Americans don't really get football - or soccer, as they call it over here. So when I heard that the FIFA booth was next door to NBA, UFC, and Madden, I was partially expecting to walk into an empty room. It turns out though, that most of E3 wanted to see FIFA in action. But the eager masses weren't American; instead I was surrounded by football mad Brits and Mexicans.
Every year a new FIFA rolls out with improvements here and there, but this time around there is a whole new generation of console to utilise. To take advantage of this new era of hardware, EA have created a dedicated new engine for their sporting titles, codenamed Ignite. This new engine will be utilised in FIFA 14 and it can be broken down into three key pillars, or core features that make up the game.
The first is titled "Living Worlds" which is a term that describes the environment both off and on the pitch. Visually just about everything has been upgraded and the character models on the Xbox One look stunning. Actually they looked so good, we forced our EA presenter to open up the cabinet and prove it was playing on an Xbox One (rather than a high-end PC.)
The stadiums have been given an overhaul and some of the top locales (such as Barcelona's home ground) will even include 3d rendered exteriors. But more importantly, the crowds within these stadiums have been refined, with fully realised 3d models to ensure variety and depth to the previously flat, cardboard cutout crowds of earlier releases.
In FIFA '14, nothing is scripted. Instead, players will now use AI to replicate human behaviour and react according to their situation, rather than a series of pre-determined motions. For example, when a tackling defender sticks out a foot to intercept the ball, your player will instinctively step over it, rather than phase through it or fall over.
A better example is how players will now lift their arms when anticipating a collision, to help shield themselves just like you would in real life. When watching replay footage in slow-motion, you can easily see the extra level of realism that has been added in. It is inching ever closer to the real thing and the next-gen consoles are making a significant impact.
One major area of improvement is the mammoth number of additional player animations that the new hardware allows for. Before in the 13 edition, it was only possible to have two players contend for a high ball. In FIFA 14, up to four individual players can all position themselves and jump to receive the ball with their noggin. The end result makes for a more authentic, and intense goal-box scramble. It will change the way you think about dead ball plays, such as corners or free-kicks too.
In fact, EA Sports have promised us a greatly refined 'heading' engine all round in FIFA '14. The upcoming game will now deliver finesse headers, which work in the same way as finesse shooting, allowing players to add a slight tweak or touch of skill to their headed shots. You'll also see more players use their noggins, thanks to a whole new array of animations that allow for new, more realistic gameplay dynamics.
Getting back to the Ignite engine, the second and third pillars are known as "Human Intelligence" and "True Player Motion". The first obviously deals with the AI of everyone on the field and early signs are looking extremely positive. Defenders find sensible positions, predict ball movement and track the play well. Meanwhile attacking players will seek out helpful spaces and engage defenders will close ball control.
And lastly, the new levels of animation and character modelling add a whole new level of physicality to the action, again creating a more authentic football experience. FIFA 14 , with its new pace and depth, is a joy to play and we can't wait for the release of the demo later in the year. However it looks like fans will want to hold out for the new consoles to get the full FIFA experience.
The Good: Improvements across the board
The Bad: Still months away
The Ugly: Coughing up the moola for new consoles