FIFA 14 came out last month, bringing with it the set of updates we've come to expect from the yearly foot-to-ball series: slower running, better balls, new types of kicking, some new names of millionaires, four new lines of commentary which don't make sense at first but, through mind-penetrating repetition, destroy cherished memories from your childhood and replace them with an image of Martin Tyler's face, rotating, his eyes on fire, his mouth chanting some secret language.
Now there's a patch that tweaks all of the above in slight but significant ways.
On the EA Answers website, the FIFA team outlined the changes. The key bulletpoints are:
- Balancing lofted through balls.
- Balancing attacking headers.
- Balancing finesse shots.
The main, no-foolin' change FIFA 14 made to the series was to slow matches down. It did that by making it harder to control the ball while sprinting, and by tweaking player tackles and ball-shielding moves. It meant that games were more about tactically taking apart your opponent; drawing defenders out of position, and using the revised finesse controls to quickly move the ball around defenders.
Those three things above - lofted through balls, attacking headers and finesse shots - by comparison, felt significantly easier than in previous versions. Headers in particular were a nightmare: it's always been difficult in FIFA to defend against crossed balls, but now foreheads were like Quake 3 jumppads but for foot-to-balls. Head-to-balls?
The problem now is that lofted balls and finesse shots, while easier, were compensating for the slower pace of the game in other areas. By nerfing those as well, what's left is a game that's no longer, slow, tactical and marked by sudden bursts of speed and skill, but which instead feels like a slog.
Or maybe I'm just bitter because I lost seven of the eight Ultimate Team matches I played yesterday.
If you play FIFA 14 on PC, Origin should already have downloaded the patch. If not, the game is still great and still the best foot-to-ball game on PC, despite the patch, the disparity between this and the next-gen version of the same game, and the slow rate of progress each year.