FIFA 15 Review

It’s frightening how lifelike this is.As has become standard practice for EA Sports releases, realism is at the forefront of everything in this year’s FIFA, and permeating every game mode from simple skill games to the typically excellent Career mode is a brilliant sheen that, arguably, far surpasses any other sports game ever released.

This is a faithful, near-uncanny match day presentation, with all of the bells and whistles that you’d expect to see during genuine football coverage. EA has never scrimped on its attempts to achieve broadcast-level standards, and yet it has somehow reached an entirely different level in FIFA 15. All of the Premier League branding has been licensed, adding neatly to the veneer, and commentary through-lines are second-to-none, with the game’s resident pundits offering extended insight into most teams and even referencing their real-life form and transfers.

Although arguably superficial, these inclusions have very much become a key facet of the FIFA experience. Its realism is what has always separated EA’s franchise from Konami’s PES, although in the past this has often done little to offset gameplay problems.

This year it serves to augment the best gameplay that the franchise has ever offered.There’s more fluidity and responsiveness in every move you make on the pitch, with players reacting realistically to physical battles and adjusting their pace in a more dynamic way when trying to knock the ball round an opposing player. There’s still the problem that FIFA has endured for years, wherein players with a lot of pace are still more useful than anyone else on the pitch, but even so the flow of real football is easily achievable. This is helped by the most advanced AI that FIFA has ever enjoyed, with players jostling each other, tugging over excitedly on shirts when trying to close ground on a rampant striker and always fighting for space in the final third. There’s more feeling to each player, and they finally behave more or less like real footballers,neatly demonstrating EA’s knowledge of the beautiful game.

Of course, it’s not without its wobbles, especially in the physics department. We have to say that we’ve seen far less in the way of slapstick tumbles and weird ragdoll malfunctions than in FIFA 14, although that’s not to say that these problems don’t occur at all after all, it wouldn’t be FIFA if your two centre halves didn't clatter into each other and create a goal-scoring opportunity every once in a while.

The philosophy of realism and control also extends to more tactile aspects of the game. Now, shooting and through balls are completely in the hands of the player. Shooting has always been fairly aided in the past, but in FIFA 15 a keen  eye  for accuracy is essential, as near enough 100 per cent of the shot is you. Power, direction, and swerve everything is adaptable.

What’s even more noticeable now is how the speed and direction that the player is running in drastically affects their connection with the ball. By diving into the Instant Replay function you can easily identify authentic spin and dip when it has been applied to the ball it looks absolutely amazing in slow motion and demonstrates the care that has been taken to ensure the football itself acts how it’s meant to. The yearly tweaks to gameplay always attempt to iron out a few small creases, but this year’s iteration feels more like a proper overhaul, like someone has gotten right in there and given it a good scrub.

It’s more polished, it’s more fun and, dare we say it, a little more PES. Konami’s gameplay is still held in high regard due to its emphasis on precision and control, but with FIFA 15 EA may have already won the race, a few weeks before we see Pro Evo return for another crack of the whip.

The biggest change this year, though, comes in the form of goalkeepers. You’ve seen the adverts, and you know the score keepers are now intelligent. It’s an interesting direction to take, albeit one that’s roughly 20 years too late to the party and should be a given in any football game. Still, the idea here is that keepers act more realistically, there are a large amount of new animations that allow for overly dramatic saves and they know when to leave their line and bear down on an opponent to close the angle.

The second part is true; there area lot of different animations now, which make every save seem dynamic and unique. Intelligence though? Not really it’s still annoyingly common for keepers to be caught with their pants down at corners, to get beaten stupidly at the near post and sometimes just ignore the ball altogether. It’s a shame, but as usual by FIFA 2016 it’ll have been fixed.

So, goalkeepers aren’t as good as promised, the soundtrack is rubbish as usual and the menus still aren’t as simple as they could and should be. Regardless, when all is said and done, FIFA 15 is the best football game we’ve ever played. It combines match day pageantry and superb gameplay perfectly, and builds nicely on last year’s sterling effort. After so many years of trying, EA has, with the exception of a few little missteps, finally gotten player AI right and created a fast, fluid football experience that looks and feels like the real thing.This will go down as the year  that  EA  finally  ticked  all the boxes.

It has been well publicised that this year EA has gone through the painstaking task of accurately recreating every single Premier League stadium in-game, as well as the usual crowd of famous stadiums from around the world. That’s over 20 unique football grounds, each represented here in stunning detail, to the point that you’d be forgiven for thinking you were watching TV coverage at times. Knowingly so, EA has highlighted its good work by throwing a superfluous helicopter shot of each ground at you before the start of every game. Yeah, because we really wanted to see an aerial shot of Burnley…


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