By: Cameron Merritt

The North American cover for FIFA 14. (EA Sports)

The North American cover for FIFA 14. (EA Sports)

FIFA 14 provides fans with a fantastic fútbol experience. The latest edition of the successful soccer gaming series from EA Sports impresses with new design schemes and several other additions that help, once again, raise the bar in sports gaming.

Dropped from the North American title for the first time is the word “soccer,” adopting the title of its international counterparts, as the game is released in 12 different versions worldwide.

FC Barcelona’s Argentinean striker Lionel Messi graces the cover once again, and is paired with Manchester United’s Mexican striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, dressed in his nation’s colors, on some North American versions. Different players from other regions of the world also air up with Messi on their own region’s respective covers.

Three South American leagues, Argentina’s Argentine Primera División, Chile’s Campeonato Nacional Petrobras, and Colombia’s Liga Postobón, are featured on the game for the first time. Other added clubs include the Ukraine’s FC Shaktar Donestsk, Argentina’s Independiente (who aren’t in the Primera División), and the Welsh national team. Barcelona’s Camp Nou returns as a useable stadium after a one year hiatus, and is joined by Everton’s Goodison Park (UK) and Boca Juniors’ La Bombonera (Argentina).

One of the first changes from FIFA Soccer 13 that gamers will notice when they start playing is the makeover of the main menu screen, as with the in-game pause menu. Designers went for a more modern, box-oriented style, abandoning the traditional rectangular line shaped pattern, which may take returning FIFA gamers a little time to grow used to, but overall is simplistic and clean.

The game features slightly sharper and more realistic graphics than its predecessor. Also seeing improvements is its First Touch Control feature, which provides more realistic passes and touches of the ball, giving more lifelike feelings and different ways in the which the players react, along with adding more stadium sounds, backed up now with the new Ignite Engine, featured only in the PS4 and Xbox One versions, which also adds more real-life reactions with the changing weather conditions and the crowd’s noises, as if it were a real match.

New additions to FIFA 14 also include a brief pre-game audio show by Jeff Stelling that leads into the game and introduces the main commentary team of ESPN’s Martin Tyler and ITV’s Clive Tylsdesley. Global Transfer Network is a new addition to Career Mode, which allows those playing as team managers to scout current players around the world in order, in up to six countries at a time, with three already hired as the gamer starts Career Mode.

As with FIFA Soccer 13, gamers who have played previous editions will see their preferred level of difficulty and Ultimate Points used for online upgrades and to purchase players in Ultimate Team mode. They are instantly imported the game is started.

Ultimate Team mode returns again, allowing players to build up their own FIFA “fantasy teams,” starting with a basic roster of average players and working up by winning online matches and buying and selling players using their point’s budget to become a world-class club.

As with the most recent previous editions of the FIFA series, gamers can create share and download players, teams and tournaments from Creation Centre on the EA Sports website and import them onto their gaming console.

The FIFA 14 soundtrack features 37 songs from artists all over the world in a variety of genres. This includes returning artists and groups as The Royal Concept, The Colourist, The Naked and Famous and Rock Mafia, while seeing first appearances from more well-known artists such as Nine Inch Nails and Vampire Weekend.

This game is well-deserving of 4.5 out of 5 stars for its superb gameplay, fantastic graphics, catchy soundtrack, and wide variety of game modes and clubs to play as. The only thing it would be nice to see added, at least for the North American version, is an American stadium. However, that takes little away from an overall great game, perfect for the most passive to diehard soccer fans alike.

The game was released on Sept. 27 and is available for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 (released Nov. 15), Xbox 360 and Xbox One (released Nov. 22) for $59.99, on PC for $39.99 at most major retailers or in app form for iOS and Android for $6.99.