As another football season kicks off, gamers flock in their thousands to get their hands on the annual instalment of FIFA. Another year of intense matches, another year of last minute winners and (most importantly) another year of bragging rights.

But is FIFA 14 at top of its league or have EA Sports scored an own goal with the latest instalment? Let’s cut all the fluff and jump in with what’s good…

For the first time in a number of years, the main menu interface has been given a makeover. The tile design is very similar to the Xbox 360 dashboard, with the majority of the game modes and settings being evident under the same menu option. While it may take returning players a number of minutes to find out where everything is, the new look has been well executed and is a welcome addition.

As you would expect, a number of changes have been made to the gameplay. Precision Movement, one of the main new features, enables players to accelerate and decelerate dynamically. While previous instalments have seen matches dominated by speedy teams and players, FIFA 14 manages to neutralise the playing field, also bringing strength and accuracy into the mix.

Another implementation is Pure Shot, which works with the new physics system to redefine shooting. There are more shooting options for players, such as drilling the ball low towards goal, as well as dipping and swerving shots. Hotspots are now less common and shots aren’t as predictable. Scoring goals is now more rewarding than ever before.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the field, defending has also been tweaked. Second chance tackles allow defenders to recover from missed tackles quickly in order to have another attempt at retrieving the ball. Whereas it may seem like a major advantage of the defending side, it’s a welcome feature that adds to the realism of the title.

In terms of game modes, FIFA 14 offers a wide range, with a number of special additions for the latest edition. Once again, career mode is split in two: Player and Manager – each one providing different paths. Opting for the Player career allows gamers to take control of either an already existing player or a newly-created one. They then work their way up from becoming an amateur player to a worldwide superstar.

As for the Manager career mode, dealing with transfers and tactics is on the agenda. The biggest addition here is the Global Scouting Network, which allows for up to six scouts to be hired. Each scout has star ratings for experience and judgment, and will assist in the signing of new players. Whereas many gamers will overlook this feature to focus on the core gameplay, the Global Scouting Network is brilliantly blurring the lines between football management simulation and the football simulation titles we play year in, year out.

Elsewhere, Ultimate Team has also received a makeover. For those who don’t know, the game mode has players building a team by collecting and purchasing bronze, silver and gold cards, which represent players. They then compete against other gamers in order to earn money to improve their squad.

Aside from the new look to match the main menu interface, the only addition is the new chemistry styles, which can be added to players in order to boost their performance. It’s an extra complexity that gamers will have to overcome in order to achieve the perfect team and a welcome inclusion to the title.

In order for gamers to get to grips with the gameplay changes, EA Sports has improved on the Skill Games. The game mode contains 13 categories in all, each of which contains four challenges – bronze through to legendary.

That’s not all. Other game modes include Seasons, Co-op Seasons, Be A Pro, Pro Clubs, Online Friendlies, Practice Arena and more. FIFA 14 is by no means short on game modes, meaning there’s enough variety in the title to keep gamers playing it until the next instalment.

Graphically, the game hasn’t changed much since FIFA 13. However, this may be due to the step-up to the next-generation of gaming being imminent. Nevertheless, while Pro Evolution Soccer has caught up on the graphics front, the official licences give FIFA the edge over its main rival.

Commentary is now more immersive with Clive Tyldesley and Andy Townsend, as well as Martin Tyler and Alan Smith, mentioning recent suspensions, potential retirements and injury updates to the players. It’s a nice touch that adds to the television-style gamers are used to seeing.

Staying with the audio, EA Sports has managed to produce another great soundtrack, featuring the likes of Disclosure, John Newman and Wretch 32. The soundtrack, which contains 37 tracks in total, makes trawling through the game’s menus a little more enjoyable.

Unfortunately, the gameplay isn’t perfect. Players are more prone to making errors, which can prove frustrating, more so in the final third of the field… if you can get there. The newly-implemented Precision Movement is clunky, meaning matches against the AI tend to be heavily dominated in the midfield area. Thankfully this isn’t necessarily the case against human players.

However, the game’s main issue is that it isn’t a massive upgrade from FIFA 13. While there are a number of new game modes and gameplay improvements, the core content and gameplay remains pretty much the same, which will cause doubts among a number of gamers parting with their hard-earned cash.

Overall, FIFA 14 is the best football game to date. While the subtle gameplay changes may be off-putting to gamers who aren’t willing to splash out, there are enough additions and improvements to justify a purchase at full price.

David Wriglesworth

David Wriglesworth is a Northern lad with a passion for gaming, who graduated from the University of Lincoln with a BA (Hons) Journalism degree. If you can drag him away from the consoles, you can probably find him Tweeting or watching Coronation Street.

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