’s life cycle before its capabilities manifest themselves through graphical fidelity capable of dropping jaws.
Review: FIFA 14 - Playstation 4 (reviewed) / Xbox One
Score: 8.4 / 10
The first weeks and months, by contrast, usher in games with incremental improvements on what has gone before, hinting here and there at a glorious future.
There can be few better series to exploit this trend than FIFA, a title which began life as an isometric portrayal of the beautiful game only to gradually morph into a swaggering simulation of huge ambition over the course of the following two decades. Since its release in September, the latest version has proved to be the most accomplished yet, having undergone the now annual tinkering to its player physics and control system.
Stands apart from 360 and PS3
The jump to next-gen grasps this process of refinement and stands apart from its Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 predecessors. Visually, the franchise’s Playstation 4 debut is a delight, with fluid and intuitive player animations realised by EA Canada’s new Ignite engine. In one on one situations, where you are reliant on mastering close control and reading the movements of an opposing defender, these improvements go beyond cosmetic and actually aid play.
Ignite’s full might is evident in the smallest details. Shirts and shorts ripple in the wind, effects largely lost during play, but which raise a smile during action replays, with the 1080p resolution revealed in its full glory. The most atmospheric additions, however, come not on the pitch, but the periphery. Where once spectators resembled rows of puppets on a string, rising and falling as one, the crowd is more dynamic and responsive, with the odd lone fan standing up, in all probability to hurl abuse at the officials.
Other details, too, pop out. When taking a corner in some stadia, a phalanx of press photographers in fluorescent bibs hunch down by the billboards. It is the sort of addition which may not add anything to the gameplay itself, but improves immeasurably upon the immersion EA has been striving towards in recent years.
Helpfully, the transition between generations is made easier thanks to transferable game files for long-established modes such as Career and Ultimate Team, although not every option has made the leap, with the likes of Be A Pro failing the make the cut, presumably due to the tight turnaround to include it as a launch title.
Such regressive steps jars with the forward-looking aspects found elsewhere, and it is to be hoped they are restored courtesy of a patch. Even so, they should not discourage fans of the series from upgrading. It is a game, much like the sport it is based on, where the smallest margins count. It may not deliver miracles, and offers mainly aesthetic arguments in favour of purchasing the next-gen version. Be in no doubt, however - if you are looking for the best simulation of football, FIFA 14 is it.