As you may know, EA generally releases at least one FIFA title per year and as with every title, the company boasts vast improvements to the previous release in an attempt to wet the appetite of their adoring fans. With FIFA 15 being the latest, has the company stuck with the same old minimal changes or have they improved on the gameplay and overall presentation?
With an upgrade to how players interact both on and off the field, it seems that the game has improved in both departments in quite huge deals. On the field, EA has implemented an “emotion and Intensity” feature that showcases player reactions in correlation with whats happening. If your team is thrashing their opponent 14-0, then you’ll witness your players showing positive and joyful reactions. However, on the other hand, if you’re unfortunate enough to be on the receiving end of such a hammering, then you’ll see the opposite.
I had my doubts about this feature of the game when I first learned of it. FIFA has always struggled with player AI interaction, especially with other players on the pitch. Animations can often look and both feel peculiar. Handshakes never quite meet, hugs don’t quite connect as seamlessly and calamitous, infamous celebrations (yes, the two player mount) that would make a hardened sailor blush.
However, I was surprised to see that the emotions portray quite well. The mix of excellent commentary, improved visuals and rip-roaring atmosphere makes the sight of a player shrugging his shoulders or bowing his head feel authentic and believable.
Although, I stand by my criticism of the age-old issue with the FIFA’s ‘Zombie Eyes’, where players never quite look at one another nor do they feel to be engaging. Often, the game throws in a whole host of believable animations and hoping they splice together effortlessly. On this occasion, unfortunately, they don’t quite make it. Perhaps next year.
EA have gone to great lengths to immerse the player in realism for FIFA 15. Stadiums both look and feel like their real-life counterparts. Fans at Anfield; home of Liverpool AFC, will sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone”, a song synonymous with the team. Fans in the stands will react to what is going on around the pitch. A free-kick 15 yards away from the goal will have the fans standing on their feet in anticipation. A dominating win will show them standing with their arms in the air goading the opposing supporters. Each fan is individual, no more blurred and vast amount of color. Every one will react differently from one another. Should a stadium be swamped in heckles and negativity from the supporters, then the commentary will adapt to reflect this. This is an excellent inclusion which only cleverly assists immersion into the game.
In keeping with the ‘next gen’ year that is 2014, EA have not missed a trick when implementing new technology into the goalkeepers. During a game, your goalkeeper will use every limb possible to prevent the ball hitting the back of the net. It could be a knee, foot, arm or head; the keeper, depending on their skill, will react as the moment dictates. It’s refreshing to see the goalkeeper parry a shot, then rush back to his feet and clamber at the ball. I was seriously impressed with this new seeing as how the game changing animations errors on behalf of the goalkeepers in the past have been a real source of annoyance.
Of course, with improvement, comes the ability to use this to your advantage. As an attacker, you watch the movement of the approaching keeper. His stalling or over-eagerness may allow you a goal scoring opportunity. The added realism creates a far more exhilarating experience, and a real sense of accomplishment when you make a crucial save or score the injury-time goal.
The goalkeeper isn’t the only who has gotten smarter this time around. The AI have also been improved dramatically compared to the previous title. When playing against the computer, a team will react differently depending on the outlook of the game. Should your team be trailing with minutes to spare, the AI opponent may attempt to keep possession by running to the corner flag. They may attempt to take down your player and run down the clock. If they’re searching for a goal, they may abort the close possession and passing game rather opting for the long ball up the pitch. hoping for a lucky goal.
This type of improvement somewhat humanizes the opponent rather than making them seem like pushovers. On FIFA 15, it’s an improvement which is well executed and refreshing. The added challenge to offline play, gives an added dimension to what the game has to offer.
I’ve played FIFA 15 on both Xbox 360 and Xbox One, then predominantly on the One. EA promised ‘incredible visuals’, they weren’t wrong. Player features and characteristics are well captured and realistic. If you look close enough, you’ll even see hair movement, facial reactions and demeanor. Kits now move as the player moves, dirt and stains appear on team players depending on where they’ve fallen or slid. Each individual blade of grass can now be seen beneath the wonderfully authentic futbol boots. As players run around the pitch, you can see where they have stood and tackled. As the game goes on, the field looks worn and tired as evident by it’s use.
Billboards will light up, goal posts will shake under the force of the ball; plant a powerful enough shot into the net, and the rear stanchion will raise from the ground and slam back down, sending the net rippling. Seeing it in action is wholly satisfying.
FIFA 15 also provides regular features such as online competitive friendly mode, career seasons, player creation and the ever popular FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT).
FUT remains similar to the previous installment. Players have the ability to improve their squads by utilizing the online transfer market or by purchasing packs in a hopes to land a dream player. An off and online season is available depending on how you want to progress your team. Gamers will dictate the state of the FIFA economy by raising or lowering player transfer prices, depending on their current form, which makes for interesting and satisfying gameplay.
FIFA 15 in competitive mode is wonderfully addictive. The highs and lows are diverse and frequent and the thrill of winning that important game is symbolic of all FIFA titles.
However, it and other modes of the game are not without fault. Irritating animations can cause unnatural hesitation between players, a poorly timed pass or tackle can have the ball slowly trickle away and there are rare instances where seconds may pass before players decide to react and take possession.
The gameplay feels slightly sluggish. FIFA 14 felt responsive and fast, whereas FIFA 15 feels like running through syrup and trudging the pitch along with you. A simple pass can elude even the most adept of players, leaving you confused as to how the ball decided to bypass the player you were aiming for by 20 yards. Once the transition from the previous title is complete and you become more accustomed with FIFA 15, this fortunately does disperse, allowing players to feel more comfortable with the controls and feel of the game.