The end of September 2014 saw the release of FIFA 15, Electronic Arts’ latest installment of football gaming excitement, and while we’ve been pretty vocal in terms of our frustration at some of its recent predecessors, we’re finding it difficult to criticise the 2014/15 season package quite as much. That’s not to say that it’s perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but developers EA Canada have done a pretty good job of smoothing out some of the more irritating aspects of the gameplay and they’ve also managed to cram in a few cool new features to boost the gaming experience further.
With Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 out in November 2014 too, it’s a return to the classic battle of gaming old for the top spot in the final for the 2014/15 football season crown and EA has done all that it can to crank up the dial on their own entry. With that in mind, here’s our deconstructing review of everything that has gone into making FIFA 15 the best version of the game we ‘be seen in years.
The game is available on the PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PS Vita, and Nintendo 3DS, but our review is solely for the next-gen, Ignite Engine turbo-charged version of the game available on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox ONE. It’s by far the ultimate version of the game, so if you’re looking to get it, we’d recommend plumping for next generation glory to really get the full FIFA 15 experience.
Teams and players
FIFA games have always had the edge over other football sims as they’ve been able to dominate in terms of licensed teams, players, kit and stadiums from pretty much day one and FIFA 15 is no different. It features 35 licensed leagues, including the British Premier League, the French Ligue 1, Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A, German Bundesliga and the US Major League Soccer.
All told, it includes more than 600 clubs, including 47 national teams, 16,000+ players and 41 licensed stadiums, of which the full roster of 20 Premier League stadiums are a part of, so to answer a lot of questions about whether or not Stoke City fans will get to play at a lifelike incarnation of the Britannia Stadium, the answer is a resounding yes.
As a result of all this, teams and players is what the game does best, and has done for years, but the real test of its metal come in our review of the gameplay coming up next, because if we’re hones, if it came down to a decision between licensed players, leagues and stadiums, or great gameplay, the latter would win hands down every time.
When you first take to the pitch, you’ll find that a few of the more notable frustrations from previous games in the series are still present in the latest edition. However, equally, there are a few that have either improved a little or gone away entirely, which combines with the counteracting advances of improvements in other areas of the gameplay to make FIFA 15 a much more playable game than the last few seasons have been.
The first of the annoyances is the contact variable in which you’ll find your players firing off in all angles if they make even the smallest contact with an opposition player, especially in weird off the ball collisions. It just looks preposterous and a very bad attempt at recreating the sensation of players coming together, which results in a significant knock to the realism of the game.
It’s an issue that’s added to by the fact that yet again you can’t sprint anywhere near the touch line without being carried out of play, despite the fact that when you look down you see you’re pointing the analogue stick the complete opposite direction. It’s just a stupid, unforgivable bug that really should have been fixed years ago, bud sadly it’s being recreated somehow in the Ignite Engine incarnation of the game.
The other downside in terms of on the pitch movement comes as a result of a slow reaction time to sprinting, which when combined with the issue with running the ball out, leaves us a little disappointed with this area of the gameplay. It sort of takes a fraction of a second too long for players you control to get the ball under control and break into a run, which leaves you too susceptible to getting tackled, when realistically you should be streaking down the wing by that stage.
One area that we’ve been pretty vocal about in the past is the way that the AI creates competition. In previous installments this has felt a bit too artificially augmented to force competitive gameplay against the compute, but here the negatives involved in this are much less pronounced. You still find it a little frustrating trying to find the killer pass in the box, but apart from this there isn’t anywhere near as much unrealistic blockers to cutting through the defenses if you’re good enough to string together the right moves and passes, which makes the game more satisfying than its predecessors.
On the up-side, we’re big fans of the dribble function in the game as it gives you a lot of possibilities to work on your skills to take the game to the opposition and whip out a super move every now and again. It’s easy to get to grips with, but has a lot of additional complexity if you want to learn all of the tricks and skills, so it’s got a lot of scope for personal development and it’s one of the areas that could be the difference between you winning and losing.
In terms of game tactics there’s a lot of scope for control throughout the game to allow you to change the formation, style of play and players on the field with ease. You can also assign certain roles to players in your team including the captaincy, free kick responsibilities and the inevitable penalty taker, which has got a pretty slick updated engine to give even more accuracy, control and verve to your player when taking a spot kick
On the Xbox ONE, tactical control goes even further with voice commands thanks to the Kinect, which work pretty well in all fairness to them. While it takes a little while to get used to and remember all of the commands and potential substitutions, when you do it becomes a great way to change things up without stopping the game.
All of the improvements that have been made to the game to lift it above its dire predecessors come into their own most when you play online, giving you much better battles with players from around the world. It’s still nowhere near perfect as such, but it’s definitely an enjoyable experience in parts, which when combined with the intrinsic competitiveness of football makes for a good amount of online fun.
As you’d sort of expect, the graphics on the next gen versions of FIFA 15 are by far the best we’ve seen to-date, however, that’s not to say that they’re mind blowing by any stretch of the imagination. The player rendering is very impressive on the whole with facial features looking pretty lifelike. There are a few potato heads here and there, but the majority of the players you’d expect to recognise look pretty accurate, with the odd one or two looking frighteningly realistic.
One of the big step forwards from EA’s point of view is that they’ve finally delivered an individually animated crowd experience, in which each spectator is sort of meant to be unique in one way or another. In all fairness, this does look pretty impressive, but there’s still a little too much repetition in the movements for it to feel truly authentic. The developers could learn a lot from the population in games like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Watch Dogs in terms of honing this element even further.
There’s a lot of random detail build into the game, including pitch wear throughout a match, the flutter of corner flags and the impact of the ball on the back of the net, and in all honesty they do look pretty cool. The developers have clearly put a lot of effort into making the game look as realistic as possible with emotional reactions built into each player on the pitch, and it’s definitely not lost on us, but there’s still a long way to go before you’ll ever be confused between the game and the real deal.
Considering the fact that we gave FIFA 13 just 3/5 and FIFA 14 a very lowly 2/5, this is easily going to be our best mark for a modern day FIFA computer game title. The problem is that it’s still a little way off really impressing, so it’s sadly got to be just north of a mid-table finish, but not quite high enough to make it through to the UEFA Cup.
FIFA 15 review score: 3.5/5