FIFA 15, Review

Taking the good things in life for granted can be worryingly easy. Oh, EA Canada’s (mostly) beautiful game still boasts brilliant on-field action, coupled with damn near every licensed team, kit and stadia on Earth, huh? Yawn. That sort of apathy comes with the territory when your series has ruled unchallenged for the last five years. Does FIFA 15 move the goalposts on enough since last year’s PS4 debut? Probably not. Will you still play it more than any other game between now and next september? Almost certainly.

EA’s Next Big Thing this season was supposed to be Emotional Intelligence. The sales pitch: players now appreciate the context and levity of games, with their displays fluctuating depending on the importance of a match or whether they've just shanked their first six shots on goal. The reality: your men get a little down arrow next to their picture in the formation menu if they've strung together a couple of stinking performances. As a debut, supposedly headline, feature this emotion system is near non existent.

On the pitch, FIFA 15’s other changes are easier to feel though that’s not always for the better. Pace and strength are all-conquering kings this year. Playing as Arsenal in the strong (if stagnating) Career mode, I use Alexis to outstrip any fullback I face. Against weaker AI teams or unprepared online victims, finding the net is as simple as Road Runner-ing to the byline, pinging in an often consistently deadly delivery, then sending a header into the top corner. Not since 09’s absurdly effective lob has the series lent on such a surefire (read: cheap) way of slathering the onion bag with a greedy helping of goal sauce.

Of course, you’ll rarely complain when opening up defences. Regardless of cheaty headers and certain players seemingly stashing rocket fuel in their Predators, FIFA 15 never retreats from the fun zone. Shots still snap, that ground game of expert passing continues to shine and the inertia of the ball in flight forever feels ‘right’. It all means EA’s effort still sits happily in a Champions League spot.

Judged on sheer size, this is the most robust footballing unit since Yaya Touré squeezed his shed-sized rump into a pair of City shorts. An ever expanding Ultimate Team now lets you sample top stars through a loan system, and leads a forward line that still includes addictive PvP Online Seasons, fiendish ‘one more go’ mini-games and enough real teams, cups and grounds to send PES into an early bath.
 For fans of fouly journeymen, EA has made great strides with facial scanning this year, too. Lee Cattermole and his many unglamourous contemporaries now all have their proper faces for the first time. Such is the effort EA has put into scanning over 200 Premier League players, almost every first-teamer in the English top flight looks as they should; be they cover star Eden Hazard or ‘actual hazard to his team’ Scott Dann. For fans of clubs outside the top four (oh hey, Man Utd), it’s a game-changer.

Even better, all 20 Prem grounds have been faithfully recreated at long last. Just wait until you see the KC in all its dreary majesty, Hull fans. Couple this with all the other authentic leagues FIFA already sports and the licensing gap over PES has never felt more significant or cavernous.

Indeed, EA has clearly been indoctrinated into the cult of ‘Super Sunday’. Expertly cut replay packages splice commentary into key moments in an experience where every camera angle and Martin Tyler insight bows at Sky’s feet.

While presentation can be slavish, it’s not without fault. For some unknown reason, players are blighted by terrible aliasing this year. Look at Tim Howard’s chrome dome and the number of on screen jaggies would make you think he’d been sculpted out of sandpaper.

Yet graphical quirks can't derail this colossus. While it’s true FIFA 15 marks the smallest evolutionary update between two entries in the series for years, it’s still a satisfying football game. If you’re even 27%as obsessed with the sport as me, the level of authenticity here makes it close to an essential companion for PS4 footy fans. Your turn, PES.


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