IRL: FIFA 14 for Xbox 360

Welcome to IRL, an ongoing feature where we talk about the gadgets, apps and toys we're using in real life and take a second look at products that already got the formal review treatment.

IRL: FIFA 14 for Xbox 360

Soccer (excuse us: football) might not be a popular sport on this side of the Atlantic, but at least one Engadget editor is fan enough for all of us. In addition to playing the sport and following the pro leagues, our own Edgar Alvarez has made a point of buying every new edition of FIFA for Xbox 360. Naturally, he's already had a chance to get comfy with the 2014 version -- and critique it too. Read on for a lightning review from someone who knows a little something about the franchise.

FIFA 14 for Xbox 360

IRL FIFA 14 for Xbox 360

It wasn't long ago that I shared my feelings about FIFA 13. But, as EA Sports tends to do, it refreshed its beloved football franchise, this time with a 2014 edition. I couldn't not buy a copy, even if the next-generation consoles are right around the corner.

At its core, FIFA 14 still has everything that was great about last year's version but with some gameplay and user interface changes in tow. I noticed a few of the differences during my first Kick-Off match -- namely, that the AI is smarter and the players' defensive skills have clearly improved a bit. As such, it's harder to score goals, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. (For reference: I play in Legendary, using manual controls.)

Of course, online mode can be slightly different, since it depends heavily on the skill level of the person controlling the opposing team. However, that's not to say the computer isn't to blame for mistakes made across the pitch that led to a score I wasn't happy about. Avid FIFA players know exactly what I'm talking about -- keeper blunders, anyone?

Given how FIFA 14 is also powered by EA's Impact engine, the overall gameplay here feels similar to the last version. Still, the players' movements do appear to be more fluid and lifelike, meaning that controlling an agile player like Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi is easier than, say, Zlatan Ibrahimovic. While this specific element isn't particularly novel, it's without a doubt more noticeable than in past versions of the game. For the most part, the various game modes remain untouched, though ones like Manager Career have seen minor adjustments when it comes to scouting talent for your team.

The most obvious modification is in the UI, which now has a Windows 8-esque feel to it. As you can imagine, this took a little while to get used to, but the menus definitely look sleeker than those in FIFA 13. More importantly, the user interface feels practical, allowing me to quickly access and view stuff. This includes being able to instantly jump into recently played modes and display scores from earlier matches, among other useful things.

In the end, FIFA 14 is but an incremental upgrade, yet the refreshed rosters and club kits alone are more than enough to keep this popular franchise in a league of its own. Not only is it the best football video game around, but it might well be the best sports video game, period.

-- Edgar Alvarez