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FIFA 14 Xbox One Review

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Tis the season for the next generation. What this means is that the Xbox faithful have an entirely new version of FIFA to dive right into. FIFA has been available on the 360 since September, but with the promise of gameplay improvements that aren’t on the previous generation, I and many others have been excited to see how things panned out. Now there are improvements to the game. But it doesn’t really change that much to be honest. Read on to find out how it all panned out.

Let’s jump straight into what matters most, the gameplay. I’ve been very vocal about the fact that I feel they may have ruined what they were getting so close to with last year’s game, even since I played FIFA 14 on the Xbox 360. The game is trying to become as real as a football sim has ever been. Not to say it’s not realistic, it’s just that some things have been thrown in that do not compliment what made FIFA 13 such a great game. For example, rubber-banding appears to exist now. Rubber-banding is a term that would only be familiar to avid fans of racing games. What it means is that when you, the player controlled driver is way out in front with no chance of ever being caught up, the game will automatically make trailing cars speed and turn outside of their capabilities to constantly make it a close race. EA Sports have adapted this to the defending. Defenders as slow as say Per Mertesacker will blister towards a player with lightning pace like Theo Walcott from out of nowhere. Essentially what I’m getting at is, if you initiate a through-ball to an extremely fast player, he will fumble his first touch slightly and do a light jog no matter how hard you hold the sprint button. Whereas the defender will Usain Bolt this newly crippled gentleman right down to the ground. It’s all in the name of balance, but if EA Sports want to go for realism, balance just doesn’t exist in football. There’s only skill, momentum, and luck. It’s still a very, very good game. I just feel that it has taken a step back from FIFA 13.

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Those are my thoughts on FIFA 14 in general. Let’s talk about what’s specifically new to the Xbox One version. The very biggest in terms of gameplay changes are the amount of players that can now challenge for a header. It’s no longer attacker vs. defender. I have even been anticipating a header and had my own CPU players nab my chance from the air for a goal (not that I’m complaining). You can even beat goalkeepers to the ball now. It has been a pet peeve of mine for years that a keeper would automatically win the battle if he went up for it. EA Sports have remedied my concerns in this aspect, and I hope it’s a feature that stays forever. When the player impact engine arrived in FIFA 12, I was very excited. Finally players would react as they should and fall over when they should. Of course it was a mess that had the Fus Ro Dah effect. It has however been perfected here. Players completely react to every collision as they should. You might wonder why I’ve highlighted this since it was apparent on the Xbox 360 version. There is absolutely no clipping whatsoever in any challenge in the game. Not one arms slips into another player’s arm. No legs sinking into the opposition player’s stomachs. It’s just perfect and is quite wonderful to watch. The game also boasts hundreds of new animations motion captured by players such as Gareth Bale and Robert Lewandowski. The only ones that I frequently see are a new long ball that is executed when you attempt to switch flanks. I have noticed some new clearances. But with the literal thousands of situations and angles that you might find yourself in, you’ll certainly see many of these animations on your journey.

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It’s strange that the absolute best improvement in this game is one that I would hear about and shun immediately. Ah hell, it’s not just the best improvement, it’s the best part of the game, period. EA Sports’ new Ignite Engine adds so much to the beautiful game that you cannot even imagine. It truly needs to be experienced to understand how amazing it really is. Ignite is an engine that claims to make the sport feel ‘alive’. Crowds are no longer pasted cardboard drones. They are living 3D people who will react to every situation with cheers and boos. The sound that it gives out is astounding, the booming roar when you score an important goal in career mode is especially gratifying. It’s not just the crowd that reacts, the players themselves do. Let me throw out a situation. You’re losing 1-0, and have just equalised to make the score 1-1 with ten minutes to go. Your players will put in the extra effort, they will run themselves ragged to get a goal. If the ball is out of play, they will sprint to take the throw-in or corner to get the ball in-play as quickly as possible. EA have even been working with Sky to configure how the camera angles should work for replays. Man is it ever beautiful. I actually find myself watching almost every replay as I hear people scream through my Kinect to skip the little scene. The cameras will highlight important players, more so in career mode than anywhere else. It will even show another replay of a goal you’ve scored way into the match, just as it would in a real game. EA’s presentation in FIFA 14 for the Xbox One is the best it ever has been, for any game, ever. Have a look at the Ignite trailer to see just how good it is.

One big question that was on everyone’s lips these past few months is will it actually look any better on the Xbox One than on the Xbox 360? In short, yes and no. If you’re expecting the players likenesses to look any more realistic, you will be left disappointed. However, with most of them now being scanned with the new Starhead technology, they look as real as they ever will. Now that it is rendered in 1080p and at 60fps, the game finally looks as it should. It’s a beautiful, glossy, ultra-realistic affair that shouldn’t be missed. I’m way more invested in the story being told on the pitch than the actual game itself. If I sign a player on career mode, I want to see that highlighted during the pre-match presentation. I want to see the close-ups of my new star as Alan Smith gives his terrible opinions on any and everything. I mean, god damn everything about the presentation of this game is so spot on it even makes me want to try out Madden and NBA Live which is certainly not my bag.

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The rest of this review will be focused on the features of the game that are already available on the Xbox 360 version. So if you’re familiar with FIFA 14 already, just skip on down to the summary. Career Mode makes a triumphant return to the foray. It’s more or less the same, except for the way transfers work. Now there’s the Global Scout Network. This is a feature that enables you to send your scouts out to certain countries and look for players with the credentials that you need. You can no longer see player ratings before you bid on them unless they are prolific stars such as Lionel Messi where everybody knows the talent that he beholds. The scouts give a prediction of the players stats and will even give an estimation of the amount you would need to bid on them to have a bid accepted. An annoying feature returns from previous years. If a player is 30 or over, it takes but one season for them to lose every bit of skill they ever had. I understand players declining in talent as they grow older, but the amount that they do in FIFA 14’s Career Mode is far too drastic and unrealistic. The way that the Ignite Engine uses the cameras to focus on players in Career Mode is particularly titillating. It will focus on players who might be making a debut, or have cased disruption in the changing rooms, or even just players that are currently in-form. It then accompanies this with a quick quip from the commentary team. This all adds to the experience and makes it feel more real.

Ultimate Team is another entry that makes a return to the FIFA franchise. Of course it would, it is the cash cow of the entire game. There are only minimal changes to this mode but they are definitely for the better. You no longer need to have matching formations for your players to have better chemistry. You can also now invite your friends to an online friendly to play their Ultimate Team squad. Why this was never implemented in the first place is beyond me. That is where the changes in the mode lie, it doesn’t require much to improve it to be honest. There is another new entry that is exclusive to the Xbox 360 and Xbox One version, however. Legends are now present in the Ultimate Team. Amazing players like Dennis Bergkamp and Gianfranco Zola are now a part of this wonderful, soul-draining game mode. I do think it was a little bit cheeky advertising the legends as such a big deal for the console exclusivity as the rarity in achieving the players is extreme. As rare as getting a Ronaldo or Messi in a pack if not more.

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To sum up, there are many improvements to the next generation iteration of FIFA 14. It’s definitely better than the previous gen version. Some of the gameplay has taken a dive from FIFA 13’s excellent play. In the words of Paula Abdul, it took two steps forward, and two steps back. This doesn’t stop it from being a top notch game, however. I think that EA Sports will have achieved the dream of having the very best ultra-realistic football game that has ever and will ever exist by FIFA 15. I definitely recommend this one to the legions of fans that follow the sport. Its value is also lowered by the fact that many hundred thousand day one editions came bundled with a free copy. So pick this one up for a price as cheap as chips. Chips in Central London that is.

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NBA Live 14 Demo Comes Out Next Week

EA Sports have today announced that the 4 year hiatus of NBA Live will be ended with a demo that comes out next Friday.

In the demo, you’ll be able to take control of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks and the Golden State Warriors. Their live stats will be updates in the demo just as they will in the full game.

The NBA Live 14 demo hits the stores on Xbox One next Friday the 22nd of November.

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NHL 14 Review

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EA Sports are a company that has a lot to boast about. Not only are they the number one source of all sports games, but they are damn good too. FIFA, Madden, Tiger Woods, and NHL are all games that are nearing perfection. Year by year these games are updated to resembles their respective real-life counterparts. For the last few years, NHL has had strong outings under the EA Sports moniker, and number 14 doesn’t appear to be any different. It’s quite frankly a superb addition to the series. Read on to find out why.

Now bear in mind, I am not familiar with hockey. My knowledge extends as far as knowing that Wayne Gretsky is a person, seeing the Mighty Ducks, Mike Myers rather enjoying the Maple Leafs, and I’ve heard of the Stanley Cup. With that in mind, you’d think I would have some trouble with the playability. This is most certainly not the case. I found myself up by 18 goals by my second game, with the need to bump the difficulty up to hard and adjust some gameplay sliders. The fact that someone as oblivious as myself could pick up a controller and feel as though I were a god on the rink is truly a testament to some amazing development.

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The controls work very much like FIFA, the left bumper performs some close control movement known as ‘dekes’. The right stick is used as a trick stick. Again, just like FIFA. I often use it to wind up a fake shot to trick the opposition. The fluidity of the movement in this game is actually astounding. I’m unsure as to whether the player impact engine is carried over from FIFA, but it certainly seems so. It makes smashing into and gutchecking opposing players an absolute, incomparable joy.

Let’s talk about the most interesting part of the game…the fights! Oh lord, do we ever love the fighting. NHL 14 utilises the Fight Night Enforcer Engine. Now you may think what I thought when I heard this, that it works just as Fight Night Champion does. That’s not the case. It merely uses the engine for a more refined set of fisticuffs. You use the right stick to punch your fellow goon, flicking it up to jab and down to uppercut. The left stick is used to push or pull on your foe’s jersey. Pushing the jersey helps you dodge incoming punches., and I will tell you this, nothing feels better than pulling your opponent towards you, and devastating them with a tooth shatteringly vicious uppercut. The A.I. also instigates these fights more than you do. However, spot one of your team-mates taking a hit that you deem to be too rough means that you can press Y to throw your gloves down and skate towards the scumbag that did it.

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Right from the start, the game allows you to set your hospitality settings. You can choose between simulation or hardcore simulation. The differences between the two is not as marginal as it seems as manual passing and more or harder collisions are the result.

There are several modes in the game. Be a Pro mode has been replaced by the aptly named ‘Live the Life’ mode. It works the same as the Be a Pro modes in FIFA or Pro Evolution work. You start your career as a young upstart in the minor leagues or a reserve team. You begin in the CHL, and if you’re good enough, you will move on to the NHL draft. Then again, you do have the choice of just starting straight in the NHL. This choice does however negate all sense of achievement you might acquire.

Now this next mode is where ingenuity and brilliance come in. NHL 94 Anniversary Mode is a stripped down version of NHL 14 that is made to play like and resemble the classic and much-loved NHL 94 from the SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis. To be fair to EA Sports, they could have released this mode as a stand-alone HD remake and pulled in a ton of money. Instead it’s thrown in here to give this great title a hell of a lot of value for money. This mode is so much fun, and it’ll be hard to go back to what is an amazing 2014 based game after this hilarious arcade fun.

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NHL 14 has also adopted Ultimate Team from the FIFA series. It works just as FIFA does, except the currency is no longer known as gold coins. Instead you will be playing to earn yourself some pucks. I know, cute. Just like FIFA, without spending real life cash, you’ll have a hard time building up any kind of worthwhile squad. But if you’re willing to invest hours upon hours, eventually you can have a team to boast about.

Now, I attempted to give this game a go online. I tried several times over many days so that I could give this review an honest score. However, every game I attempted to play had next to 0 latency, and was literally unplayable. I did chalk this up to me being in the UK and hockey being a predominantly North American sport. I could be wrong there, but after some quick google searching, it appears online lag and latency isn’t an issue most mention. Therefore I will simply state that the lovely people in the United States and Canada just couldn’t handle my British Charm.

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So to sum up, I will say that NHL 14 is not only remarkable, great fun, easily accessible, intuitive, and amazing value for money, but it’s also a sports title that should be held in high regard as a placeholder that all sports games should emulate. I would go as far as to say that NHL 14 is EA Sports’ best current title. NHL 15 should be one to really look out for once the title arrives on the next generation.

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WWE 2K14 Debut Trailer & Cover Art Revealed

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For those of us that were fans of the series, it was a sad day to see THQ crumble as they did. It was made worse when the future of WWE Games was left in the balance. Thankfully 2K, the team behind the astounding NBA 2K series, have taken up the mantle. In conjunction with Yukes/WWE Games (the guys that made all current gen wrasslin’ games), WWE 2K14 is a reality. Now I’m glad to announce that 2K have released the game’s debut trailer, which you can check out down below. Continue reading WWE 2K14 Debut Trailer & Cover Art Revealed

NHL 14 Official Trailer Hits The Wide World of Web

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Canadian sport game moguls EA Sports have today released the first official trailer for upcoming hockey title, NHL 14. Along with a lonely screenshot comes the news that the game has adopted FIFA’s brilliant player impact engine, as well as Fight Night’s Enforcer engine for when fisticuffs ensue.  Continue reading NHL 14 Official Trailer Hits The Wide World of Web