FIFA 14 Review

With FIFA 14, EA Sports' annual football simulation game, releasing yesterday in North America (Friday in the UK and Europe) I took a look into the game a bit, and more specifically the virtual version of Villa.

With the release of FIFA 14, there are a few new features and of course current rosters.  Aston Villa really haven’t been a viable option to use since FIFA 11 except in career mode.  This year they are about the same as they have been in the last two issues of the game.

Quick Review:

One of the best new features of this year’s title is the update to career mode.  The scouting network is much more in depth than it ever has been.  It is still no substitute for Football Manger in terms of control, but it is much more comparable than it has been.  Skill games are back, and these are great because in my opinion they are better than just having a 1v1 with the goalkeeper in the arena while the match loads.  The presentation for this game is exceptional.  Audio from a pre match host introduces the commentators and sends it over to them, and also the studio host has a bit to say after the match.  Gameplay improvements include the "Pure Shot" and some slight tweaks to player movement and better teammate intelligence.  The soundtrack is again a hit with groups from past FIFA titles returning like The Naked and Famous, Grouplove, Portugal the Man and Rock Mafia and also new additions like American Authors, Smallpool and OK KID.  The theme of internationality is of course huge and features artists from Japan, New Zealand and Sweden to name just a few. On the PS3 this game is just better than last years and I would rate it at an 8.7 out of 10.  This title really has the chance to shine on the Next Generation consoles when it will appear as a launch title in November for the PS4 and Xbox One.

Looking into Aston Villa:

If you’re going to do a career mode as a manger, luckily much of the Villa squad is fairly young and that makes for a good team to go with.  Even from the neutral perspective you’d have to say with some financial backing this could be a pretty good team in the future.   And with a starting budget of 17 million dollars, it is a decent option, but not substantial enough to go out and buy a few studs in the first couple windows unless you use the "Financial Takeover" option from the unlockable EA Sports FC rewards.  A good challenge for experienced players but can be tricky.

Villa are a 4 star team again, and taking a closer look, one of the talking points would be the rating of Christian Benteke.  Obviously he is not going to be as highly rated as a Wayne Rooney or a Sergio Agüero, but having scored more goals than either of those two last campaign you would think his rating should be higher than a 80, maybe an 82 would be fair.  Here’s a look into the rest of the squad:

Goalkeepers – Slightly Underrated

Brad Guzan is a rock at the back, but is slightly underrated at 79 overall.  He is still great guy to have in Play Now, Ultimate Team or Career Mode.

Defenders - Fairly Rated

The defense is bad but it is probably fair based on the performances of last season.  Ron Vlaar is the highest rated player in the Aston Villa defensive unit at 77 overall.  Your best option at the fullback positions are going to be Matt Lowton at right back (74 overall) and Luna at left back (71 overall).  Joe Bennett can probably feel a bit harshly done only being rated 65 overall.  Vlaar’s partner in defense should probably be Ciaran Clark (73 overall), although you could choose to play Nathan Baker (71 overall) or Jores Okore (73 overall) even though he is injured, which is one of the fun things about a video game.

Midfielders - Underrated

The midfield is one of the weak points in this Villa team.  Karim El Ahmadi is the best player here rated 74 overall.  Fabian Delph has shined so far this season but is only rated 73 overall.  Ashley Westwood has decent passing stats but is only rated 72.  Yacouba Sylla and Gary Gardner have value in Career Mode in the long term but probably aren’t going to make your starting XI should you just elect to play a pickup game or are playing online as they are both 68 overall.  Leandro Bacuna is only a 69 overall but he is very versatile with the ability to be deployed at everything from right wing, to central midfield, to right back.  Aleksander Tonev at 67 overall also may be able to be used in some capacity.

Forwards – Slightly Underrated

Of course, Benteke is going to be your best bet up top and probably will score the majority of the goals for you when playing as this team.  Depending on what formation you choose, you have some decisions to make when picking the other forwards.  You could always take Libor Kozák (74 overall) and pair him with Benteke in a two striker "Double Battering Ram" formation and try to score a lot of headers from set pieces, as both Benteke and Kozák have the "Strength" specialty and "Power Header" Trait.  Agbonlahor is still a speed demon at 92 sprint speed and I recommend that you put him in the side either as a striker or out wide, even though he is only rated 74.  Andreas Weimann has slightly improved from last year with an overall rating of 74.  And you could always put Charles N’Zogbia out on the wing because he is rated 76, despite the fact that he is injured.

Conclusion/Best formation:

Unfortunately this team is not really a viable option for play now but can be a lot of fun in Career Mode just because of all the young talent.  After playing a few games and toying around with the side, I’ve come to a much too early conclusion that the 4-3-3 is the best formation to play with in this game.  My lineup would be Guzan – Lowton Vlaar Okore Luna –Westwood Delph El Ahmadi– Weimann Benteke Agbonlahor.  The midfield may be lacking in some areas but Westwood is a good passer and El Ahmadi and Delph have decent stamina.  Okore is a fairly quick center back so that is why I included him.

Other teams:

Now the beauty of FIFA as opposed to games like Madden is that you have hundreds of different teams to play with as opposed to just 32.  There are some really fun teams to play with in other leagues and I recommend trying them out.  Obviously teams like Napoli and Borussia Dortmund who were flavor of the month teams in FIFA 12 and 13 respectively are fun to play with because of the attacking talent, but other teams like Shakhtar Donetsk (find them in rest of world) and international teams like Belgium are a lot of fun for me at least.  Depending on your style of play there will be a team that suits you perfectly.  Of course Messi and Ronaldo are the worlds two best players, but playing with Barça and Real is just boring at least for me anyway. Here are a few picks for you based on caliber of the team you like to play with.

4 STAR – Shakhtar Donetsk: With all of their creative Brazilian attacking mids and forwards, there is no lack of pace and guile.  The team does leave a bit to be desired in the defending department, but new signing Bernard makes up for it in my opinion because he has 5 star skills.  I use the default 4-2-3-1 formation.

4.5 STAR – Belgium: I really cannot see why this team is only 4.5 Stars, as they are currently rated 6th in the latest FIFA ratings.  Hazard, Dembélé, Mirallas and co will provide the supply lines to make Benteke a truly deadly striker in this team.  Kompany and Vertonghen really shine at the back along with rising star Thibaut Courtois.  The only weak link is Van Buyten and that is just because he is really slow.  I use a custom 4-2-3-1 formation but a 4-3-3 works well too.

5 STARManchester City: with Navas, Jovetic, Silva, Agüero, etc up top, you aren’t going to be short on very skillful players in attack.  Kompany is a really solid defender who is also good coming up for set pieces.  I was adventurous and played a 3-4-2-1.

Let us know in the comments what your favorite teams are, and feel free to add me on Playstation Network if you want to play an online match, my PSN username is corncoast and you can tweet me to set it up @crabsauss.

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