FIFA 15: Standing on the Shoulders of goalies

Finally, fifa’s underwhelming, lacklustre and unpredictable goalkeepers are being looked at and reworked for this year’s release. developer ea Canada has decided that now is the right time to come clean that the position has been left untouched for too long and it has set about overhauling its animation and intelligence systems.

one of the most welcome tweaks to Joe hart, thibaut Courtois, Manuel neuer et al is that they’re now able to change their minds after making an initial decision. during a corner, for example, they might decide that rushing out to attack the cross with a punch is the best option, only to rethink their approach based on the movement of both opponents and teammates. Scurrying back and standing on the goal line might be the best option, after all.

What’s most impressive is the keeper’s awareness of the position of players around him, especially his own defence. they’re much more likely to stay on their line and defend the goal when the defence is well positioned and handling the situation, whereas if he’s left isolated he’ll more likely close down opponents in a bid to narrow any potential shooting angle.

furthermore, he can adjust his body mid dive another feature that supposedly hasn’t been possible up until now. he might dive left for a shot into that corner, only for the ball to furthermore, he can adjust his body mid dive another feature that supposedly hasn’t been possible up until now. he might dive left for a shot into that corner, only for the ball to take a deflection and travel into the centre of the goal. depending on the skill and reaction speed of the goalie you’re using, he can try to recover and
move back the other way or stick a foot out to stop it.

this ties in with the new animation system that has been applied to each of FIFA 15’s outfield players. essentially, players are now acutely aware of what each limb is doing and which they prefer to use. this leads to players like robben and Bale sticking near exclusively to using their left foot and dribbling with the outside of their boot to prevent defenders inside from tackling them. it sounds like a small detail, but the result is significant when specialist players are part of your team. You must think carefully about how and where to position them to make best use of their abilities, as a good defender is capable of forcing them onto their weaker foot and limiting their impact.

The same animation system is used to recreate more physically believable tussles, shirt-pulling and tackles between players fighting for the ball and/or a spot of turf. Many of these tussles can be more directly influenced by you, the player, by dialling up tactical tweaks designed to tilt the flow of play in your favour. Specific player instructions are now easy to assign via the Team Management options, which appear before every match in every mode, or by making emergency changes during a match.

If you prefer to play with a bigger striker, then setting them to adhere to a ‘target man’ approach will see them consistently attempt to bring the ball out of the air, gaining possession until support arrives. Alternatively, the likes of Suarez and Aguero can try to get in behind a defence great for getting one on one with the keeper, as long as you can time your passes correctly to avoid the offside trap.

Also new for Team Management is a Team Sheet function that has primarily
been designed for fans of the long haul Career mode. You can design multiple Sheets for each team, giving you a quick way of selecting from your favourite tactical options before a match begins.

For instance, let’s pretend that you’re playing as Stoke City in the Premier League a team that seems destined for a mid-table finish for the foreseeable future. With a middling team like this you most likely will  not want to play the same set up against someone dangerous like Chelsea as you would do against someone you think you should beat. West Brom, perhaps.

Rather than breaking down the tactics you used in your previous game and starting again, you can apply the relevant Team Sheet for the occasion. Each of your Team Sheets might feature the exact same 11 players in the same positions, but their instructions, the overall attacking/defending mentality and the allowed level of risk might be so different that the two line ups are barely recognisable.

The so popular it’s taking over the world FIFA Ultimate Team is back and comes with a few slight changes of its own. Clearly EA Sports is happy with the success the mode has achieved and seems to be taking an ‘if it ain’t broke’ approach, but there are some differences that veteran card collectors will notice.

Most impactful, perhaps, is the new ‘loan player’ option. Loaned players work in the exact same way as any other player, the difference being that you can’t assign contract cards to them and extend their stay in your team. Once they’ve played the number of games listed in their original contract, they’ll leave. But bringing in a ‘gold’ player, even for a few games, can make a big difference to a team that otherwise consists of ‘bronze’ cards.

The other big feature is that you can test your team’s chemistry (as in, cohesion) prior to buying a new player. You might find yourself in the transfer market for a new striker, let’s say, but you’re not sure which one is going to fit best with your other players. Now, while in the transfer market, a simple button press brings up a chalkboard layout of what your chemistry ratings will be if you added that player, highlighting any associated ability boosts/reductions.

It might not sound like all that much, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the joys of Ultimate Team, but such shortcuts are nicely designed to streamline the fiddly aspects of team building. Also, let’s be honest, even if the mode was unchanged it would continue to be the sole destination for an increasing percentage of FIFA’s player base.

The promise is that the FIFA 15 PC edition will be the equal of that running on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, featuring the exact same features, physics systems and improvements. The PS3 and 360 versions aren’t quite so lucky, however, and understandably see significant failings in comparison to their ‘next-gen’ counterparts. The goalkeepers are the same as last year, as are a huge swathe of the systems underpinning player to player interactions and the new Locomotion elements that more realistically model how the players speed up and slow down. EA has not been shy in its admission that it’s now at a point where the previous gen release is inferior and, if you want the best experience, now is the time to upgrade your hardware.

For the first time, all 20 Premier League stadiums for the 2014/2015 season are included. Additionally, the faces of every player at a Premier League club have been scanned in. The Carlton Cole faithful will be rejoicing about that. Various stadiums belonging to teams across other leagues are also included but, given its worldwide popularity, EA explained that the Premier League
was the priority. The plan is to take this same approach with other leagues in the future.

Hands  On
Like it or loathe it, the FIFA series has made a habit of offering just enough of a new experience each year to make a purchase worthwhile. This year’s changes seem squarely aimed at the more experienced players, though, with the majority of features designed around some more sophisticated management options and being able to control players that have something of a mind of their own. EA Sports looks to be, once again, doing just enough to keep the fans happy and the competition at bay.

Much improved keepers
More realistic challenges
Expanded management options

Not official referees
Generic stadiums for many clubs
Managers lack accurate faces

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