As sure as the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, September brings the latest version of Electronic Art’s mega selling football simulation game FIFA. This time it is FIFA 15, which EA have promised to be the most realistic yet, a promise made in all previous years of course. This is the second FIFA title to be released on the Playstation 4 and with a full year to get to grips with the new power afforded by the new console, I am hoping for a leap forward over last year’s edition. When you first load up FIFA 15 you are greeted with the usual EA Sports logos and the very slick menu screens which are now synonymous with the various EA sports titles.
The game engine has clearly been improved this year, graphically I was very impressed. FIFA now looks like a next gen game, last year looked good on the PS4, but it did feel like a re-skinned version of what was released on the PS3. The football pitch shows gradual wear as the game goes on, make a slide tackle in the middle of the pitch and the mark left will still be there come the end of the game, added wear and tear that you would normally see when watching a game live.
The player models have also been updated, again looking better than ever before and are increasingly getting near to photorealism. The big stars such as Messi and Ronaldo are incredible both in game and in close up replays. I do have to point out though that the arms on some players look odd, making them appear top heavy and of course players further down the football pyramid will look nothing like their real life counterparts. This year also sees a full license with the Premier League – this means that all twenty clubs have their stadiums faithfully recreated in the game. These stadiums do look brilliant and it just adds to the realism that EA are striving for, even the chants from the crowd are unique to the team they are supporting. It hopefully points to future titles having even more leagues fully licensed with stadia and fans all being unique.
A small improvement that I really like is the overhaul of the team management section of the game. Where as in the past you have been fairly limited to pre-set formations, you now have the freedom to move players all around the pitch and really tweak your tactics and pre-set moves and set-pieces. For someone like myself, who from the safety of their own sofa thinks they could teach Sir Alex Ferguson a thing or two, this is a well over due addition to the game.
It’s clear so far that EA have really improved the visuals and immersive nature of the game, but have they taken the game-play that step forward in the same way? Well the answer is both yes and no. Generally FIFA plays brilliantly with the game engine being noticeably different to last year; I find this game tries to encourage a more realistic approach when controlling your team especially in defence. Tactical defending is now a lot harder to master, long gone are the days of just holding down the press button until your defender just won the ball. You now have to actively time your players’ tackles, this iteration of FIFA is a lot less forgiving than last year. You have to time the tackle to perfection to nick the ball off a talented forward. This certainly means you have to be patient and not just charge in with several players, do this and a huge gap will appear that the opposition will easily exploit.
As in many of the previous versions of FIFA the main attribute that you will need is speed. I have both scored and conceded too many goals where a striker has just ran through a defence with far too much ease; this could well be down to not mastering the new style of defending or it could be down to the improvements made to the dribbling in this year’s game. It is now far easier to take on and beat a player, where as in previous games there were little ‘one to one’ moments, where a player could beat a defender or two. This time around it feels a lot easier to just give the ball to a skilful player and let him run, as I have said though this could be down to players just not mastering the new style of defending yet. With it being suicidal, mash the tackle button like in previous games as you will only succeed in clearing a path to goal.
On the whole the game is very smooth to play, with all of the new enhancements making for a much more enjoyable and realistic game, but there is one major problem that severely hampers the game; the artificial intelligence of the goalkeepers is terrible. So many times a close game has been completely ruined by a ‘keeper doing something so ridiculous it actually makes you laugh. One of the worst instances I have encountered is a goalkeeper actually diving into the side of the net as an opposing striker ran towards goal, they then proceeded to just walk the ball over the line. There is nothing more frustrating than a close fought game being decided by glitchy AI, causing the ‘keeper to run away from the ball, when all he had to do is pick it up. Even when the decision making isn’t awful, the shot stopping is. So many shots inside the box seem to just travel through the goalkeepers or bounce off them and go into the net. Of course this happens in real life matches, but not as many times as it happens in this game.
Whilst this is a major problem, I do fully expect it to be rectified in a patch, as these issues have been in the past. I have mainly played this game online in the season’s mode; I have had no problems with the EA servers, even on release day when it usually grinds to a halt due to overwhelming demand. One addition I would love to see is a customisable online league; you can still only do this with one other person. We at Frugal Gaming have our own online league and having it all playable through FIFA would certainly save time in updating on the forum and make it more accessible.
FIFA 15 is a rather substantial visual improvement and certainly feels like a step up over last year’s effort on the PS4, the game play has been refined but there are problems that will need to be patched sooner rather than later, until this happens I give FIFA a 7/10.
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