Review: FIFA 15

Square

As the new football season begins, so does the hype for the next FIFA title. It’s almost a tradition as each year EA Sports overhauls the beautiful game. Nevertheless, is the latest outing, FIFA 15, a title contender or a favourite for the drop?

The most noticeable change to the gameplay is the goalkeepers, who have been overhauled with new animations and better reactions. Whereas they can feel a little overpowered at times, the fact that they act more human than ever before is a definite improvement for the series.

Likewise, in terms of attacking, shooting has also been improved upon, as hotspots are slowly becoming a thing of the past. Finesse shots, which almost guaranteed a goal in last year’s outing, are less effective, although 30-yard screamers are a lot more common. What’s more, the Run Touch Dribbling system is another great implementation, giving players more control over the ball while dribbling.

FIFA 15’s set pieces have also been enhanced to give gamers more control. Players now have the option to select and move the receiver of a throw-in, free-kick or corner using the right thumbstick. Whereas it will take returning players a while to adjust, the use of the receiver is a very handy feature.

The presentation has also been overhauled as matches closely resemble television coverage. This is largely down to each game being introduced by Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling and the use of cutaways, replays and on-screen graphics (such as the scrolling team sheet) throughout each match.

This is helped by the fact all twenty Premier League stadiums are officially licensed and included in the game for the first time in the series’ history. From Old Trafford to Turf Moor, each one has been excellently recreated to match its real life counterpart. EA Sports has brilliantly captured the atmosphere of the stadiums with club-specific chants, as no game at Anfield is complete without the ever-familiar chorus of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

Further adding to the realism of the title is the Emotional Intelligence, as players react to big moments on the pitch, just like they would in real life. Fumbles by the goalkeeper are greeted with looks of disappointment from his team mates, as crucial goals scored within injury time are met with huge celebrations.

Not to mention small implementations such as playing surfaces wearing down as the match progresses (with boot marks, slide tackles and debris visible on the pitch); corner flags moving when they are hit; the goal frames shaking after a thunderous shot strikes the woodwork and the animated ball boys are on hand to ensure the play can resume as quickly as possible. They may sound like little touches, but they all contribute towards the most realistic football video game ever released.

Commentary is something that FIFA games have particularly struggled with and, regrettably, FIFA 15 is no different. At first, the commentary pairings of Martin Tyler & Alan Smith and Clive Tyldesley & Andy Townsend work well, adding to the television coverage-like style the game excellently portrays. However, the constant references to the crowd and the 2014 FIFA World Cup wear thin quickly. While the commentary is certainly a step in the right direction for the series, it’s far from perfect.

Unlike previous instalments, FIFA 15 places a heavy emphasis on tactics, adding more options than ever before. Whether you opt to Park the Bus in a Jose Mourinho-like fashion in order to protect your lead or go All Out Attack in hope of an equaliser, the players adapt to the team mentality and they adapt to it well. There’s a real sense of drama that will have gamers on the edge of their seats.

Since it launched in 2009, FIFA Ultimate Team has proved to be an extremely popular game mode, and has seen some major changes in FIFA 15. Arguably the biggest alteration is that Trade Offers has been scrapped in favour of loaning players for a set amount of matches. This is a great implementation, allowing gamers to improve their squad with world class players, rather than having to grind or use real money.

Another addition is a squad planning tool known as Concept Squads, which allows players to plan their future squads using the entire FIFA Ultimate Team catalogue. Whereas casual gamers may find this somewhat of a novelty, this will prove extremely beneficial for hardcore FUT players, as they plan their next transfers and experiment with the team chemistry. The game mode also introduces a Friendly Seasons mode, which lets gamers challenge their friends in a 1 vs. 1 season using their custom team.

Whereas FIFA Ultimate Team has seen significant improvements, the same can’t be said for the remaining game modes. With the exception of improved presentation and scouting, the Career mode is identical to previous editions and the remaining game modes (including Seasons, Pro Clubs and Skill Games) all remain virtually unchanged. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but returning players may find them a little tedious – possibly an area EA Sports needs to focus on in the next instalment.

FIFA 15 adds an in-game hub which contains breaking news and statistics from teams and leagues around the world. Known as Match Day Live, the hub is a useful, up-to-date tool, which football die-hards will appreciate, though may not use to its full potential.

Graphically, FIFA 15 is the best-looking title to date. While the player likenesses look more like Madame Tussauds waxworks rather than the real deal, they are certainly a significant improvement over the game’s predecessors; an especially nice touch is the appearance of dirt on their shirts and shorts after making contact with the pitch.

EA Sports has (once again) compiled a top-of-the-range soundtrack, which will have you humming and singing along as you navigate through the game’s menus. The soundtrack features a number of well-known acts such as Kasabian, Rudimental and The Kooks and there are also some exclusive new tracks from Avicii and the Ting Tings, which goes to show just how far the soundtrack has come since Ms. Dynamite’s “Dy-Na-Mi-Tee” featured on FIFA Football 2003.