EA Sports is putting a little more fire behind the next-generation versions of FIFA 14, it's now 20-year-old football franchise. We went hands on with the souped-up version of this milestone season at Microsoft's Xbox One Games Preview Showcase and discovered first-hand what the Xbox One and PS4 bring to the field.
You need not look any further than EA's use of the Ignite Engine, which is the publisher's brand new game engine that's so far exclusive to next-generation consoles. It's being used to develop FIFA 14 and three other next-gen sports titles to make players "think like real athletes."
This translates to more expressive character models on the field with four times the decision-making ability compared to previous versions of the game.
Topping that four-times multiplier, the Xbox One and PS4 editions have 10 times more animation depth and detail than what you'll see on Xbox 360 and PS3. Fans that fill Old Trafford and other stadiums around the world also exhibit 3D for the first time, bringing a bit of the in-person stadium atmosphere to the new consoles.
But what else has EA done to take advantage of the fresh and fierce specs found inside the PS4 and Xbox One? Turns out, quite alot.
Next-generation memory makes it memorable
There's no shortage of consoles on which to play FIFA 14. You know that's the case when you realize that EA is still supporting the PS2 with this year's game.
But when the Xbox One and PS4 have their respective launches, players will realize the perks of next-generation hardware: new camera angles, clothing deformation and players interacting with each other based on AI and less on pre-scripted scenarios.
"We just couldn't do these visual details before because of technical limitations," EA Sports producer Santiago Jaramillo told TechRadar of developing FIFA for the new machines.
He cited the next-generation consoles' increased memory as a reason for fitting more onto the football field. Both Xbox One and PS4 have 8GB of RAM, up from the paltry 512MB of memory of their predecessors.
"There's dynamic player animations, 3D crowd behavior, stadium exteriors, and even grass particles that fly into the air out of the pitch."
FIFA on Xbox One vs PS4
EA Sports isn't playing favorites when it comes to the next-generation graphics of FIFA, as both the Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game are said to look exactly alike.
"From a feature perspective and from a consumer perspective, you won't see a difference," Jaramillo said.
"One system or the other doesn't mean the 3D crowd will look better or the players will move faster."
The one advantage Xbox has over PlayStation that he did point out was in the expanded FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) mode.
"Legends" are going to be a part of this fantasy team-building game type for Microsoft's consoles, including classic players from different eras like Pelé and Dennis Bergkamp.
Crafting a team from new and historical players should make Xbox One the favorite of two for FUT devotees, though, you should also consider which version your online friends will buy too.
A ridiculous amount of skill games
Every year, the FIFA development team outdoes itself with the skill games that have replaced static loading screens, and this year will be no different.
"The technology that we used for skill games actually started as a debug tool," explained Jaramillo.
"We then added about 30 of these skill games last year and people just loved competing and comparing their stats with friends."
"This year I think we've kept almost all of the ones we've had before and added 50 more games. There are tons and tons of skill games in the main menu or right before entering a match."
Physics further tweaked
Realistic player and ball physics in FIFA 14 match the Xbox One and PS4's graphics fidelity.
"The movement of players has changed quite a bit," said Jaramillo. "The pace is different because players move more athletically, less video game-y."
Footballers feel as if they have more weight because they're unable to simply snap into a pivot in the opposite direction while running at full speed. They need to slow down and transition first.
It's almost like last year's unpredictable First Touch Control that made receiving the ball feel less magnetized to the foot, only these more realistic physics are focused on players and make every step count.
The next next-generation season
As the first FIFA for this year's next-generation console platforms, FIFA 14 is focusing on amping up the "Living Worlds" sensation you see in football broadcasts.
It's a great way to show off the boosted specs of Xbox One and PS4, and after that first-year foundation is set, new features should further improve the game in the inevitable FIFA 15.
"This year is a console transition year," said Jaramillo when we asked about a more robust, score-tallying offline multiplayer mode like the sorely-missed Lounge.
"There's a lot of development time that gets spent just making the game work. Maybe next year we can assess how much value there is in improving that offline multiplayer."
FIFA 14 trade-up deal
FIFA diehards who couldn't wait for the next-generation versions are in luck: select stores are allowing last-generation buyers to upgrade to the newer FIFA 14 for a small fee.
This "trade up" program is being offered by stores like Game in the UK. FIFA 14 on Xbox 360 will net a £40 trade-in credit toward the Xbox One version for "as little as £10."
A similar deal - $10 for a trade up - applies at multiple stores within the US, including Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop and the official Microsoft Store.
That trade up fee isn't a whole lot, considering the Xbox 360/PS3 and Xbox One/PS4 versions of FIFA 14 aren't at "level pegging" when it comes to next-generation graphics.