An exclusive deal with EA saw canny Microsoft bundle the latest iteration of the FIFA franchise with pre-ordered Xbox Ones over here in the UK. It was a great decision on so many levels. Firstly, it provided an instant user base, helping to fill the lobbies for online matchups. Second, it showcased the graphical leap from the game bearing the same name on the previous generation of consoles. And finally, as a download, it demonstrated just how Microsoft’s vision of a digital only future may pan out. What’s more, it’s an excellent game too.
The next-gen version debuts EA Sports’ much-lauded Ignite engine – the end result that players appear far more natural, realistic and fluid in their movement. With FIFA on the XB1 boasting 10 times the animation seen on its predecessor, every sprint, shot and shove looks fantastic; it’s not only a better-looking game but actually plays differently too. Having spent innumerable hours sat in front of the 360 edition, I quickly realised I had to adjust the style of play I’d previously employed as it wasn’t as successful given this new level of realism.
The extra power of the new consoles means the players can anticipate your next move and react accordingly – very annoying when you’re facing a top-class defender and chasing a win! Players seem more intelligent and now react differently to shoves and nudges, with the physics much improved – like when an opposing player slides in and takes you off your feet. The movement into channels, player characteristics, decision making and AI all combine to make the game feel truly different and next gen.
From the ball physics and how it curls and dips when struck, to the players’ foot placement and momentum, it looks and feels absolutely stunning on the shiny new console. Not only that but multiple players can now go for a ball in the air at the same time. Every ball can be contested, every jostle counts.
Running the XB1 version of FIFA alongside its 360 counterpart, the graphical upgrade is striking. Everything is so much sharper in 1080p, the HD visuals are better defined, and the improved crispness and clarity is obvious. You can even see bits of grass kicked up from the pitch when you strike the ball! From the moment the players walk onto the pitch, you’re immersed in the atmosphere – the camera pans round the stadium as the crowd cheers, chants and gesticulates with your every touch of the ball. And, as usual, the commentary is superb.
The crowds play an important part in the general feel of the game this time round too. The so-called “twelfth man” is no longer a series of repetitive cut outs but animated figures, urging the home team on to victory. New camera angles and the improved replays integrate the crowd into the action, which really adds to the atmosphere and enhances the overall presentation nicely.
The replays seem to have had an overhaul too – extended slightly to capture more of the action leading to a goal, foul or other memorable moment. At any time, a simple voice command directed at Kinect will record a short clip of the action on the XB1’s integrated DVR, meaning you’ll quickly build an impressive showreel of skills and near misses that you can upload and share with your friends.
Xbox One owners also get a bit of a bonus in the form of Ultimate Team Legends too. Not only can you now earn coins and wade into the transfer market to build a super strong team consisting of today’s top professionals – now it’s possible to add the likes of Pele, Bergkamp and 40 other world class players from the annals of history.
What’s more, an added bonus of upgrading to the latest version is that your ranking and all your hard-earned coins, XP and Ultimate Team data is carried over too, so you can continue where you left off.
Even if you weren’t lucky enough to pick up a complimentary copy with a preorder, it’s well worth checking out the XB1 edition. Even though I already own FIFA on the 360 and the changes aren’t that radical gameplay-wise, it does feel like a suitably different experience with the visuals and AI upgrades making this the best FIFA yet.