Braving the heat wave currently gripping the eastern US, we caught up with EA Sports in Manhattan to go hands-on with the highly anticipated FIFA 14.
We knew going into the demo that this year's FIFA offering had been completely reworked for mobile, and featured new touchscreen controls which replaced the virtual d-pad and buttons of previous installments - but we'll get to those in a moment.
It was clear from the very first screens that EA put a lot of thought into this installment of the venerable football franchise. All of the menus have been dramatically redesigned to be a dynamic, tiled array of windows that are easy to navigate through.Match made in heaven
The 'dynamic' aspect of the menus comes into play with two key features: EA Sports Football Club Match Day and Games of the Week.
Match Day is a brilliant real-time addition that blurs the line between game and reality. In fact, it'd be more accurate to say it erases the line as it provides real-time updates to your individual player's health and availability based on their real-life performance.
If they've been sent off with a red card (or are out on international duty), they won't be available to play in your next match. If they're injured but can still lace up their boots, they'll be on the pitch but playing below snuff.
This all sounds like the stuff that real fans will sink their teeth into, but if your team's having an off year and players are earning more red cards than goals, you can easily disable Match Day and play in blissful ignorance of reality.
Games of the Week is a highlight reel that gives you quick stats and updates from some of the bigger, real-world league games that happened in the past week. Obviously, there were no leagues to check in on during the July demo - but it looked quite impressive all the same.Ball handling
Now, to the controls. By default, FIFA 14 will use touchscreen controls like tap to pass and swipe to shoot.
These new controls were impressive to watch on demo, but were a bit difficult to master during my hands-on with the game.
Tapping players to select them worked a treat, and the ability to drag a player to send them running is nice, as is the ability to tap and control every player on the field (not just the one with the ball).
Shooting was a bit of an imperfect science for me, however, and the best I managed was a few embarrassing midfield shots to the sideline before I earned a well-deserved red card for slide tackling a defender from behind.
Once I switched over to the traditional controls, FIFA 14 came alive and I was able to score a goal in short order.
It's possible that I'd come to prefer - or at least become proficient with - the touchscreen controls with more time and practice, but I think I'll be tackling this one with the traditional controls when it launches.
Another major change EA made to FIFA 14 is the size of the game package itself. FIFA 13 commands about 1.7 GB on your device of choice, but FIFA 14 should only take up a gig or so of storage on the initial download.
It manages this by omitting the commentary tracks from the install package, although the five language tracks (English, French, Spanish, German, and Italian) are all available as free downloads in-game and should take up about 400MB each.
If you have the storage capacity, and linguistic ability, you can even download multiple commentary tracks and switch between them freely.
All in all, FIFA 14 is a brilliant - and expansive - addition to the football franchise that will bring 1,600 players from 600 teams to your phone or tablet. It looked gorgeous on an iPad's screen, and it's certainly a game that you won't want to miss if you're a footy fan.
At current, EA Sports has a release date of "Autumn 2013" for the mobile version of FIFA 14, which will be available for the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Android devices.