There are two kinds of gamers – those who have played FIFA Football and those who do not play football games at all. Yes, EA’s iconic football game series is THAT popular in videogaming circles. However, for all its popularity, it has taken some flak for its less than friendly user interface which takes some getting used to, and of course, the company’s penchant to refresh the series every year, leading to many “If its September, then a new FIFA must be on its way” jibes.
Well, the annual frequency of the game continues. Come September and we have a new FIFA game all set to descend on our tablets and phones. With better graphics and updated teams. But something’s different this time around. First off, the game has got a freemium model so you can download and play a good deal of it without shelling out a penny. And the second is the matter of touch controls. Yes, earlier editions of the game had an element of touch control to them, but FIFA 14 is the first in the series to go the whole hog and allow the user to play the game with just swipes and taps, minus any fiddles with onscreen buttons.
Yes, it looks gorgeous. Yes, you have official teams and tournaments. And if you are willing to shell out USD 4.99, you can get into tournament and management mode as well. Yes, the graphics are staggeringly good, from the stadia to the grass on the pitch to the likenesses of players. But let me get this clear – FIFA 14 is about the touch interface. You can either get into Ultimate Team mode, if you want to mess around with celeb players or pick one of the Games of the Week (they are refreshed keeping in mind actual league schedules), and well, if you feel up to dishing out lucre, just get into championship mode with your favorite club. And you can also go right ahead and spar off with other players online. But that’s all so secondary and well, routine by FIFA standards.
The magic unfolds once you start playing, and we SO strongly recommend going for the touch controls. Suddenly, you are no longer confined to the corners of the screen, messing with buttons but instead can tap a player to select him, map out a path for him to run with – or without – the ball (yes, you can actually make players make runs even as another holds on to the ball), tap on an enemy player to pressurize him, and of course, slide your finger to unleash either net-stretching shots or bone-crunching tackles, depending on whether you have possession of the ball or not. No, it is not perfect. We often got irritated by the ease with which our long distance shots beat the ‘keeper, and we got endlessly annoyed at the players’ refusal to accelerate when they had the ball (no such hesitation when they were running towards someone who had the ball, though). But at the end of the day, it was a whole lot more fun than tapping onscreen controls and hoping that they would respond the way we wanted them to.
All of which makes FIFA 14 the most accessible FIFA game we have played on a portable device – in terms of finance as well as gameplay. Yes, the official players, jerseys, clubs, tournaments, revved up graphics and team updates are welcome as is the freemium model – it is amazing just how much you can get to play without paying a penny – but what really rocked our football gaming souls are the touch controls, which while not being perfect, are definitely what the game needed. Does this replace Fluid Football as our current football favorite? In terms of pure strategy and mind work, nope. But for the sheer thrill of soccer, we think this is a game worth downloading. No matter how hefty the download (1 GB plus, be warned).