Is FIFA 15 another home win for EA Sports, or has football’s leading game thrown away a commanding lead? Dave Green takes a look…
As surely as night follows day and winter follows autumn (expect, of course, in Monty Python’s Holy Grail), as the year draws to a close and a new football season starts, a new version of EA Sports FIFA franchise rolls in. This one is called FIFA 15 – not because this is the fifteenth FIFA! Nay, constant reader, there have been many more than that – next year is 2015, you see, and FIFA, for a brief time, exists in the near-future. It’s also the best iteration of FIFA for some time, but still not quite the next-generation extravaganza that football fans have been craving.
Firstly, the improvements. At first glance, not much has changed from last years FIFA 14. FIFA 15 is all about tweaks under the hood that perfect last years version, which may not seem value for money but it very much is. There is so much game here – from solo management and player careers, a plethora of online modes, match day live (where you play as your favourite team in that weeks fixture, with up-to-date teams and form), excellent editing features and the all-conquering Ultimate Team; each mode is an improvement on what came before and has enough to gift even the most ardent of players a years worth of gaming.
The gameplay is also improved – the throughball has been balanced so that it doesn’t devastate defence like in years gone by (online players may be happy or dismayed at this, depending on if you’re a cheap player or not!) and opposing team AI has seen a revamp; teams will react to your style of play, meaning that identical goals are a lesser occurrence and games take on a more tactical view. Unfortunately, counter-attacking is still FIFA’s most affective way to score, and quicker players (like Raheem Sterling and the god-like Cristiano Ronaldo) are nigh-unstoppable in full-flow.
Pleasingly, the drama stakes have been upped. While many are completely superficial (more shots of player reactions and a bit of pushing after a foul), some genuinely add to proceedings. Entering the last 10 minutes of a game with a slender lead or drawing will see the opposing team aggressively change tactics and take the game to you – an extra attacker might be brought on and, if that doesn’t work, the AI will leave just 2 defenders at the back as they go all-out attack. Goalkeepers going up for last-minute set-plays are a more regular scenario, and the exact opposite is true – find yourself trailing as the game draws to an end will see your opponents shut-up shot in attempt to protect what they have. Do you throw caution to the wind and go for a goal? It all helps to make the game much more dynamic, exciting and real.
There are niggles, though. Even though opposition AI is a vast improvement, that of your own team still lags some way behind – when your on the ball, your team mates just don’t make enough runs, even when prompted and, at least once a match your defence will decide to re-enact the charge of the light brigade for no apparent reason, leaving you wide open to attack in seemingly innocuous and easily defended circumstances. Opposition strikers are deadly, too. It’s too regular an occurrence for your team to concede from your opponents first (and sometimes only) shot on goal – and goalkeepers for both teams are wildly inconsistent veering from David de Gea agility to Massimo Taibi hilarity in the same game.
The main gripe is that FIFA 15 isn’t doing anything that could only be achieved next-gen, graphics and crowds aside. As accomplished as it is, and it really is the best FIFA yet, there’s nothing here that has completely changed console football but hey, there’s always next year right? For fans of the beautiful game there is plenty to love here and to keep you going until FIFA 16, but we’re still waiting for the next-gen football revolution.
– Dave Green @davidpgreen83