Video Game Review: 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

EA Sports soccer game dribbles past next-gen consoles to give old-school gamers a kick.

Maybe those old consoles still have a few tricks after all.

We’re firmly in the Xbox One/PlayStation 4 era here in 2014, with most developers releasing titles on the next-gen machines, then doing simpler versions for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. But in advance of this summer’s World Cup, EA Sports takes a unique tactic, delivering 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil on last-gen machines only.

And it’s a surprisingly good game. Instead of throwing together some sloppy World Cup game or delivering a product that could easily have been a DLC pack for FIFA, developer EA Canada actually tries to pour new energy into this product. The result isn’t a blockbuster by any means, but it is a solid product for World Cup fanatics on last-gen consoles.

The entire game celebrates the pageantry of the Cup in appropriate fashion. A wild international soundtrack serves as an apt (and fun) backdrop, and bright colors outline the menus. Get into the games, and EA makes a nice attempt to again replicate that Cup feel, showing nicely rendered stadiums and trying to create a nice big-game atmosphere. Xbox One this is not, but it’s all decent-looking enough, with little details such as anthems playing in the background and cutaways to people watching matches in their “home” countries, complete with flags. The only jarring thing, and reminder of last-gen, is that blocky crowd cheering in the background.

EA Canada goes the extra mile when it comes to rosters especially, honing its collection of players to perfection. All 203 FIFA teams are here, from dominant teams such as Brazil to complete unknowns like Malaysia. It’s an extensive roster of clubs and players.

You’ll take these rosters into a plethora of modes — and while none break the mold of what we’ve come to expect in a sports video game, there’s certainly fun to be had. Captain Your Country serves as the role-playing aspect in this game, placing you in control of one player, while Road to the World Cup lets you take a team from the start of qualifying all the way through to July. Naturally, you can play the Cup itself, too.

When the Cup itself starts (just two weeks away, folks), you’ll be able to play out various scenarios from the actual tourney and rewrite history via Story of the Finals.

None of this would be any good, of course, if the soccer itself wasn’t fun, and EA keeps that clean and fun. By and large, this is your standard FIFA template, although it’s been tuned and tweaked heavily toward offense. Passes have such pinpoint precision that any off-kilter ball has your jaw dropping and long shots are more effective. Goalkeeper A.I. is solid, and you’ll easily beat lackluster A.I. defense so often that you’ll learn that. World Cup games, apparently, are meant to be a high-scoring affair.

Mostly, though, they’re meant to be fun. FIFA World Cup Brazil isn’t a game you have to have, especially if you already have a soccer title. But it’s not a mere cash grab, either. It’s a solid take on the World Cup, with just enough TLC to be worth a diehard soccer fan’s time.

Reviewed on Xbox 360

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