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Today, I Almost Beat A FIFA 14 Producer

The demo right before mine finished with a 3-0 score in a bit of a rout by the game's producer. That wouldn't be me. Not today.

By John Benyamine. Published 9 months ago

Earlier today we were invited to Motivo in midtown Manhattan to check out the EA Sports lineup for 2013. NHL 14 took up half of the nightclub's floor, and while the NHL 94 mode is really enticing, I bypassed that to look for something else. Front and center was the star of the show, Madden 25, and while the upcoming 25th anniversary edition looks more than worthy of any sports gamer's attention, I continued my search.

In the back of the room I found the game I was most interested to see, FIFA 14. Quickly responding "yes" to whether or not I'd like to play, I sat down at one of the two stations displaying an Xbox 360 version of FIFA 14. I patiently waited for the FIFA 14 producer to wrap up his other demo, in the meantime staring at the screen, examining the clean UI of a recently finished match.

FIFA is a series I've played since its Sega Genesis days. Drawn in by the din of the crowd and the unique chants that emanated from that 16-bit cartridge, I grew to appreciate the series and it led me to follow the sport as much as a boy from New Jersey without satellite TV could.

Over the years I picked up the latest FIFA titles whenever they were released. Despite my FIFA fandom, I wasn't necessarily any good at the game. The series would stumble every now and then, overcomplicating the gameplay or adding too many features that I couldn't get a handle on. Or maybe I in fact just wasn't very good.

FIFA has evolved into a bit more than dribble, pass, shoot. And it's glorious.

Still, every year I'd pick up FIFA, looking forward to a solid game of football while treating myself to some of the best visuals and audio to be found on the system, whether that was 3DO, Sony PlayStation, or, now, Xbox 360.

Looking over to the other display, I noticed the score was 3-0 in what I assumed was a bit of a rout by the game's producer. I scoffed. That wouldn't be me. Not today.

Looking over to the other display, I noticed the score was 3-0 in what I assumed was a bit of a rout by the game's producer. I scoffed. That wouldn't be me. Not today.

Done with the other demo, Santiago Jaramillo introduced himself to me as the game's producer and asked me a few questions to gauge my level of experience.

"So you know how to play?"

This is a loaded question and one that can be tough to answer. I know the basics, but I can't say I'm an expert. I feel I'm pretty good at defense and can run a nice counterattack, but I rely a bit too much on trying to get a header off a cross. (By the way, this is where my Eurogamer counterparts can make fun of my mastery of the sport's terminology).

I went with FC Barcelona while Santiago went for AS Monaco. Already, the deck was stacked in my favor. I figured he'd go with Real Madrid and we'd get some El Clasico action going, but I wasn't about to argue. His selection already had me on guard. This was going to be tough.

As we started, Santiago began explaining a few of the new features in FIFA 14. In older versions of FIFA, you'd have a canned animation tie the player and ball together, with the only variable to your shot being its strength which was determined by the length of your button press. Recently, FIFA tried to increase the independence of both the player and ball, giving the relationship between both an additional sense of realism. In FIFA 14, there is now a significant sense of momentum in the players on the pitch, and this was evident fairly early on when I scored the first goal of the game.

One, nil. I dribbled in between two of his defenders, the momentum at my back, carrying me past them as they were caught flat-footed and I was able to put one past the keeper right before the half. That felt good!

Even Messi is amazed I scored first.

In addition to player momentum, FIFA 14 will also factor in the position of the ball when you start your shot, the strength of your shot, the angle of your shot and your foot on the ball, and the aforementioned momentum. This was never more evident than when Santiago tied it up with a rocketing shot to the top corner. It came off of a perfectly timed pass to a cutting player, and he nailed it right into my goal.

One, one. Alright, that was pretty impressive. FIFA guy stepping up. I said it before: this was going to be tough.

Visually, the game looks fantastic. I always think FIFA is a good showcase of the graphical capabilities of the console it's on. The presentation is expectedly beautiful, with slick overlays that are never intrusive. FIFA was doing the whole "it looks good enough to be a broadcast" thing well before other sports series, and FIFA 14 continues the tradition. It's not a huge improvement from last year's edition, but it's still impressive.

As I was looking at the flag-waving crowd and admiring the atmosphere (not an excuse), Santiago hit me with another one. An absolutely beautiful chip shot that sailed just over my goalkeeper's fingertips. Two, one. Ten minutes left. Shit.

During the waning moments of the match, I really started to appreciate the difference the new player momentum offers. This is noticeably different than I remember from FIFA 13, and while you may think it's a small change, it makes the game feel a lot different. It's especially clear when you and your opponent are going for a loose ball. If your opponent has even a little bit of momentum, they're going to end up winning it. It felt like you needed to start strategizing not only how you go for the ball, but anticipating the angle of your arrival much earlier than before.

Keeping this in mind, I started trying to anticipate my movements as he protected the ball, waiting for the final whistle. We were now in stoppage time and I needed to grab the ball and advance or it was all done. I started tying up Santiago's player with one of my defenders and then quickly switched to one of my players who was a bit further from the action. Gaining a small head of steam, I barged in there and gained possession. I quickly headed up the wing, and hit a medium-powered lob into the box as one of my attackers nailed a header past the goalie.

Two, two! After a desperation run by Santiago to pull out the win, the final whistle blew and that was that. Having proven my skills against FIFA 14's producer, he asked if we wanted to go into extra time or golden goal, or end it as a draw. I decided to cash out while I was ahead and we called it.

Sure, statistically I had the better team. Okay, there may have been an AI glitch on one of my goals since the game is a work-in-progress. Yes, maybe Santiago gave me an opportunity at the last minute, though he didn't admit it. I'm just glad I made it respectable, and I'm looking forward to the rematch online when FIFA 14 comes out this September.

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