Another year, and another version of FIFA, and unlike other versions, the iOS version has brand new features in FIFA 14. The familiar soccer matches return, but now there’s a brand new touch control option, instead of the force fed virtual joystick, and action buttons. Every interaction on the field can be done through touch including tapping on a player to pass, or defend, dragging on a player to direct them around, and swiping from the ball to perform a shot on goal. The new scheme was a big question mark going in, but after playing with it considerably, it really fits on iOS devices so well. You finally have direct control of the players, and it’s quite intuitive to directly swipe, and tap on the things you want to interact with. Any joystick and button combination removes you from direct control of the action, but dragging a player forward, tapping on another to pass, and then swiping towards the goal couldn’t be clearer.
The main focus of FIFA 14 on iOS is an emphasis on appealing to as many people as possible, and the touch control scheme allows for anyone to pick it up, and play. The classic virtual controls remain, and are available in the settings, but the touch controls are on by default. Another first for FIFA 14 is that it’s free to play letting any iOS owners download it, and see if it’s right for them. Also, the heart of the IAP is a one-time $6.49 in-app purchase to unlock Kick Off, Tournament, and Manager mode. Those are extras, and for free you still get access to Ultimate Team, online multiplayer, and weekly games with real teams. The Ultimate Team mode in fact offers features from both Tournament, and Manager mode, but relies on card packs to upgrade your team. The card packs are available through coins, or bucks, which are available as IAP, though you can earn coins at a pretty good pace.
FIFA 14 delivers a lot for free, and you can essentially enjoy the full game when diving into the various features of Ultimate Team. You also then have the choice to spend$6.49 to get access to the full roster of 33 leagues, over 600 licensed teams, and more than 16,000 players, which you can interact with in the three additional modes. Its worth is dependent upon how much you enjoy the base soccer gameplay that is included, and it’s likely that you will. What EA does well in FIFA for iOS is to create a dynamic environment to create a great flow that is somewhat comparable to the real world. It does make you wonder why they can’t apply the same engine to Madden, or NBA Live, but you can at least appreciate it in FIFA. There’s simply a high quality physics engine that lets the ball, and players react as you would expect with the chance for the ball to bounce off other players, the goalie, and crossbar to then allow for a free ball, which is free to interact with. The set-up also allows for quality crosses, or corner kicks to send the ball near the goal for a chance at a header, bicycle kick, or just a quality shot on goal all with fluid motion.
The touch control scheme really lets you interact with the relatively free flowing world. In fact, there’s a bit more strategy involved as you can direct another player, while controlling the ball handler to set-up an offensive attack. The only problem with the touch controls is that they can be a bit tedious at time as you need to tap, hold, and drag to move a character, while a single swipe shoots on goal. The actions can be mistaken from time to time where a shot happens when you just want to move your player, or you move when you want to shoot. The more intense things become, the more the touch control scheme can get in the way, but you do have the choice to flip to the classic controls at any time. The one consistency is that it feels like an action packed soccer match at all times, that you can play on the go with your iOS device.
FIFA 14 (Free, Universal / $6.49 IAP) is the best sports game on iOS, though that’s not saying much, which provides engaging soccer action throughout that anyone can enjoy. It’s a surprisingly good experience for free, and it’s a should buy for the $6.49 full unlock in-app purchase.