For fans of EA Sports' acclaimed FIFA video game series, the day you've all been waiting for is finally here.
Today at midnight, FIFA 14 will be released to the public, and as always, this figured to keep millions of gamers across the world occupied for the next few weeks at a bare minimum.
As is the case every year, soccer enthusiasts and mere fans of the addictive series are licking their chops in preparation for their first test drive of this year's installment in the wildly popular game, but for those who can't wait to find out more about it, here's an early look at what to expect from FIFA 14.
Slower game pace
One of the most noticeable differences between FIFA 14 and last year's edition is the slower pace of play, and that's due in large part to the addition of the new Pure Shot feature.
According to Metro.co.uk's review of the game, the decreased speed in general match play is a by-product of EA Sports' effort to enhance the user control when looking to create chances or move the ball up the pitch.
The new Pure Shot feature works very well with the new ball physics and animation system though, so that timing, positioning, and anticipation all become of equal importance in terms of getting a shot on target. Perhaps as a reaction to the newly resurgent Pro Evolution Soccer FIFA 14 plays noticeably slower than FIFA 13, encouraging you take your time creating chances and setting up more considered crosses and headers.
While this will undoubtedly be frustrating for gamers at first, I believe that users will appreciate the increased realism of the gameplay, because, ultimately (other than the entertainment factor), that's what separates today's games from those of yesteryear.
However, it sounds as if the feature will take some getting used to, as any significant change presents gamers with a necessary adjustment period.
The annual new features
As the Telegraph's Nathan Ditum describes in his review, this year's added features, while certainly enhancing the realism of gameplay, make for a considerably different feel in contrast to the last couple of editions.
To deal with the caveats first – FIFA 14's highlighted advancements include Pure Shot, a system for more realistic shooting with makes them dip agreeably, Protect The Ball, where players in possession enter a resolute squat to keep it that way, and Precision Movement, the biggest of this year's changes which alters every player's ability to accelerate, decelerate and shift direction.
Obviously, the challenge for all of EA Sports' big-ticket series is to balance realism with playability, which entails updating the game with new features every few years
The early reports suggest that this year's edition of FIFA will take some getting used to, as the Pure Shot and Protect the Ball additions appear to be pretty significant changes.
For gamers, there's nothing more frustrating than having a clean break in on goal and being unable to properly shoot the ball on target as a result of a sizable change in gameplay from the series' previous installment.
More distracting modes
It seems that the days of simply turning on a system and jumping into a friendly match are gone, as EA Sports has unveiled new ways to occupy users without having them play an old-fashioned head-to-head match.
Now, with so many modes for gamers to pick from, the option of a friendly has been made to seem like something of a last resort (via Telegraph.co.uk).
Competing aggressively against the possibility of simply kicking off a game of football are: a series of often excellent tutorial mini-games, the perspective-shifted Be A Pro mode, its online counterpart Pro Clubs, the see-sawing promotion and relegation of Seasons (and new variant Co-op Seasons), online friendlies, the vast managerial possibilities of career mode, the team-building compulsion of Ultimate Team, and the net-bothering simplicity of Arena mode.
Like virtually every other popular sports gaming series, FIFA 14 has continued to shift in the direction of online-based modes, so unless you're sitting next to your opponent, the console-based friendly will more and more become a thing of the past.
Alterations to Ultimate Team mode
As VideoGamer.com's Brett Phipps discusses in his recent review of FIFA 14, one of the most noticeable shifts from last year's game is the new and improved Ultimate Team mode.
The most significant change is in Ultimate Team. Gone are the player and team formation cards in place of 'Chemistry Styles'. By applying these, stats are boosted to give your team the edge. The option to change formation on the fly without any hindrance to player chemistry or coherence is a blessing, and freedom to experiment means players now spend more time on the pitch than in the transfer market.
For fans of the sport itself, the ability to switch squad formations mid-game will be a welcome addition, as it enhances the authenticity of gameplay.
Of course, it also provides users with more options in managing their teams, and as Phipps points out, the feature can actually increase a given player's usefulness on the pitch.
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