The World Cup is an event unmatched by anything else seen in sports. Not even the Olympics touch the enormity and fanatical breadth of the World Cup. The whole world truly watches this one month tournament played every four years. It is where 32 countries bring their all-star teams to compete and try to become the best in the world. Each match is such an event that people get together in huge open areas to watch games. The World Cup has a way of captivating even people who could care less about Soccer into experiencing the beautiful game. EA is hoping that people take that enthusiasm and buy 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. A game EA has made every four years beginning in 1998, which takes what made that year’s regular FIFA game and transports you into the country where the World Cup is taking place. So that gamers can take any of the over 200 FIFA countries and try to get them into a virtual World Cup.
Title: 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil
Developer: EA Canada
Genre: Soccer Simulation
Players: 1-4 Local, Online Play
Systems: Xbox 360 & PS3
When you first play World Cup Brazil it immediately drags you into the grandeur and spectacle that is the World Cup. The menus are sprayed with the bright yellow and green of the Brazil squad, the World Cup 2014 mascot lights up gamers faces, and it has the same menu system as FIFA 14. If there is one thing that separates this game from its yearly brethren, it is the fantastic presentation. From the authentic models of all the stadiums to the close-ups on the crowd shown periodically throughout a match or when a player scores. Very much like the World Cup matches themselves, each game feels like its own mini event. You hear the national anthems before kickoff, they go through and shake hands, and the crowd erupts in anticipation of what is to come. In certain games, you even get shots of the crowds gathered in large venues as they celebrate a goal or bite their nails at a missed opportunity.
All the stadiums that will be used in the FIFA 2014 World Cup are modeled beautifully and having a small cutscene that plays before each World Cup match adds to it. The cutscene tells you a little bit about the city and stadium you are about to play in, immersing you in the experience more than just going straight to any old stadium would do. I understand it was probably a money thing for EA, but if you are going to do so much with the presentation in this game, why not make PS4 and Xbox One versions so that you can take advantage of that even more. And I’m not buying the BS about “oh Xbox One and PS4’s are not available in Brazil.” The game looks pretty good for being on PS3 and Xbox 360, but I can only imagine it would look even more lifelike if it was on current generation systems as well. Having it on current-gen systems might also have helped do away with the awful shadows in some of these stadiums. It doesn’t happen in every stadium, but in some of them like the one in Recife, one side of the pitch is completely darker than the other. This terrible shadow takes up an entire side of the pitch and it makes it almost impossible to see where you are going. I don’t know how many times I lost the ball to the opposing team because between the dark shirts and the shadow I was blinded. It made playing in this stadium a huge chore.
The majority of World Cup Brazil is the same gameplay tweaks and additions that were put into FIFA 14. There are a few major changes included to make the game better for casual players, who are the main demographic for this game. The game is sped up a bit from the slow build up play and cross heavy FIFA 14. The players move with more pace and fluidity making it much easier to pass the ball around and find that decisive run that will take your player through on goal. Speaking of crosses, they have been toned down a bit and pair that with the new “Over the Back Headers” and EA Canada created a system that basically changes the way you have to think about crossing. You can no longer just bomb down the flank and cross the ball into the box. Unless you pick out the right volley, you will probably get the ball headed away. I found I had to start shooting more from the edge of the area or create more space by passing the ball around on the ground. I feel that the change was very much needed because FIFA 14 was abused in online play with crossing. Now scoring seems more level and it takes skill and thought to break down defenses.
The other additions to the game were relatively minor and only come up in certain situations like the ability to mess with your opponents head when you control a goalkeeper during penalty kicks. You can now make gestures and taunts to get them to pay attention to the on-screen antics and not on the meter at the bottom. There are also set piece tactics, which allow players to move your team around and have certain squad members make special runs into the box or have one player stand in front of the goalkeeper to block his view.
The rest of World Cup Brazil is a lot of rinse and repeat from FIFA 14. Instead of Be A Pro Mode, you have Captain Your Country, which essentially the same thing except you are trying to become captain of your chosen national team. They have added one new feature to this mode, which shows you the three other competitors that are fighting against you for a spot on the team. You begin in a country’s B team squad and work your way up to the actual World Cup Qualifying squad and eventually strive to become captain. I did have an issue with the new feature, it is mainly an aesthetic one, but is still worth noting. In World Cup Brazil, as opposed to past FIFA titles, the on screen display that shows your rating, now shows the rating of all three of your competitors as well. So, the screen is littered with names and ratings. I found it rather distracting to be staring at everyone’s rating while playing. It caused me to focus more on how I was being rated, than actually playing my position. You can choose to turn the displays off, so it isn’t that big of a deal in the long run. However, they probably need to give gamers options for FIFA 15, where you can choose how many displays you want shown at a time. Instead of just a default setting of either having all four displays on or having nothing at all.
I do like that they added training sessions and allow you to choose where you want to build up your player as you progress in the mode. You can choose to have mini games that focus on defense, passing, shooting, crossing, and so forth. After making it through these sessions you do feel as though you improve with every attempt and the end product is felt when the game tally’s up your score in relation to how it will improve certain stats. In Captain Your Country, the tabulation screen shows how you did in relation to your competitors. In the other two major modes, the World Cup tournament and Road to the FIFA World Cup, the training session allows you to control one player or all the players and try to build up all four players at once. In other games I usually don’t care about the skill games, but I found myself really wanting to go through the training sessions in World Cup Brazil.
Speaking of the two other big offline modes, the World Cup Tournament mode, (which can be played online or offline) puts you in the role of manager as you pick one of the 32 actual teams that will be in this summer’s World Cup or you can select one of the other 171 countries to put into the World Cup instead. The game allows you to switch out teams, switch teams in and out of groups, and select your own 23 man squad before beginning the tournament. Once the tournament begins, you participate in training sessions and play the games in your group hoping to make it to the Knockout Round. This is really where World Cup Brazil shines because everything great about the game is displayed here. The presentation is at its finest, the gameplay is at its hardest, and you are immersed in the World Cup experience with great commentary from Clyde Tyldesley and Andy Townsend on the pitch and even in menus with EA Sports Talk Radio. Talk Radio also features in the Qualifying Mode, but the World Cup mode version is better because it’s more specific to what you are doing currently in the tournament. You can choose between Ian Darke and Ian Goldsmith or have the Men in Blazers talk about how your team is performing in the World Cup and what they need to do to improve. I love listening to podcasts and stuff like that, so it was nice to feel like I was getting pertinent information on my performance.
The Road to the FIFA World Cup Mode is the closest thing you will get to a manager mode in this game. Albeit without all the depth you find in manager mode. You basically just get to go through all the steps of qualifying with your chosen team. You can choose to make a custom schedule and switch teams out of confederations if you want. But it’s basically just a season mode with the added flair of eliminations happening at various points through the two year run. I like playing these kinds of modes and getting to see how certain fringe players wind up getting into my main team and what not, but without all the player interactivity and having an unlimited player pool like you do in the other FIFA games, it can get a bit boring. The game does tell you when a player is in or out of form, but I’d like to see players get upset when they aren’t picked for a game or when they aren’t at least put into the 18 or something. The talk radio stuff here is also a bit boring after you’ve heard it once because a lot of is “let’s pick the greatest world cup team” or Men in Blazers talking about how certain teams are shaping up. This mode is fun, especially playing with a team that didn’t make the actual World Cup and getting to take them through Qualifying and see if they can make it to the World Cup, but it doesn’t have the depth to keep you playing it through more than once.
The rest of the modes in the game require an online connection to play and are also staples of the yearly FIFA games. The Story of Qualifying is basically the same thing as the challenge mode in the other FIFA games. Where EA gives you real scenarios that happened during World Cup Qualifying and you either try to replicate the feat or try to change what happened. EA is also planning to go one step further with this once the World Cup actually starts on June 12 and add another mode called “The Story of the 2014 World Cup.” EA says they will try to make a scenario out of at least one game played each day, but it obviously depends on what happens in those games. If all two or three games played in the group phase that day are blow outs, then EA probably couldn’t use any of those for the mode. I do think this is a great idea from EA and it keeps players not only interested in playing the game, but also in watching the real World Cup matches, because they may want to be able to replay or change that result in the video game.
The mode that will probably see the most play time is the Road to Rio De Janeiro where players play 10 games in one stadium seeking to gain enough points against random online opponents to advance to the next stadium. The mode is pretty much identical to the Head to Head Seasons mode in the regular FIFA titles, but at least you get to play with any country from around the world.
That being said, with two of FIFA’s biggest modes being absent from World Cup Brazil, the game still feels a little hollow for the $60 price tag that EA wants you to pay. I don’t get why they couldn’t have gotten together with Panini and allow players to make a digital World Cup sticker book or have an international team version of FIFA Ultimate Team. Not including an international version of Pro Club Seasons is another reason why I feel like the game doesn’t deserve such a high price. The two modes that give these games the most replay ability are absent and it feels unnecessary. I understand this game is meant for casual players and EA doesn’t want people to buy this and perhaps not buy FIFA 15 in October, but I feel like maybe at $40 it wouldn’t leave such a bad taste in my mouth. I think it really is inexcusable to charge full price for a game only releasing on 360 and PS3 that is basically FIFA 14 with a few improvements and a World Cup presentation. However, at the same time no one is forcing soccer gamers to buy this game either. It’s out there if you want to have it and if not, you can always just pop in that copy of FIFA 14.
Overall Thoughts: I think EA did a great job of giving you the experience of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in its wonderfully done presentation. If you tie that in with improvements in gameplay that make World Cup Brazil much easier to pick up and play for anyone out there. I think you have a terrific game that is great for the casual player that may want a soccer video game to play with friends in between watching the real World Cup games. With online modes included, there is certainly enough here to keep fans enthralled leading up to and during the World Cup itself, but without the true depth of manager mode, Ultimate Team, and Pro Club Seasons this won’t be something most soccer fans will be playing after we hit July 13. As I’ve mentioned many times though, this is meant for the casual player, the same casual player that probably only watches soccer every four years. In that respect, the game is perfect for them, especially since this is most certainly the best World Cup video game EA has ever made. In all honesty though, anyone that already owns FIFA 14 should probably think about renting this first, before plopping down $60 for a game that is very similar to something they already own.
Final Rating: 3.5 Out of 5