Each year we get what many people call a kit and transfer update in a brand new FIFA game. FIFA 15 sits in this strange position, on some platforms it is a new and upgraded engine, on others it’s a legacy edition which is only kits and transfers, with the rest sitting somewhere in between. Being an avid FIFA player, I was eager to experience the new improvements, especially on PC which has finally gotten Ignite – the real question is, is it all worth it?
Being a fan of the series, it is easy to outright defend FIFA’s annual release cycle and say it is so much better than the previous versions. In some cases this year that is inherently true, the PC version for example makes good use of the Ignite Engine for the first time, where the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions bring the subtle engine changes across.
Originally playing the demo I was in awe, the inclusion of the official Barclays Premier League license makes watching pre-match ramble and in game highlights an immensely enjoyable experience, rivaling TV presentations. That feeling remains two weeks after the full games release, in game highlights feature not only player’s goals but good saves and tackles too. A full game manages to showcase great moments, across the whole spectrum of what makes a football match great. The heart stopping last ditch tackles, shots that cannon off the bar, and goals which ripple and shake the net. EA Canada utilises the licenses they have to great effect wherever possible. Facial fidelity is much improved with hundreds of extra players (especially within the Barclays Premier League) being facially scanned.
The usual animation improvements promised, with dribbling looking (and feeling) more substantial, but it doesn’t seem overly different to last year. Where the animations have been greatly improved however are with goalkeepers and team celebrations. Using American hero Tim Howard as the motion captured example, goal keepers have been mostly buffed compared to previous iterations of the game. Not only do they react better with a majority of situations but their saves look more realistic, with some looking outlandishly awesome. It seems as though EA Canada have gone to level the playing-field when it comes to balance on the pitch. Attackers have always been the best players on the game, giving them a good opposition in goalkeepers is a good idea. The animation quality on the goalkeepers creates a feeling of numerous battles to score, even if some shot types are just as strong as they were in FIFA 14.
Although the animation quality of goalkeepers is much better, their logic still seems somewhat flawed. I’ve seen goalkeepers make numerous mistakes over a series of matches, and although this can mirror real life, the mistakes are more frequent than they should be. A goalkeeper can run up to a ball, only for it to bounce over their head and them have to turn and jump to save it. I might be being a bit pedantic, but it’s something which causes great frustration and mirrors that of FIFA 14’s inconsistencies.
Gameplay wise FIFA 15 feels a bit better to play. Players turning animations are greatly improved, making dribbling around players a lot easier. Passing and through balls have been tweaked meaning an arbitrary power is no longer a catch all for passes. Against AI there seems to be a degree of planning needed for how to unlock the defences, especially on the higher difficulties. It seems that tiki-taka football is highly profitable both against the AI and online. The new dribbling mechanics mean you can tear defences apart with a gliding run, although beware – the same can happen to you. Defending has taken a noticeable hit as trying to tackle an AI is now ludicrously difficult. Go in for a standing tackle and they side step you, drawing a foul. Although this is true in the sport, the frequency of which my high rated defenders were beaten by low rated attackers was too high.
It seems as if FIFA 15 is a game of two halves (pardon the pun), the game plays differently depending on whether your against the AI or a human opposition. Against AI you’re rewarded for patient and calculated build up, whereas against humans it’s all about raw pace and power. The issue here is that you can beat Legendary/Ultimate difficulty comfortably but then lose on Ultimate Team because someone has all 90 pace players. A bitter complaint, but the game feels too uneven, especially if you play across all the modes and options like myself. On the subject of Ultimate Team, the mode has been improved upon, friendly seasons with friends adds another competitive edge to the mode while the loan feature allows you to have a star in your team for a few games while building up your coin and pack collection. Everything else seems fairly similar, with only the odd change being made here and there.
Pro clubs gets some small improvements too which makes it easier to make sure your team is ready for each match, with automatic match searching rollover thrown in for good measure. My main game mode is career mode, which has been sadly overlooked yet again, with some scheduling issues still apparent. I always wonder why they overlook the mode, as it could be a major selling point – however focus is put too heavily on Ultimate Team as it makes them the most money.