STAFF REVIEW of EA Sports 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil (Xbox 360)

Friday, April 25, 2014.
by Scott Fowler

EA Sports 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Box art Break out your Vuvuzelas! Actually, don't. Please don't. (Remember those things from 2010's World Cup? I still hear them in my nightmares..) It's Word Cup Time! This year, EA has brought us a new title to match the tournament, 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, with all its pomp and circumstance.

Let's talk about that pomp and circumstance. One of the coolest parts of the real world version of the World Cup is the pageantry. Every country is out to make the best name for itself on the biggest soccer (football, I know) stage in the world. It's the Olympics of soccer, but it's even BIGGER than Olympic soccer. Having been local to the event myself personally, way way back in 1994, when events were held locally in Southern California, I can tell you first and foremost the massive reach of the sport. How big these events are can't be compared. It dwarfs the Superbowl. People literally flocked from all over the world to take part in the events and games involved. Players get KILLED in some non-friendly countries for failures. It's that bad. It's that big. Amazingly, my senior prom was held at the same hotel the Brazilian team stayed at in 1994, and the word inundated doesn't even begin to describe the scene.

World Cup is a big deal everywhere in the world that's NOT North America. (Sorry U.S. and Canada fans, we're just not AS into it as everyone else is!) So EA took their normal approach and carved out a new game to herald in the excitement of the moment and the tournament. Generally, this is well done.

They capture the excitement, the beauty and the national pride of each team really well. There is great identity to each team and they correlate to their real world counterparts. It looks great, it feels fun, and feels like a great homage to the tournament. Cutscenes show what I can only assume as "accurate" versions of national coaches, jubilant, or freaking out, depending on the play of the game. It shows fans watching and celebrating, both at the event and elsewhere in the world, and generally nails how all-consuming this event it for people.

I'll get to more specifics on the gameplay in a minute, because I feel like I have to put this spin on the game right out of the gate. The biggest problem with FIFA Brazil is FIFA 14. More specifically, FIFA 14 on Xbox One.

I'm a sports nerd. That's understood. The only thing I can really compare this unique situation to is watching a game you recorded when you have already checked the score and know that your team won. I say won for a reason, though. If you know your team lost, you probably won't watch that DVR'ed game, right? But if they did win, you'll watch it, but you'll fast forward your way through the boring parts, catch the scoring plays, and call it a night. That's how this title feels after playing FIFA 14 on the Xbox One.

I do want to say that as a standalone title on the 360, it works very well. I wonder if it's worth the full $60 price of admission, but I understand EA's motivation on the title. To their credit, it does seem like they took some of the newer gameplay and animation features on the FIFA 14 Xbox One title and tried to shoehorn them into the 360. Animations of players on the field seem smoother. Players look the part of the tournament and it feels like it's more than just a pretty coat of paint on FIFA 14 (360). There's still some glitchy play with regards to ball movement, and just the way things look, with players running through each other and bounces/dribbling looking a little messy, but it does feel improved. That's the good news. What is tricky though, is trying to frame it after playing on the Xbox One. Is it glitchy compared to the 360 FIFA title? Not much, probably, if at all. FIFA 14 was so solid on the Xbox One though, that this feels like a cheap imitation, a quick knock off, and while that's unfair, it's still the reality of where this game falls in the current market.

Feature set wise, it's not as limited as you'd expect.EA managed to add to the tournament itself in the Road to the Rio mode. This allows users to select a wider range of teams/countries, and see if they can "make the cut", taking them from the earlier qualifying entry tournaments through to the big stage itself. While this expands the reach of the teams involved beyond the 32 in the actual tournament this year, I don't know if this mode is enough to bring gamers away from similar season-long offerings in the FIFA 14 title. Time will tell, surely. Some of the outcomes and situations are fun, too. I'm all for pissing off the moody veteran by giving his roster spot to a kid and rolling the dice, and you get to play those cycles fairly well.

Online World Cup mode is fairly self explanatory, and I'm sure the online play will pick up as the tourney date approaches here in June, and that it will be frenzied and furious and fun while it lasts.

Here comes the fun part: the tournament itself. Presentation is pretty excellent here. My favorite piece is the redesign/re-imagined commentary. Most obvious of the newer features is EA Sports Talk Radio, which gives the player the options of listening to either Ian Darke and Andy Goldstein, or Roger Bennett and Michael Davies. Either pair has unique takes, and the vibe is fun and very inclusive. Both teams drop knowledge on the game/teams in question, and have lots of little pieces and facts to throw out their during the game. It definitely helps push the immersive side of things, and is something I can't wait for more of across all sports games. More, please, EA!

What I don't see though, is what happens after the real world tournament. Does this title simply go away once we get FIFA 15? I'm assuming that there are plenty of soccer die hards the world over to support multiple offerings, as evidenced by the mere fact that these alternative titles exist. It's the most popular sport in the world for a reason, and a source of pride for many countries, so I definitely get it. I just don't know exactly what the shelf life is here.

More over, since a lot of the changed here are cosmetic, I'm really curious as to why they decided to not launch this title on the next-gen consoles. A fresh (VERY fresh, Very "Brazil") coat of paint on the UI and the navigation is very appropriate, and the recreated stadiums and cut scenes are great touches, but , was it REALLY that much more work to make it available on the Xbox One? Given how great FIFA really was/is on the the One, it seems almost short sighted on EA's part to not include it in the fun. Look at me, right? Vilifying EA for making a full game out of it, and then turning around and asking why we couldn't get it on the One. That's sort of the point though, because I don't know exactly what EA wanted to accomplish here.

At the end of the day, we get a great experience with lots of fun. EA FIFA Brazil captures the excitement and fever of the World Cup, and definitely plays on its strengths. The new presentation, specifically the commentary, are great adds, and things that I think pave the way for sports titles in general, really capitalizing on immersing the player in the experience.

Should have gone the Xbox One route, too. Too many steps back from the great FIFA experience on the One to the 360 only Brazil title.

Also? MORE commentary options like this across all sports platforms! Great refresh of that...

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.4 / 10
Sound: 8.8 / 10


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