A screen shot from video game, FIFA 14, which was released Sept. 24. Credit: Courtesy of MCT

A screenshot from video game, FIFA 14, which was released Sept. 24.
Credit: Courtesy of MCT

The world’s most popular sport and arguably most popular video game has launched. Soccer fans rejoice. It’s a new season, which means a new FIFA.

EA Sports’ FIFA has established dominance in this generation of modern, soccer-simulation video games. It has been at the top of the market after it surpassed Pro Evolution Soccer years ago. EA reported sales of last year’s FIFA 2013 reached 14.5 million units versus Pro Evolution Soccer’s 1.9 million units.

With the release of FIFA 14 on Tuesday, the FIFA series continues to get better and better. The gameplay is much improved, with a slower but more realistic feel. New features such as protect the ball allow individuals to control the game and focuses on the strength of players when shielding off opponents.  Likewise, precision movement provides a smooth flow to gameplay. It slightly slows down the play, but it is more accurate in changing the speed and direction of players.

Other features, including the new ignite engine, let the players determine the game by being patient and possessing the ball. No longer are the days of easily pushing the ball past a defender and running free toward the goal. It’s not all about speed anymore.

Another interesting feature is pure shot, which provides a more realistic and satisfying strike. If one is taking a free kick with Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo from 30 yards out, the ball will dip at the last minute. Also, rather than taking a weak footed shot with Bayern Munich midfielder Arjen Robben, he will strike it with the outside of his left foot into the corner of the net.

One of the biggest improvements is the greatly enhanced artificial intelligence. The defense is better at pulling strikers offside. Just as well, the attackers make smarter runs and follow up on rebounds more often.

The sounds are impressive, from pregame to in-game commentary with Sky Sports announcers Martin Tyler and Alan Smith. Gamers can hear fans singing, “The reds go marching on,” clearer and louder throughout the game. Like always, the soundtrack doesn’t disappoint, providing a diverse playlist including 37 international artists.

There is not much of a noticeable change in graphics, but it is still a quality picture. The new redesigned menu makes it easier to navigate and get to all the features.

The user-friendly layout allows gamers to access a variety of game modes. There is the basic kick-off or friendly option and career modes that allow one to be a pro or manage the team from the sideline. EA has added small improvements to career mode, including advances in using the transfer window and in scouting players.

The online game modes include the thrilling Online Seasons, as well as a new Co-Op Seasons option, where anyone can play two-on-two with their friend and compete for the title together. Of course, there is still the online-friendly option where friends can determine who is the best through a series of games.

Lastly, there is the fan favorite FIFA Ultimate Team mode, where the goal is to create the ultimate fantasy team by collecting cards. The biggest change is the switch from formation chemistry, to chemistry styles. It allows the gamer to turn their striker or defender into their preferred approach and boost a couple attributes to make them a certain type of player, such as a Finisher or an Anchor. This has added complexity to FUT, but gives one a tactical edge if they find their dominant style.

Have you ever imagined playing with Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and former Brazil forward Pelé up top together? Now that’s possible with the new FIFA Ultimate Team legends.

The changes are subtler, but EA Sports has hit the fans’ main complaints from last year’s edition. It’s the little things, like the new features, that provide a more realistic flow to the game. Besides, FIFA fans are content with just buying the game for updated rosters. Its unbeaten run over Pro Evolution Soccer continues and should keep FIFA fans happy for a year.

Overall grade: 9 out of 10