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Hands-on: FIFA 14 goes next-gen with EA Sports Ignite

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FIFA 14 will be released in the near future on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as well as current-generation consoles, and according to developer EA Canada, the under-the-hood upgrades offered by the new consoles are just as significant as — if not more so than — the more obvious visual improvements.

The most noticeable change in the latter category is the implementation of crowds that are now fully rendered in 3D throughout stadiums. In an effort to showcase the fans in the seats, EA Canada brought the camera to a lower angle that includes more of the crowd in its view. The studio is also including exterior shots for the stadiums of some of the bigger clubs, including Manchester City's Etihad Stadium, and implementing AI-driven presentation that replaces canned cutscenes.

FIFA 14 producer Nick Channon also took us through improvements in physics and AI provided by the next-generation EA Sports Ignite engine. Because it can anticipate where players are going to be, it can calculate appropriate interactions and reactions on the fly. You'll see virtual footballers avoid each other and brace for collisions. Other intelligence-exhibiting animations we saw included one in which a player took a pass and made a 180-degree turn in one fluid motion, instead of trapping the ball and then moving forward. And until now, no FIFA games could have more than two players go up to contest a ball at the same time; that limitation is no longer present.

More memory on next-generation consoles means that the games have more space for animations. Channon showed us greater variety in headers because FIFA 14 on next-gen consoles has better "animation coverage" for scenarios that previous entries in the franchise couldn't account for. (For more details on the improvements that EA Sports Ignite provides, check out our Madden NFL 25 next-gen preview.)

We spent about 10 minutes playing a half in one match of FIFA 14 on Xbox One, and while many of the aforementioned changes weren't immediately apparent, we quickly noticed that the game had better physical interactions between players. It wasn't always full-on collisions, either: The engine accounts for subtle interactions like brushing a defender off or sealing out a ball carrier to win back possession.

Coupled with the improvements to graphics and presentation, those gameplay changes have the potential to make the next-generation version of FIFA 14 a markedly different game from its current-generation counterpart. EA has not yet set a release window for the next-generation versions of the game.