Any worries I had about this year's FIFA are but a memory. 14 is very good. It feels different, and while it may not necessarily be superior, it easily matches its predecessor's quality.
Unlike FIFA 13, strength takes greater emphasis over speed - this feels like a slower, more considered affair. Players must take their time creating chances: improved heading and crossing bring prominence to the likes of Fellaini and Carroll, and there's more consideration in build-up play, adding greater variety to attacks. This swing has gone a little too far – the vast majority of goals now do come from crosses – but it doesn't create a poor experience. There just has to be a significant change to your approach. Make sure to scout the next Drogba instead of Walcott this time around.
It's not just the core game that's seen improvements either – the overhauled user interface is better than ever. The sleek design makes accessing preferred game modes less time-consuming, with a tiled UI allowing players to scroll through formations, save data and player performance with a flick of the analogue stick.
Back on the pitch the sheer number of inputs to control movement on the ball can be overwhelming, but it's important to FIFA's new playstyle. Five different ways to dictate how your player controls the ball may feel excessive, but it can create vital space in the midfield or give time to find that killer pass.
The most significant change is in Ultimate Team. Gone are the player and team formation cards in place of 'Chemistry Styles'. By applying these, stats are boosted to give your team the edge. The option to change formation on the fly without any hindrance to player chemistry or coherence is a blessing, and freedom to experiment means players now spend more time on the pitch than in the transfer market.
It may be baby steps, but it's a big baby. FIFA 14 has tons of modes you can get lost in, but this would all mean nothing without quality gameplay. Fortunately, EA has delivered an exhilarating game of football.
Version Tested: Xbox 360. Game played for 15 hours