So here we are again! That time of the year is upon us where EA roll out their latest version of their award winning football franchise and people can’t wait to part with their hard earned cash, to see exactly what they’ve done this year and how the game has improved. Let’s be honest though, generally the answer to that is very little. All they’ve done is slightly polished the game from the year before and stuck someone new on the cover (along with a £40-£45 price tag). So is Fifa 14 really worth getting excited about?.. OF COURSE IT IS!!

I want to be completely fair to EA for this year’s game; they have really gone to town and have made a lot of changes, some of which have really been game altering, but we’ll get on to that side of things a bit later. I have been playing this latest version for a few weeks now as I am a Season Ticket holder so got the benefit of early access. So as soon as the rather sizeable download was available I couldn’t wait to get stuck into it?. And it did exactly what it does every year and sucked me in meaning I’d lost 4 hours before I even knew what was happening! Ultimate Team is once again my game mode of choice and I found myself almost holding my breath in anticipation as I began to open my free gold packs (given to me as a returning Fifa gamer and Season Ticket holder).

Ultimate team has had a real revamp this year, and they have put in some brilliant little touches that avoid the frustrations of last year. Things like the ability to search for a particular position change. Last year, if you wanted to turn a CF into a ST you had to trawl through page after page of unnecessary cards to find what you wanted, but not anymore! Nicely done EA. You can also search for a player by name meaning no more filling in untold boxes to say you are looking for a gold rated French striker, who plays for Real Madrid? just go to name search and type in Benzema (or just Benz) and up he pops! Then the best part of all, the price comparison button. No longer will you get ripped off by thinking you’re picking someone up for a great price, just to find that 84 pages further through the list was the same player for 10k cheaper. Now you hit price comparison and all versions of that player on the transfer market appear at your fingertips…. Genius!!

Add to these great improvements the fact that they have brought back single online games, meaning you can play someone from anywhere in the world, earn coins for it, without having to enter a league or a cup. Also the fact that the online and offline seasons have been upped to 10 divisions and you have another Ultimate Team that will keep people coming back and spending their money on packs for months to come.

Before we get on to the biggest difference of this year’s game, and a real maker or breaker dependant on the type of player you are, let’s just discuss the aesthetics for a minute. The game looks beautiful and that’s on current gen, take a look at it on next gen and you are looking at something truly special. From the people in the crowd to the blades of grass this is a pretty game. The players are no exception either, they are the most realistic I’ve ever seen, and all the big names are recognisable straight away. This is where Fifa has a MASSIVE advantage over PES (plus real team names, real stadiums etc. etc.) You take a look at either Peter Crouch or Bacary Sagna on PES 14 and tell me that’s a well-made game?. I dare you!

The biggest change by far is the gameplay itself. The way the ball moves, the way the players control the ball, turn and move and the way you attack and defend. This year is much more difficult. Your players aren’t given acres of space to do what they want because you are closed down in an instant. You won’t find the ball sticking to your feet, you will really have to work to keep close control? and you won’t find the pacey players just sprinting past everyone to score sweaty goals this year, as the defenders have been buffed and even a slow defender like Terry will keep up with attackers and make their lives difficult. Of course there are the obligatory problems. At the moment headers are massively overpowered and you will concede a LOT of goals from corners (but you will score a lot too). Finesse shots are also broken and a good quality player will be able to curl a shot from about 45 yards straight into the top corner without the goalkeeper even moving! EA are aware of these issues however and have promised they will be patched soon so let’s hope that these are slight gripes that will soon disappear. Some people have also complained about a freezing problem with the game, but I haven’t experienced anything like that personally.

So for all the amazing things that Ultimate Team mode has to offer, add into that a brilliant career mode that is far more in depth (you actually have to scout players out before it will give you all their details) and amazing co-op seasons and you once again have a title winning offering from EA that once more leaves PES firmly in the relegation zone. Overall – updated and changed in all the ways it needed to be, looks amazing, plays brilliantly (unless you prefer the unrealistic characteristics of last year) and with more fantastic modes than you are really ever going to get round to using to their full potential. The only things stopping me giving it full marks are the couple of little issues that can make the game frustrating.