If I played for Canada’s national soccer team, we’d not only have qualified for the World Cup this month, we’d be taking that phallic golden trophy home from Rio de Janeiro’s legendary Estadio do Maracana.
That’s what I learned from 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, the official video game of the global sporting event that’s taking over the minds and hearts of footie fans for the next month.
Developed by EA Canada as an offshoot of the studio’s annual FIFA games, World Cup Brazil is essentially a reskinned and enhanced version of last fall’s FIFA 14, but with a handful of gameplay tweaks and a meaty assortment of World Cup-specific flavour.
The folks at EA Canada have already established themselves as the kings and queens of the digital football pitch. These games are the best of their kind and packed with a staggering number of modes, management options, skill competitions and more.
Where things get a little sticky is with the value proposition of a game like this. It’s a full-priced release coming out midway between annual entries in the FIFA series, but it doesn’t offer anything terribly innovative or radical in its gameplay.
Which isn’t to say this is just a copy-and-paste of FIFA 14 dressed up in green and yellow. The passing and dribbling have been tweaked to give players better ball control, and it’s easier to set teammates up for big plays. The ball physics have also been slightly enhanced, though only die-hard fans of the franchise would be likely to notice.
More significantly, the game gives players the chance to take a team through qualifying games and into the World Cup itself, with matches taking place in digital reconstructions of various stadiums around Brazil. It’s well done and infuses the game with a lot of the flavour and excitement surrounding the big event.
This is where my formerly unheralded skill as a soccer star made itself known. I played the game on the default difficulty settings, and Canada ended up scoring 11 goals in our first match with me as captain. In the second match, it was 15 goals. I am a golden soccer god.
Naturally, experienced players will want to adjust the difficulty and tweak the game’s settings to offer a more balanced and realistic game of soccer. (Sadly, since Tilley wasn’t available as a last name in the create-a-player system, I instead chose Wang. Because I apparently have the mind of a seven-year-old boy.)
While World Cup Brazil brings a few new tweaks and a significant amount of pageantry to the FIFA 14 foundation, it’s easier to recommend this game to players who haven’t yet picked up FIFA 14. For current owners, it feels more like an overpriced expansion pack. As well, it’s disappointing that EA decided not to do Xbox One or PlayStation 4 versions of the game – this one’s last-gen only.
Still, if you can’t make it to Brazil, this could be the next best thing to being there. So when you’re out on the pitch, keep an eye out for Wang, dribbling his balls.